cover image The Golden Thread: 
The Story of Writing

The Golden Thread: The Story of Writing

Ewan Clayton. Counterpoint (PGW, dist.), $30 (400p) ISBN 978-1-61902-242-3

Clayton, a former monk and renowned calligrapher, as well as a professor at the University of Sunderland, England, takes the reader on a grand tour of writing. While the book’s focus is the concept of writing itself, Clayton’s approach has depth and breadth, tackling calligraphy and typesetting, handwriting and printing, literacy and correspondence. He examines the development of different fonts and writing styles with an experienced, artistic eye, putting things into social, historical, and cultural contexts. From papyrus scrolls to illuminated manuscripts to Gutenberg Bibles, from novels to graffiti to computers, he traces the evolution of writing as a fundamental building block of civilization. He even waxes poetic on the geometry of the pen itself. Clayton’s style is easygoing and accessible, the dense flow of information carrying readers down through the centuries. “In some sense,” he notes, “this book is a history of craftsmanship in relation to the written word.” He concludes that “writing, at its best, can celebrate the whole way we explore the material world and its sensuality to think and communicate.” Clayton reawakens readers to the versatility and nuances of something so ubiquitous as to be almost invisible (the act that makes this very review possible). It’s a book no bibliophile should miss. (Feb.)