Publishing models

There are three main publishing models that can be distinguished that have a different role for the designer.

Model 1  the mainstream conventional model used in the large publishing houses

Writer – Publisher – Editor – Designer – Production – Printer – Distribution – Retail

The writer’s manuscript is the main source. The designer’s input comes between editor and production and the design and production of the book involves predominantly dialogue with these two departments. The production department of large publishing houses most often deals with the printer, but in smaller organisations, or for freelance book designers, this role is often assumed by the designer.

Model 2 design-led (eg artists’ books)

Artist/Designer/Author – Publisher – Editor – Production – Printer – Distribution – Retail

The ‘author’ is the designer (or photographer/artist/illustrator) and it is their concept, content and vision which drives forward the book from initial stages through to completion.

Model 3 Print on demand and self-publishing 

Self-publishing is the publication of any book or other media by the author of the work, without the involvement of an established third-party publisher. A self-published physical book is said to be privately printed. The author is responsible and in control of entire process including, in the case of a book, the design of the cover and interior, formats, price, distribution, marketing and public relations. The authors can do it all themselves or outsource all or part of the process to companies that offer these services.

  • Print on Demand
  • Vanity publishing
  • Electronic (E-book) Publishing

In all cases it is essential to have a good understanding of how the book will be printed. In the first two models the designer will need a good working relationship with the printer, as this will provide valuable guidance about the best way to print any individual book eg technical parameters including format, page size, paper stock, binding methods and print finishes. In Print on Demand there are also usually choices to be made, some of which have cost implications depending on anticipated volume of sales, but it is easier to change later with the next print run.

Project 5.1: Reflective practice 

Runic alphabets


Elder Futhark (2nd to 8th centuries)

 The Elder Futhark, used for writing Proto-Norse, consists of 24 runes that often are arranged in three groups of eight; each group is referred to as an Ætt. The earliest known sequential listing of the full set of 24 runes dates to approximately CE 400 and is found on the Kylver Stone in Gotland, Sweden. Most probably each rune had a name, chosen to represent the sound of the rune itself.


Rune UCS Transliteration IPA Proto-Germanic name Meaning
f f /f/ *fehu “wealth, cattle”
u u /u(ː)/ ?*ūruz aurochs” (or *ûram “water/slag”?)
th,þ þ /θ/, /ð/ ?*þurisaz “the god Thor, giant
a a /a(ː)/ *ansuz “one of the Æsir (gods)”
r r /r/ *raidō “ride, journey”
k k (c) /k/ ?*kaunan “ulcer”? (or *kenaz “torch”?)
g g /ɡ/ *gebō “gift”
w w /w/ *wunjō “joy”
h h ᚺ ᚻ h /h/ *hagalaz “hail” (the precipitation)
n n /n/ *naudiz “need”
i i /i(ː)/ *īsaz “ice”
j j /j/ *jēra- “year, good year, harvest”
ï,ei ï (æ) /æː/(?) *ī(h)waz/*ei(h)waz “yew-tree”
p p /p/ ?*perþ- meaning unclear, perhaps “pear-tree”.
z z /z/ ?*algiz unclear, possibly “elk“.
s s ᛊ ᛋ s /s/ *sōwilō “Sun”
t t /t/ *tīwaz/*teiwaz “the god Tiwaz
b b /b/ *berkanan birch
e e /e(ː)/ *ehwaz “horse”
m m /m/ *mannaz “Man”
l l /l/ *laguz “water, lake” (or possibly *laukaz “leek”)
ŋ ŋ ŋ ᛜ ᛝ ŋ /ŋ/ *ingwaz “the god Ingwaz
o o /o(ː)/ *ōþila-/*ōþala- “heritage, estate, possession”
d d /d/ *dagaz “day”

Anglo-Saxon runes (5th to 11th centuries)

Main article: Anglo-Saxon runes
Anglo Saxon Runes

The Anglo-Saxon Fuþorc: The futhorc are an extended alphabet, consisting of 29, and later, even 33 characters. It probably was used from the 5th century onward. The expanded alphabet features the additional letters cweorth, calc, cealc, and stan. These additional letters have only been found in manuscripts. Feoh, þorn, and sigel stood for [f], [þ], and [s] in most environments, but voiced to [v], [ð], and [z] between vowels or voiced consonants. Gyfu and wynn stood for the letters yogh and wynn, which became [g] and [w] inMiddle English.

