Monday, April 23, 2007


For some time now, I've been fascinated by the relationship between writing and drawing - and in particular the pictorial origins of writing. Part of the appeal is the beautiful graphics of some 'early writing'.

A recent birthday present was Lyn Davies lush 'A is for Ox' which tracks the pictographic origins of the Western alphabet. Another book I've been looking at is Steven Roger Fischer's absorbing 'A History of Writing' which covers the origins, forms, functions and chronological changes of the world's major writing systems and their scripts.

Saki Mafundikwa has managed to put together a partial but extraordinary, illustrated array of alphabets and syllabaries* from across Africa. In this colourful book 'Afrikan Alphabets' he relates how in 1896 King Ibrahim Njoya of the Bamum Kingdom in Cameroon undertook a massive effort to develop and install a local system of writing called 'Shu-mom'. Although much of this work was later destroyed by French rule, Njoya's children have since made an effort to preserve some of these amazing scripts and records. Here is an illustration.

click on pic to go large

* list of characters representing syllables

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