The Golden Thread: The Story of Writing
The Golden Thread traces the history of an invention which has been the method of codification and dissemination of ideas in every field of human endeavour, and a motor of cultural, scientific and political progress. From the simple representative shapes used to record transactions of goods and animals in ancient Egypt, to the sophisticated typographical resources available to the twenty-first-century computer user, the story of writing is the story of human civilization itself. Ewan Clayton marks each step in the historical development of writing, and explores the social and cultural impact of every stage: the invention of the alphabet; the replacement of the papyrus scroll with the codex in the late Roman period; the perfecting of printing using moveable type in the fifteenth century and the ensuing spread of literacy; the industrialization of printing during the Industrial Revolution; the impact of artistic Modernism on the written word in the early twentieth century - and of the digital switchover at the century's close. The Golden Thread raises issues of urgent interest for a society living in an era of unprecedented change to the tools and technologies of written communication. Chief amongst these is the fundamental question: 'What does it mean to be literate in the world of the early twenty-first century?' The Golden Thread belongs on the bookshelves of anyone who is inquisitive not just about the centrality of writing in the history of humanity, but also about its future.
Ewan Clayton is a distinguished calligrapher and professor in the Faculty of Arts, Design and Media at the University of Sunderland. For a number of years he worked as a consultant to Xerox PARC with an interest in digital communications technology. He has exhibited and taught calligraphy in many parts of the world.