“Marcomannic runes” (8th to 9th centuries)[edit]

Marcomannic Runes

A runic alphabet consisting of a mixture of Elder Futhark with Anglo-Saxon futhorc recorded in a treatise called De Inventione Litterarum, ascribed to Hrabanus Maurus and preserved in 8th- and 9th-century manuscripts mainly from the southern part of the Carolingian Empire (Alemannia, Bavaria).

Younger Futhark (9th to 11th centuries)[edit]

Main article: Younger Futhark

The Younger Futhark: long-branch runes and short-twig runes

While also featuring a runic inscription detailing the erection of a bridge for a loved one, the 11th-centuryRamsung carving is a Sigurd stone that depicts the legend of Sigurd.

The Younger Futhark, also called Scandinavian Futhark, is a reduced form of the Elder Futhark, consisting of only 16 characters. The reduction correlates with phonetic changes when Proto-Norse evolved into Old Norse. They are found in Scandinavia and Viking Agesettlements abroad, probably in use from the 9th century onward. They are divided into long-branch (Danish) and short-twig (Swedish and Norwegian) runes. The difference between the two versions is a matter of controversy. A general opinion is that the difference between them was functional (i.e., the long-branch runes were used for documentation on stone, whereas the short-branch runes were in everyday use for private or official messages on wood).

Medieval runes (12th to 15th centuries)[edit]

Main article: Medieval runes

In the Middle Ages, the Younger Futhark in Scandinavia was expanded, so that it once more contained one sign for each phoneme of the Old Norse language. Dotted variants of voiceless signs were introduced to denote the corresponding voiced consonants, or vice versa, voiceless variants of voiced consonants, and several new runes also appeared for vowel sounds. Inscriptions in medieval Scandinavian runes show a large number of variant rune forms, and some letters, such as s, c, and z often were used interchangeably.

Medieval runes were in use until the 15th century. Of the total number of Norwegian runic inscriptions preserved today, most are medieval runes.

Dalecarlian runes (16th to 19th centuries)

Main article: Dalecarlian runes

The Dalecarlian runes are a mix of  runes and Latin letters developed in the isolated province of Dalarna in the early 16th century and remained in some use up to the 20th century.



Zentangle website

Anything is Possible One Stroke at a Time
At first glance, a Zentangle creation can seem intricate and complicated. But, when you learn how it is done, you realize how simple it is . . . sort of like learning the secret behind a magic trick. Then, when you create a piece of Zentangle art, you realize how fun and engrossing the process itself is.

We love presenting to a class or seminar full of people who are convinced they can’t draw the Zentangle art we show them. Then, within 15 minutes, they have easily accomplished what they thought was impossible. This is one of our favorite Zentangle moments, because then we ask, “What else do you know that you can’t do?” You can transfer that insight and experience of success and accomplishment to any life experience. Something may look complicated, but you now know that you can do it, one simple stroke at a time.

Deliberate Stroke
In our Zentangle way, you draw each stroke consciously and deliberately. We are always making “strokes” (thoughts, words, deeds) in our life. By practicing the Zentangle Method’s suggestion to make each stroke deliberate, you understand how those apparently small and insignificant “strokes” of our moment to moment lives contribute to an overall life pattern. This is another reason that we say that life is an artform and everyone is an artist. Indeed, everyone draws.

Deliberate Focus
As you make a deliberate pen stroke on your Zentangle tile without concerning yourself of what it will look like when you are done, that very act of putting your pen to paper focuses your attention in a special way. As your eye follows your pen strokes your attention shifts to a state that allows fresh thoughts, new perspectives, and creative insights to flow unhindered by anxiety or effort.

No Eraser
There is no eraser in life and there is no eraser in a Zentangle Kit. However, in creating Zentangle art (and in living life), you will discover that apparent mistakes can be foundations for new patterns and take you in unexpected and exciting new directions.

Unknown Outcomes
Unlike much art, or most activities, you start out intentionally not knowing what your Zentangle creation will look like. The Zentangle Method allows you to discover new possibilities that you might not have anticipated when you began. We can most always tell when we’ve preplanned a specific outcome when using our Zentangle Method. It almost always looks forced and stiff.

