The Eerie Beauty of Rare Alphabets

Without support from governments, NGOs, or foundations, the English-born, Vermont-based writer Tim Brookes has been documenting the remarkable history and design of ancient alphabets as part of his  Endangered Alphabets Project.

My favorite from Mr. Brookes’ book, though, is Mandaic, spoken by only a hundred or so survivors of an ancient people and faith, the only language written so that even in handwriting all lines are equal. Mandeans also may be unique in believing their language was created by God before humanity itself, and highly developed letter mysticism is at the core of their religion.

The Endangered Alphabets project is not just about language or typography but about the unique insights into humanity and world that obscure scripts preserve. And I’m happy to say that Rutgers, where I’m a visiting scholar, is a center for Mandean studies.

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