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Off Topic: The weird history of handwriting

From cuneiform to Coca-Cola.

In his Confessions, written around the year 400 AD, Saint Augustine mentions his shock upon coming across a friend who was reading a book without saying the words out loud as he went. Reading in your head! It's odd in 2021 to read about Augustine's astonishment and realise that the act of silently reading to yourself was an act that had to be learned. It arrived a surprisingly long time after written language.

I read about Saint Augustine and his strange discovery in Anne Trubek's new book, "The History and Uncertain Future of Handwriting." It's a fascinating examination of a subject I hadn't really given much thought to. Handwriting - is there much to say about that? It turns out there is.

Trubek's book often feels a bit like a history of human civilisation, in fact, taking us from Cuneiform in the fourth millennium BCE, through to the present day where cursive is no longer being taught in the majority of American schools. It's fascinating to see how handwriting has threaded itself through human life in the last few thousand years.

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About the Author
Christian Donlan avatar

Christian Donlan

Features Editor

Christian Donlan is a features editor for Eurogamer. He is the author of The Unmapped Mind, published as The Inward Empire in the US.

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