No Predetermined Solution
With no predetermined correct answer, the Zentangle method offers both a freedom and a challenge. Unlike crossword, jigsaw, or Sudoku puzzles, there is no one predetermined solution. You cannot fail to create Zentangle art. At first this freedom might be a bit unnerving, as many of us have been trained to look for the one perfect solution. Soon however, this becomes a freeing and uplifting experience as you realize you can create never-ending, ever-changing “solutions” in your Zentangle creations.

Elegance of Limits
In seeming contradiction the limits established by a Zentangle string frees up your creativity. As you use the Zentangle Method, you’ll understand.

You always succeed when you create Zentangle art because you always create a pattern. A Zentangle creation is meant to be nonrepresentative with no up or down. Since it is not a picture of something, you have no worries about whether you can draw a hand, or a duck. You always succeed in creating a pattern in a Zentangle way.

A Zentangle tile is 3 1/2 inches (89 mm) square. A Zentangle tile is designed to be completed in one sitting. Keep some Zentangle tiles in your pocket or purse. You can finish one in as little as 15 minutes. You get an immediate sense of accomplishment by completing your work of art. Of course, you can spend as much time as you like on a tile. Time melts as you focus on and enjoy your penstrokes.

The Zentangle Method’s non-verbal language of patterns and proportions can open doors to insights which seemed locked before. Creating in a Zentangle way opens those doors, not because they were locked, but because those doors swing on non-verbal hinges. When you create in a Zentangle way you can enter a state of relaxed focus in which intuitive insights flow freely. Get inspirations, ideas and answers unhindered by expectations or worries.

High Quality
Out of respect for yourself and your craft, we always encourage people to use the best tools and materials possible. We designed our Zentangle Kit with that in mind.

Like a Japanese Tea Ceremony, when you create Zentangle art you also create a personal environment. You can use our Zentangle approach as a tool to deliberately focus your thoughts.

Gratitude is our foundation. It also informs our product design and our teaching method. Whether its appreciating the texture of these wonderful paper tiles, becoming aware of the patterned beauty around us or thankful for the opportunity to put pen to paper, we always return to gratitude.

Zentangle basics

Introduction to traditional approach.
No rulers, 0.1 pigment liner

More advanced variations

Alternative from art geek. Uses ruler, brushes and thicker marker

20 patterns Art Geek

24 patterns speed up art




  • OCA Book Design 1 Course Guide by Christian Lloyd pp92-94
  • OCA Photography 2 Landscape by Jesse Alexander pp157-162,
  • Wikipedia and followup on web links therefrom.

Self-publishing is where the author publishes their work independently from a publishing house.  It is seen as a means for authors and designers to ‘take back the power’ and enjoy a creative independence in the writing, design and printing of books.

Self-publishing is not new – artists books and vanity publishing have a long history as a means of challenging the power of the large publishing houses. But in the twenty-first century the rise of digital printing on demand and electronic publishing have enabled self-publishing to become much more widespread. In 2008, for the first time in history, more books were self-published than those published traditionally. In 2009, 76% of all books released were self-published, while publishing houses reduced the number of books they produced. According to Robert Kroese, “the average return of the self-published book is £500”.

Artists Books

As part of the Arts and Crafts movement at the end of the 19th Century, early English small presses were used by authors/artists to express their vision through the craftsmanship of book design, and enjoy ownership of the design and production process as a whole.

In the 1970s Fanzines  emerged as a counter-cultural response to the aesthetics and associations of mass commercial book production…(more here)

Some artists and designers are producing different types of artist books, rediscovering the craft and skills inherent in traditional printing processes such as letterpress and returning to a more physical relationship and contact with print, using materials and processes of the pre-digital age, such as photocopying and hand- binding.

Print on Demand

Print-On-Demand (POD) technology can produce a quality product equal to those produced by traditional publishers – in the past, you could easily identify a self-published title because of its quality. Many companies, such as Createspace (owned by, Lulu and iUniverse allow printing single books at per-book costs not much higher than those paid by publishing companies for large print runs. Most POD companies also offer distribution through and other online and brick-and-mortar retailers, most often as “special order” or “web-only” as retail outlets are usually unwilling to stock physical books that cannot be returned if they do not sell.

Vanity publishing

Vanity publishing differs from self-publishing in that the author does not own the print run of finished books and is not in primary control of their distribution. The term ‘vanity publishing’ originated at a time when high publishing costs meant profits were only possible on large print runs, so companies only sign contracts with authors whose books would sell well. ‘Vanity publishers’ aimed to give authors an alternative: they would publish any book in exchange for payment up front from the author. The term “vanity publishing” reflects a perception that the authors paying for services had an exaggerated sense of their own talent.

