History of Reading

History of Reading

by Steven Roger Fischer

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This final volume in the trilogy Language / Writing / Reading traces the complete story of reading from the time when symbol first became sign through to the electronic texts of the present day. After describing ancient forms of reading and the various modes that were necessary to understand different writing systems and scripts, Steven Roger Fischer covers China, Japan, the Americas and elsewhere, and examines the forms and developments of completely divergent dimensions of reading. With the Middle Ages in Europe and the Middle East, innovative re-inventions of reading emerged -- silent and liturgical reading, the use of spectacles, reading's focus in general education -- at which point printing transformed society's entire attitude to reading. Fischer charts the explosion of the book trade in this era, its audience and radically changed subject-matter; describes the emergence of broadsheets, newspapers and public readings; and traces the effect of changing fonts on general legibility. Discussing society's dedication to public literacy in the sweeping educational reforms of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, he notes the re-invigorated book trade, the appearance of free libraries, improved domestic lighting, gender differences in reading matter, public advertising and the 'forbidden' lists of Church, State and the unemancipated.

Fischer looks to the future where read communication may soon exceed oral communication because of personal computers, mobile phones and the Net. He concludes by looking at 'visual language' and modern theories of how reading is processed in the human brain. Asking how the New Reader can reshape reading's future, he suggests a radical new definition of what reading truly is. An internationally acclaimed expert on linguistic history and ancient writing systems, Fischer here offers to the general reader a highly accessible and exciting account of reading's millennial transformations.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781861892096
Publisher: Reaktion Books, Limited
Publication date: 09/15/2004
Series: Reaktion Books - Globalities Series
Edition description: New Edition
Pages: 384
Product dimensions: (w) x (h) x 1.40(d)

About the Author

Steven Roger Fischer FRS is a former director of the Institute of Polynesian Languages and Literatures, Auckland, New Zealand. He has written many books including A History of Language, A History of Writing, and Island at the End of the World: The Turbulent History of Easter Island, all also published by Reaktion Books.

Table of Contents

1The Immortal Witness11
2The Papyrus Tongue45
3A World of Reading99
4The Parchment Eye141
5The Printed Page205
6The 'Universal Conscience'253
7Reading the Future307
Select Bibliography365
Illustration Acknowledgements373

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