Paris: Imprimerie Nationale, 1891. First edition. Hardcover. Quarto (10 x 6 1/2"). xviii, 389, pp. Contemporary half burgundy morocco over marbled paper covered boards, with gold lettering to spine. Raised bands. Original printed wrappers bound in. Fly leaf inscribed and signed by the author to Charles Lévêque, dated December 24, 1891. Frontispiece.
First inscribed and signed edition of Philippe Berger's remarkable history of writing in Antiquity. "Writing is the physical manifestation of a spoken language. It is thought that human beings developed language c. 35,000 BCE as evidenced by cave paintings from the period of the Cro-Magnon Man (c. 50,000-30,000 BCE) which appear to express concepts concerning daily life. These images suggest a language because, in some instances, they seem to tell a story (say, of a hunting expedition in which specific events occurred) rather than being simply pictures of animals and people. Written language, however, does not emerge until its invention in Sumer, southern Mesopotamia, c. 3500 -3000 BCE. This early writing was called cuneiform and consisted of making specific marks in wet clay with a reed implement.
The writing system of the Egyptians was already in use before the rise of the Early Dynastic Period (c. 3150 BCE) and is thought to have developed from Mesopotamian cuneiform (though this theory is disputed) and came to be known as hieroglyphics. The phoenetic writing systems of the Greeks ("phoenetic" from the Greek phonein - "to speak clearly"), and later the Romans, came from Phoenicia. The Phoenician writing system, though quite different from that of Mesopotamia, still owes its development to the Sumerians and their advances in the written word. Independently of the Near East or Europe, writing was developed in Mesoamerica by the Maya c. 250 CE with some evidence suggesting a date as early as 500 BCE and, also independently, by the Chinese." (For more information, see: "The Origins of Writing" by Ira Spar).
This work is illustrated throughout with numerous b/w in-text illustrations as well as 9 full and double-page plates, including photogravures and one chromolithograph.
Corners and joints of binding rubbed, with closed tear to upper front joint. Original wrappers age-toned and foxed. Some foxing to very first and very last leaves. Ex-library copy, with bookplate on inside of front cover, and pocket on inside of back cover. Blind-stamp at lower margin of title page. Stamp at top and bottom paper edges. Text in French. Binding in overall fair, interior in good to very good condition. f to vg. Item #46342