The line between vanity publishing and traditional publishing has become increasingly blurred in the past few years. Some companies (known as joint venture or subsidy presses) offer digital and/or print publication with no up front cost and make the majority of their income on fees for intangible services and add-on services (such as editing, marketing and cover design paid for by the author), rather than sales revenue. Self-publishing companies that fit this model include:

  • CreateSpace (owned by
  • iUniverse
  • Lulu
  • Author Solutions purchased by Penguin in 2012.

 Electronic (E-book) Publishing

Technological advances with e-book readers and tablet computers that enhance readability and allow readers to “carry” numerous books in a concise, portable product. Because it is possible to create E-books with no up-front or per-book costs, E-book publishing is an extremely popular option for self-publishers. Some recent bestsellers, such as Hugh Howey’s Wool series, began as digital-only books.

The challenge is the multiplicity of E-book formats and different software needed to create them and keep them updated for reading. The most popular formats are epub, .mobi, PDF, HTML, and Amazon’s .azw format., Barnes and Noble, Kobo, and Smashwords all offer online tools for creating and converting files from other formats to formats that can be sold on their websites.

Copyrights and risk

Self-publishing and vanity publishing are not necessarily the same business model.

  • A self-published author employs a printer (publishing) to operate a press, but retains ownership of copyrights, ISBN’s, the finished books and their distribution.
  • A vanity press or subsidy publisher retains some of the rights,usually including ownership of the print run and control over distribution, while the author bears much or all of the financial risk.

Both models share a common characteristic of shifting risk and primary editorial control to the author; both encounter the same issues of lax editorial control. This differs from the conventional model (royalty publishing) in which a publisher pays an author an advance to create content, then assumes full control of the project and any commercial risk if a tome sells poorly. Also excluded is sponsored publishing, where a company pays an author to write a book on its behalf (for instance, a food manufacturer marketing a cookbook written by outsiders or a hobby materials supplier publishing a book of blueprints).

Unless a book is to be sold directly from the author to the public, an ISBN number is required to uniquely identify the title. ISBN is a global standard used for all titles worldwide. Most self-publishing companies either provide their own ISBN to a title or can provide direction; it may be in the best interest of the self-published author to retain ownership of ISBN and copyright instead of using a number owned by a vanity press.

(More here on copyright issues)

List of self-publishing companies

The following is a Wikipedia list of some of the notable companies that provide assistance in self-publishing books, provide print on demand services as publishers or operate as vanity presses.


Books LLC controversial American publisher and a book sales club based in Memphis, Tennessee. Books LLC publishes print on demand paperback and downloadable compilations of English texts and documents from open knowledge sources such as Wikipedia. Books LLC’s copies of the English Wikipedia are republished by Google Books. Titles are also published in French and German respectively under the names “Livres Groupe” and “Bücher Gruppe“. Books’ publications do not include the images from the original Web documents but, in their place, URLs pointing to the Web images.


Blurb, Inc.
Bob Books

Famous Poets Society
Greyden Press
Kobo Writing Life
Lightning Source

Notion Press
Outskirts Press (also known as the International Library of Poetry)


