Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Origins of the alphabet, writing, and paper

The first alphabet was  created by Assyrian, Sumerian and Arab populations around 1800 B.C. I should mention that the Arabs claim their ancestry to Abraham who lived between 1800-1500 BC. It is plausible, however, that the honour goes to the Phoenicians in around 1650 B.C. Being excellent sailors and sea-traders, it is likely that they spread their alphabet throughout the countries of the Mediterranean.
The Phoenician alphabet consisted exclusively of 22 consonants. Vowels were added later by the Greeks around 750 B.C. To this day, the  Hebrew and Arab alphabet don't have vowels. The Etruscans adopted and modified the Greek alphabet which they passed it on to Rome. The Romans later refined it by introducing the alphabet that we use today in modern English, containing every letter except J, U and W. All languages used in the West have kept the Roman alphabet. I should mention that the Russians and Ukrainians still use the Greek alphabet

Writing Direction & The Etruscans
As for the alphabetical order and the direction of the writing are purely arbitrary. In fact in the Western countries we write from left to right, while in Arab countries they write from right to left, in China from top to bottom. The Etruscans wrote one line in one direction and the second line in the opposite direction. In case you don't know, the Etruscans, people of an advanced civilization, lived in Italy before the Romans in an area corresponding to modern Tuscany, western Umbria and northern Latium. They ruled Italy before the Romans until they were expelled  around 500 B.C. Later in 396 B.C. they were absorbed by the Romans who adopted many of their advanced arts, their customs, and their institutions.

Invention of Paper
The English word paper derives from papyrus, a plant used by the ancient Egyptians to make paper, which was used by other Mediterranean cultures before the invention of paper in China by T'sai Lun in 105 A.D.
It took nearly 500 years for paper making to reach some parts of Europe. It began in Spain and in Italy in the 12 th  century, and by the year 1250 Italy had become one of the major producers of paper. By the 1400 this craft had reached Southern France and Germany.
This rapid expansion of European paper production was accelerated by the invention of the printing press.