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About the Author

John Man is a historian and travel writer with a special interest in Mongolia. His most recent books are GOBI: TRACKING THE DESERT and THE ATLAS OF THE YEAR 1000. He also wrote THE WAORANI: JUNGLE NOMADS OF ECUADOR and THE ATLAS OF D-DAY. He devised and presented the BBC Radio 4 series 'Survivors'.

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One of the greatest breakthroughs in the human story ... is the alphabet. Man manages to tell the tale ... in a short text that is crisp, taut and clear as a bell ... It is a fascinating story with many a beguiling subplot along the way. Yet he never loses the thread by allowing himself to get sidetracked - New Scientist'One of the greatest breakthroughs in the human story ... is the alphabet. Man manages to tell the tale ... in a short text that is crisp, taut and clear as a bell ... It is a fascinating story with many a beguiling subplot along the way. Yet he never loses the thread by allowing himself to get sidetracked' NEW SCIENTISTThe story of how [the alphabet] came into being is a fascinating one and Man is the ideal writer to tell it. His scholarship seems boundless ... He also has a journalist's ear for a story, beguiling us with innumerable asides (like the identity of George Bernard Shaw's inspiration for Henry Higgins in Pygmalion), curiosities (like the difference between Chinese and English palindromes) and the odd mystery (what happened to archaeologist William Flinders Petrie's disembodied head?) ... A tour de force ... It's the history of a sequence of squiggles ... that has been the driving force behind Western civilisation, education and democracy - Times Educational Supplement'The story of how [the alphabet] came into being is a fascinating one

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