The Alphabet Abecedarium . Richard A. Firmage. 2001. Great Britain. Clays Ltd St Ives plc.
From back (terms of interest to read later):
runic writing 54, 62, 92, 166, 241-43, 267.
religion and alphabets
This has really useful stuff.
“As we have seen in tracing the history of various letters, the great range and variety of letter forms is certainly not a recent development. The contemporary type designer Hermann Zapf maintains that few who read consider how the letters came to be, and yet each letter is shaped by “the constant effort to render its image suitable in purpose, beautiful in form.” Well, maybe that effort hasn’t exactly been constant, but the general evolution of the Roman letters has been towards regularity and symmetry. And certain letter forms did tend to be influenced by others, such as F by E, Q by O, and G by C. When P assumed a similar shape, R received its distinguishing stroke. According to B. L. Ullman, “Numerous variants of the letters some of them very strange and unusual may be found in the records which have been preserved to us. But they have disappeared as a result of the operation of the law of the survival of the fittest.” Whether or not this sort of literal Darwinism actually applies, many letter forms have certainly fallen into oblivion over the course of centuries. (Galway Kinnell has called death a traveling the “path of vanished alphabets.”) Legibility, simplicity, beauty and adaptability to pen and ink or metal typecasting have all affected the development and survival of letters. Donald Anderson claims that the predominance of right-handed people also has a determining effect on the letter forms and upon the direction of our writing. When the letters were inscribed on stone or impressed in clay the direction of writing mattered little, and thus boustrophedon as well as right-to-left could flourish. With pen and ink, however, a right-handed scribe writing from right to left would drag his hand over the still wet ink; consequently, the left-to-right direction gained far greater favour and finally became universal in Western writing. The position and shape of the letter strokes were also directly influenced by right handed writing.”
Comments: Due to right-handers convenience, the alphabet is as is today. Much to the annoyance of lefties.
“The Roman alphabet probably originated in the seventh century B.C. and was influenced by early forms of both the Etruscan and western Greek alphabets. The earliest Roman alphabets had 21 letters including the 5 basic Greek vowel signs. Like the Etruscans before them, the Romans adapted the various signs of their own language requirements retaining many of the letters, rejecting some, and restoring and inventing a few others. The earliest known specimen of Roman writing is from about 600 B.C. Early Roman writing was also boustrophedon; the lines alternating direction from left-to-right to right-to-left, and thus in effect almost doubling the number of characters a literate person would have to recognize, since a letter such as B would face either left or right depending on the direction of the line of writing. By 500 B.C., however, Romans began to write exclusively in a left to right direction. The Romans began to develop their own alphabet long after the Greeks and Etruscans considered theirs complete.”
Pg 18. Same book.
abcedarium – adj. Arranged alphabetically.
boustrophedon – adj, adv. (of written words) from right to left and from left to right in alternate lines.