Anne Trubek’s account The History and Uncertain Future of Handwriting is more than the title suggests. That alone could make do with a modest pamphlet. Instead, the book is a history of all writing and printing, internet included. Even so, it is terse enough for a brief but absorbing volume.

Writing, and with it history, begins at Sumer (today’s southern Iraq), some 5,000 years B.C. This was cuneiform, i.e., wedge-shaped incisions of varying depth on small clay tablets serving legal or business purposes, signed by intaglio from small stone cylinders worn around the neck.

Much later came the Egyptians, writing on papyrus made from plants in hieroglyphs, arguably the most beautiful form of writing ever devised. Also, however, very difficult and slow to be learned. Thus it was limited to...


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