Small press

Tate Publishing & Enterprises
Trafford Publishing
Vantage Press

Xulon Press


Publishers Weekly (4 April 2010). “Self-Published Titles Topped 764,000 in 2009 as Traditional Output Dipped”. Retrieved 31 October 2011.
Robert Kroese. Self-Publish Your Novel: Lessons from an Indie Publishing Success Story.
RICH, MOTOKO (28 February 2010). “Math of Publishing Meets the E-Book”. New York Times. Retrieved 9 May 2013.
Rosenthal, Morris. “Print on Demand Publishing”. Retrieved 9 May 2013.
Neuburger, Jeffrey D. (10 September 2008). “Court Rules Print-on-Demand Service Not Liable for Defamation”. Retrieved 31 October 2011.
Greenfield, Jeremy (19 July 2012). “Penguin Buys Self-Publishing Platform Author Solutions for $116 Million”.
Christina Patterson (18 August 2012). “How the great writers published themselves”. The Independent (London). Retrieved 17 August 2012.
Paull, John (2011). “The making of an agricultural classic: Farmers of Forty Centuries or Permanent Agriculture in China, Korea and Japan, 1911–2011”. Agricultural Sciences 2 (3): 175–180. doi:10.4236/as.2011.23024.
“How To Self-Publish A Bestseller: Publishing 3.0”.
The Guardian (27 March 2012). “Pottermore conjures Harry Potter ebooks”. London. Retrieved 9 August 2012.
Brown, Helen (2010-01-08). “Unleash your inner novelist”. The Daily Telegraph (London). Retrieved September 16, 2011. “Polly Courtney […] made money self-publishing her novel, Golden Handcuffs, in 2006. […] Courtney now has a three-book deal with HarperCollins […]”
Saichek, Wiley (September 2003). “Christopher Paolini interview”. Retrieved 2009-01-31.
Lane, Frederick S. (2006). The Decency Wars: The Campaign to Cleanse American Culture. Amherst, New York: Prometheus Books. p. 99. ISBN 1-59102-427-7.
Rich, Motoko (2008-06-24). “Christian Novel Is Surprise Best Seller”. The New York Times. Retrieved 2008-06-24.
External linksEdit

Self-publishing at DMOZ
Wikiversity has learning materials about Collaborative_play_writing
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Last edited 2 months ago by an anonymous user
List of self-publishing companies
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American Biographical Institute[citation needed]

Mark Levine. The Fine Print of Self-Publishing. Retrieved 2014-07-13.
April Hamilton. The Indie Author Guide: Self-Publishing Strategies Anyone Can Use. Retrieved 2014-07-13.
Irina Webster, William Webster. How to Become a Successful Author:: 34 Steps to Self-Publishing. Australian Self-publishing Group. Retrieved 2014-07-13.
Dan Poynter, Danny O. Snow. 4.0: A ‘Living Book’ to Help You Compete With the Giants. Unlimited Publishing LLC, Dan Poynter, Danny O. Snow. Retrieved 2014-07-13.
Marilyn M. Moore (2012-06-17). The Self-Published Cook: How to Write, Publish, and Sell Your Own Cookbook. Retrieved 2014-07-13.
“Self-Published Titles Topped 764,000 in 2009 as Traditional Output Dipped”. 2010-04-14. Retrieved 2012-04-23.
Sterlicchi, John (2008-02-20). “Self-publish boom challenging old order”. The Guardian (London).
“The 101 most useful websites”. London: Telegraph. 2009-11-12.
Rosen, Mike (2009-03-02). “MediaShift . 5 Great Services for Self-Publishing Your Book”. PBS. Retrieved 2012-04-23.
“Greyden Press”. Dayton, OH. 2014-10-06.
Biswas, Venkata Sausmita (2012-02-12). “Publishing for dummies”. The New Indian Express (Chennai).
Torpey, Jodi (2007-07-15). “Outskirts Press brings unpublished writers into the mainstream”.
Wikipedia ® Mobile‌Desktop
Content is available under CC BY-SA 3.0 unless otherwise noted.
Terms of UsePrivacy

OHP Transparencies

There are different types of OHP transparencies:

  • Smooth finish on both sides: meant for simple writing or drawing –  smearing or marker pen
  • Textured surface on one side: different types for inkjet, laser and screenprinting. These give a more varied line and/or hold ink better on the textured side.

Overhead Projector Transparency slides were a Happy Accident discovery in a number of ways, first in Part 4 Experimental Book: Anon, then in Assignment 5: Letter O .

Layering to intensify colours and/or juxtapositions

My original intention in experimenting with OHP transparencies was to see if they intensified the colours either in themselves and/or when overlaid on top of paper copies of the same images. In general this was the case. But I also found that reversing the transparency image and/or putting it on top of another image could lead to very interesting juxtapositions and/or new ideas for the image that could then be further scanned and reprinted.

Printing on the ‘wrong side’

My first ‘accident’ was that I could not remember which side to print on, and automatically assumed it would be the smooth side. This produced some really interesting blurry puddled images as the ink did not dry immediately, but moved around on the slide.

Accidental smears

The second related accident was that I did not realise the ink was not dry and many of the images were placed on top of each other. This led to smearing on either the slide and/or the image on which it was placed. In some cases this led to very interesting textures and/or juxtapositions.

Distressed images

As I played around with the images, some invariably became scratched. This produced some interesting ‘distressed effects’. It also opens the possibility for scratch drawing.

