Firmage, usually an editor and designer of other's books, has himself written, designed, illustrated, and typeset this learned and occasionally comic homage to the Roman alphabetthe building blocks of his trade and, he makes clear, of Western civilization itself. To a generation raised on Sesame Streetwhere letters are animated, personalized, empowered, and celebratedFirmage's compendium of lore will seem like a logical extension of childhood, a postgraduate course in the alphabet. Addressing himself to the "light-hearted, the fun-loving, and the free-thinking," the author draws on numerous disciplinesreligion, physics, music, art, architecture, numerology, astronomy, astrology, math, literature, philology, calligraphy, etc.and on various histories (of typography, paper, and printing) to create individual genealogies of lettersattributing biographies to them, as well as personalities and reputations. There's the "legitimacy" of the letter H; the "hidden world" of I; the "success story" of J; the "celebrated" O; the "much used, often abused" T; and the "philosophical" Y. Firmage considers influences both ancient and modernfrom cave paintings to computers, from the Pythagoreans, cabalists, Etruscans, Phoenicians, Celts, Greeks, and Plato to Gutenberg, Benjamin Franklin, James Thurber, Marshall McLuhan, and Dr. Seuss. He populates the "magical, powerful" world of the alphabet with hundreds of historical, fanciful, artistic, and emblematic designssome integrated into the text, others running along the bottom of the pageand comments on their uses, flaws, and evolution. A triumph of presentation on many levels, not the least of which isFirmage's narrative voicecongenial, well-paced, wide- ranging, and gifted with a clear sense of his readership.