From The Art and Popular Culture Encyclopedia
"He who first shortened the labor of Copyists by device of Movable Types was disbanding hired Armies, and cashiering most Kings and Senates, and creating a whole new Democratic world: he had invented the Art of Printing."--Sartor Resartus (1836) by Thomas Carlyle
"O most ingenious Theuth ... you who are the father of letters ... this discovery of yours will create forgetfulness in the learners' souls, because they will not use their memories; they will trust to the external written characters and not remember of themselves. The specific which you have discovered is an aid not to memory, but to reminiscence, and you give your disciples not truth, but only the semblance of truth."--Phaedrus by Plato
"[W]ith the woodcut graphic art became mechanically reproducible for the first time, long before script became reproducible by print. The enormous changes which printing, the mechanical reproduction of writing, has brought about in literature are a familiar story. However, within the phenomenon which we are here examining from the perspective of world history, print is merely a special, though particularly important, case." --"The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction" (1935) by Walter Benjamin
"My task which I am trying to achieve is, by the power of the written word, to make you hear, to make you feel — it is, before all, to make you see".--The Nigger of the "Narcissus" (1897) by Joseph Conrad
"The history of the various primitive graphic systems, such as the Chinese, the Cuneiform, or the Egyptian, shows that the art of writing has invariably begun with hieroglyphic ideograms, slowly developed into phonograms, and passing gradually through syllabism towards alphabetism, the successive stages of the process occupying in every instance vast periods of time."--The History of the Alphabet (1899) by Isaac Taylor
Writing is a complex neuropsychological activity involving cognitive and physical processes and the use of one or more writing systems to structure and translate volatile human thoughts into persistent representations of human language. A system of writing relies on many of the same semantic structures as the language it represents, such as lexicon and syntax, with the added dependency of a system of symbols representing that language's phonology and morphology. Nevertheless, written languages in the course of inscription may take on characteristics distinctive from any available in spoken language.
The outcome of this activity, also called "writing," and sometimes a "text," is a series of physically inscribed, mechanically transferred, or digitally represented linguistic symbols. The interpreter or activator of a text is called a reader.
The writing systems humans deploy do not themselves constitute human languages (with the debatable exception of computer languages); they are a means of rendering language into a form that can be reconstructed by other humans separated by time and/or space. While not all languages use a writing system, those that do can complement and extend capacities of spoken language by creating durable forms of language that can be transmitted across space (e.g. written correspondence) and stored over time (e.g. libraries or other public records). It has also been observed that the activity of writing itself can have knowledge-transforming effects, since it allows humans to externalize their thinking in forms that are easier to reflect on, elaborate, reconsider, and revise.
Historical significance of writing systems
Historians draw a distinction between prehistory and history, with history defined by the advent of writing. The cave paintings and petroglyphs of prehistoric peoples can be considered precursors of writing, but are not considered writing because they did not represent language directly.
- Effects of movable type printing on culture
- Walter Benjamin on the importance of printing and movable type
- Constrained writing
- Automatic writing
- Letter (alphabet)
- Manuscript culture
- Writing about music is like dancing about architecture