Working on both sides and overlaying

This is a further possibility that can yield atmospheric effects. Media like oil pastel can be made grainy or smeared. In ‘Letter O’ this was not so successful in smearing. But these techniques can be further developed. Either drawing on both sides, laying one OHP on top of the other and/or digital compositing.

If the slides are slightly separated then it is possible to get a 3D effect and create depth.

Children’s Publishing (forthcoming)

Children’s publishing is a good example of the range of design approaches, with design styles adapted to suit the range of ages, from learner readers through to the teen and young adult market.

Early reading books need to be robust – large, sturdy board books with
thick pages strong enough to withstand heavy handling by toddlers.

Young children’s books have a small amount of text per page, usually in rounded, easily readable typeface – like Garamond, for example – to encourage letter recognition.

lllustrations play an important role, adding interest and providing scope for interactivity, as these books are often written and designed to be read aloud. The children’s market is alivewith vibrant, playful and fantastic book illustrations which do more than merely accompany the text; they are embedded and integral to the overall design. As a child’s reading improves, so the amount of text increases accordingly, through to the teenage and young adult audience.

History of the Alphabet

Source edited from: Wikipedia History of the Alphabet

Most or nearly all alphabetic scripts used throughout the world today ultimately go back to the proto-alphabet consonantal writing system used for Semitic languages in the Levant in the 2nd millennium BCE. Mainly through Phoenician and Aramaic, two closely related members of the Semitic family of scripts used during the early first millennium BCE, the Semitic alphabet became the ancestor of multiple writing systems across the Middle East, Europe, northern Africa and South Asia.

Some modern authors distinguish between:

  • consonantal scripts of the Semitic type, called “abjads“, where each symbol usually stands for a consonant.
  •  “true alphabets” consistently assign letters to both consonants and vowels on an equal basis.

In this sense, the first true alphabet was the Greek alphabet, which was adapted from the Phoenician. Latin, the most widely used alphabet today, in turn derives from Greek (by way of Cumae and the Etruscans).

Egyptian hieroglyphs

Hieroglyphs were employed in three ways in Ancient Egyptian texts: as logograms (ideograms) that represent a word denoting an object pictorially depicted by the hieroglyph; more commonly as phonograms writing a sound or sequence of sounds; and as determinatives (which provide clues to meaning without directly writing sounds). Since vowels were mostly unwritten, the hieroglyphs which indicated a single consonant could have been used as a consonantal alphabet (or “abjad”). This was not done when writing the Egyptian language, but seems to have been significant influence on the creation of the first alphabet (used to write a Semitic language).

Mesopotamian cuneiform


Developed in Ancient Egypt to represent the language of Semitic-speaking workers in Egypt. This script was partly influenced by the older Egyptian hieratic, a cursive script related to Egyptian hieroglyphs. It has yet to be fully deciphered. However, it may be alphabetic and probably records the Canaanite language. The oldest examples are found as graffiti in the Wadi el Hol and date to perhaps 1850 BCE. The table below shows hypothetical prototypes of the Phoenician alphabet in Egyptian hieroglyphs. Several correspondences have been proposed with Proto-Sinaitic letters.

Possible Egyptian prototype
Phoenician PhoenicianA-01.svg PhoenicianB-01.svg PhoenicianG-01.svg PhoenicianD-01.svg PhoenicianE-01.svg PhoenicianW-01.svg PhoenicianZ-01.svg PhoenicianH-01.svg PhoenicianTet-01.png PhoenicianI-01.svg PhoenicianK-01.svg
Possible acrophony ʾalp ox bet house gaml throwstick/camel digg fish/door haw, hillul jubilation waw hook zen, ziqq handcuff ḥet courtyard/fence ṭēt wheel yad arm kap hand
Possible Egyptian prototype
Phoenician PhoenicianL-01.svg PhoenicianM-02.svg PhoenicianN-01.svg PhoenicianX-01.svg PhoenicianO-01.svg PhoenicianP-01.svg PhoenicianTsade-01.svg PhoenicianQ-01.svg PhoenicianR-01.svg PhoenicianS-01.svg Proto-semiticT-01.svg
Possible acrophony lamd goad mem water nun large fish/snake samek fish ʿen eye piʾt bend ṣad plant qup monkey/cord of wool raʾs head šananuma bow taw signature

This Semitic script adapted Egyptian hieroglyphs to write consonantal values based on the first sound of the Semitic name for the object depicted by the hieroglyph (the “acrophonic principle”). So, for example, the hieroglyph per (“house” in Egyptian) was used to write the sound [b] in Semitic, because [b] was the first sound in the Semitic word for “house”, bayt. The script was used only sporadically, and retained its pictographic nature, for half a millennium, until adopted for governmental use in Canaan.


