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The Hidden Language of Graphic Signs
Cryptic Writing and Meaningful Marks


Haicheng Wang, Andréas Stauder, Stephen Houston, Scott Redford, Benjamin C. Tilghman, Stephen Chrisomalis, Ben Haring, John Bodel, Ildar Garipzanov, David Spafford, Howard Tsai, Bérénice Gaillemin
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  • Date Published: August 2021
  • availability: In stock
  • format: Hardback
  • isbn: 9781108840613

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About the Authors
  • A common belief is that systems of writing are committed to transparency and precise records of sound. The target is the language behind such marks. Readers, not viewers, matter most, and the most effective graphs largely record sound, not meaning. But what if embellishments mattered deeply - if hidden writing, slow to produce, slow to read, played as enduring a role as more accessible graphs? What if meaningful marks did service alongside records of spoken language? This book, a compilation of essays by global authorities on these subjects, zeroes in on hidden writing and alternative systems of graphic notation. Essays by leading scholars explore forms of writing that, by their formal intricacy, deflect attention from language. The volume also examines graphs that target meaning directly, without passing through the filter of words and the medium of sound. The many examples here testify to human ingenuity and future possibilities for exploring enriched graphic communication.

    • One of the first comparative studies of how graphs encode individual and group identity and interact with other imagery in complex communication systems
    • Argues that signs of meaning, from numbers to markers of personal identity, remain a key to human graphs and mark-making
    • Shows how writing and reading are not always about 'speed' or 'efficiency' but a slow pleasure in visual and graphic puzzles
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    Reviews & endorsements

    '… the book editors-classicist John Bodel and Mayanist Stephen Houston - are to be congratulated on assembling experts to produce a 'first' in this relatively neglected field.' Andrew Robinson, Miverva

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    Product details

    • Date Published: August 2021
    • format: Hardback
    • isbn: 9781108840613
    • length: 330 pages
    • dimensions: 261 x 183 x 20 mm
    • weight: 0.85kg
    • availability: In stock
  • Table of Contents

    Part I. Hidden Writing:
    1. Buried and Camouflaged Writing in Early China Haicheng Wang
    2. Dazzled and Absorbed: Delayed Reading in Altered Egyptian Hieroglyphic Writing Andréas Stauder
    3. Impossible Unities: Full-Figure Glyphs among the Maya Stephen Houston
    4. Inscribe and De-scribe/Cipher and De-cipher: A Pious Phrase in Medieval Byzantium and Islam Scott Redford
    5. Script, Pseudoscript, and Pseudo-pseudoscript in the Work of Filippo Lippi Benjamin C. Tilghman
    6. Numerals as Letters: Ludic Language in Chronographic Writing Stephen Chrisomalis
    Part II. Legible Signs:
    7. Marking and Writing in an Egyptian Workmen's Community Ben Haring
    8. The Semiotics of Signa and the Significance of Signs in Roman Stamps John Bodel
    9. Late Antique and Early Medieval Monograms (c. 300–900): From Producers' Marks to Liminal Graphic Devices Ildar Garipzanov
    10. Crests and Familial Identity in Medieval Japan David Spafford
    11. Where Credit's Due: Making Marks and Counting Labor in the Andes Howard Tsai
    12. From Modeling to Destruction: Cyclicity and Multi-Sensoriality in Learning Catechisms in the Bolivian Highlands Bérénice Gaillemin.

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    The Hidden Language of Graphic Signs

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  • Editors

    John Bodel, Brown University, Rhode Island
    John Bodel is W. Duncan MacMillan II Professor of Classics at Brown University and Director of the U.S. Epigraphy Project. A specialist in the epigraphic cultures of the ancient Mediterranean, he writes about Roman history and literature and is the recipient of fellowship awards from ACLS, NEH, and the Andrew Mellon Foundation.

    Stephen Houston, Brown University, Rhode Island
    Stephen Houston serves as the Dupee Family Professor of Social Science at Brown University. A specialist in writing systems and Classic Maya civilization, Houston is the recipient of a MacArthur 'genius' award and the Grand Cross of the Order of the Quetzal, Guatemala's highest honor.


    Haicheng Wang, Andréas Stauder, Stephen Houston, Scott Redford, Benjamin C. Tilghman, Stephen Chrisomalis, Ben Haring, John Bodel, Ildar Garipzanov, David Spafford, Howard Tsai, Bérénice Gaillemin

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