The first Canaanite states to make extensive use of the alphabet were the Phoenician city-states and so later stages of the Canaanite script are called Phoenician. The Phoenician cities were maritime states at the center of a vast trade network and soon the Phoenician alphabet spread throughout the Mediterranean. Two variants of the Phoenician alphabet had major impacts on the history of writing: the Aramaic alphabet and the Greek alphabet.


Chart showing details of four alphabets' descent from Phoenician abjad, from left to right Latin, Greek, original Phoenician, Hebrew, Arabic.
Chart showing details of four alphabets’ descent from Phoenician abjad, from left to right Latin, Greek, original Phoenician, Hebrew, Arabic.

The Aramaic alphabet, which evolved from the Phoenician in the 7th century BCE as the official script of the Persian Empire, appears to be the ancestor of nearly all the modern alphabets of Asia:

Greek alphabet

By at least the 8th century BCE the Greeks borrowed the Phoenician alphabet and adapted it to their own language, creating in the process the first “true” alphabet, in which vowels were accorded equal status with consonants.

The letters of the Greek alphabet are the same as those of the Phoenician alphabet, and both alphabets are arranged in the same order.

However, whereas separate letters for vowels would have actually hindered the legibility of Egyptian, Phoenician, or Hebrew, their absence was problematic for Greek, where vowels played a much more important role. The Greeks used for vowels some of the Phoenician letters representing consonants which weren’t used in Greek speech. All of the names of the letters of the Phoenician alphabet started with consonants, and these consonants were what the letters represented, something called the acrophonic principle However, several Phoenician consonants were absent in Greek, and thus several letter names came to be pronounced with initial vowels. Since the start of the name of a letter was expected to be the sound of the letter (the acrophonic principle), in Greek these letters came to be used for vowels. For example, the Greeks had no glottal stop or voiced phuaryngeal sounds, so the Phoenician letters ’alep  and `ayin  became Greek alpha and ‘ ‘ (later renamed o micron , and stood for the vowels /a/ and /o/ rather than the consonants /ʔ/ and /ʕ/. As this fortunate development only provided for five or six (depending on dialect) of the twelve Greek vowels, the Greeks eventually created digraphs and other modifications, such as ei,
ou, and which became omega), or in some cases simply ignored the deficiency, as in long a, i, u.

Several varieties of the Greek alphabet developed. One, known as Western Greek or Chalcidian, was used west of Athens and in southern Italy. The other variation, known as Eastern Greek, was used in Asia Minor (also called Asian Greece i.e. present-day aegean Turkey). The Athenians (c. 400 BCE) adopted that latter variation and eventually the rest of the Greek-speaking world followed. After first writing right to left, the Greeks eventually chose to write from left to right, unlike the Phoenicians who wrote from right to left. Many Greek letters are similar to Phoenician, except the letter direction is reversed or changed, which can be the result of historical changes from right-to-left writing to boustrophedon to left-to-right writing.

Greek is in turn the source for all the modern scripts of Europe. The alphabet of the early western Greek dialects, where the letter eta remained an h, gave rise to the Old Italic and from these Old Roman alphabet derived. In the eastern Greek dialects, which did not have an /h/, eta stood for a vowel, and remains a vowel in modern Greek and all other alphabets derived from the eastern variants: Glagolitic, Cyrillic, Armenian, Gothic (which used both Greek and Roman letters), and perhaps Georgian.

Latin alphabet

A tribe known as the Latins, who became known as the Romans, also lived in the Italian peninsula like the Western Greeks. From the Etruscans, a tribe living in the first millennium BCE in central Italy, and the Western Greeks, the Latins adopted writing in about the seventh century. In adopted writing from these two groups, the Latins dropped four characters from the Western Greek alphabet. They also adapted the Etruscan letter F, pronounced ‘w,’ giving it the ‘f’ sound, and the Etruscan S, which had three zigzag lines, was curved to make the modern S. To represent the G sound in Greek and the K sound in Etruscan, the Gamma was used. These changes produced the modern alphabet without the letters G, J, U, W, Y, and Z, as well as some other differences.

C, K, and Q in the Roman alphabet could all be used to write both the /k/ and /ɡ/ sounds; the Romans soon modified the letter C to make G, inserted it in seventh place, where Z had been, to maintain the gematria (the numerical sequence of the alphabet). Over the few centuries after Alexander the Great conquered the Eastern Mediterranean and other areas in the third century BCE, the Romans began to borrow Greek words, so they had to adapt their alphabet again in order to write these words. From the Eastern Greek alphabet, they borrowed Y and Z, which were added to the end of the alphabet because the only time they were used was to write Greek words.

The Anglo-Saxons began using Roman letters to write Old English as they converted to Christianity, following Augustine of Canterbury’s mission to Britain in the sixth century. Because the Runic wen, which was first used to represent the sound ‘w’ and looked like a p that is narrow and triangular, was easy to confuse with an actual p, the ‘w’ sound began to be written using a double u. Because the u at the time looked like a v, the double u looked like two v’s, W was placed in the alphabet by V. U developed when people began to use the rounded U when they meant the vowel u and the pointed V when the meant the consonant V. J began as a variation of I, in which a long tail was added to the final I when there were several in a row. People began to use the J for the consonant and the I for the vowel by the fifteenth century, and it was fully accepted in the mid-seventeenth century.

Table above shows simplified relationship between various scripts leading to the development of modern lower case of standard Latin alphabet and that of the modern variants:

Letter names and order

The order of the letters of the alphabet is attested from the fourteenth century BCE in the town of Ugarit on Syria’s northern coast.Tablets found there bear over one thousand cuneiform signs, but these signs are not Babylonian and there are only thirty distinct characters. About twelve of the tablets have the signs set out in alphabetic order. There are two orders found, one of which is nearly identical to the order used for Hebrew, Greek and Latin, and a second order very similar to that used for Ethiopian.

It is not known how many letters the Proto-Sinaitic alphabet had nor what their alphabetic order was. Among its descendants, the Ugaritic alphabet had 27 consonants, the South Arabian alphabets had 29, and the Phoenician alphabet 22. These scripts were arranged in two orders, an ABGDE order in Phoenician and an HMĦLQ order in the south; Ugaritic preserved both orders. Both sequences proved remarkably stable among the descendants of these scripts.

The letter names proved stable among the many descendants of Phoenician, including Samaritan, Aramaic, Syriac, Arabic, Hebrew, and Greek alphabet. However, they were largely abandoned in Tifinagh, Latin and Cyrillic. The letter sequence continued more or less intact into Latin, Armenian, Gothic, and Cyrillic, but was abandoned in Brahmi, Runic, and Arabic, although a traditional abjadi order remains or was re-introduced as an alternative in the latter.

The table is a schematic of the Phoenician alphabet and its descendants.

nr. Reconstruction IPA value Ugaritic Phoenician Hebrew Arabic Greek Latin Cyrillic Runic
1 ʾalpu “ox” /ʔ/ 1 Aleph ʾālep אʾālef ʾalif Α alpha A А azŭ *ansuz
2 baytu “house” /b/ 2 Beth bēt בbēṯ ﺏ‎ bāʾ Β bēta B В vĕdĕ, Б buky *berkanan
3 gamlu “throwstick” /ɡ/ 3 Gimel gīmel גgīmel ﺝ‎ jīm Γ gamma C, G Г glagoli *kaunan
4 daltu “door” / diggu “fish” /d/, /ð/ 4 Daleth dālet דdāleṯ ﺩ‎ dāl, ذ‎ ḏāl Δ delta D Д dobro
5 haw “window” / hallujubilation /h/ 5 He ה ﻫ‎ hāʾ Ε epsilon E Е ye, Є estĭ
6 wāwu “hook” /β/ or /w/ 6 Waw wāw וvāv و‎ wāw Ϝ digamma, Υ upsilon F, V, Y Ѹ / ukŭ → У *ûruz / *ûram
7 zaynu “weapon” / ziqqu “manacle” /z/ 7 Zayin zayin זzayin ز‎ zayn or zāy Ζ zēta Z / З zemlya
8 ḥaytu “thread” / “fence”? /ħ/, /x/ 8 Heth ḥēt חḥēṯ ح‎ ḥāʾ, خ‎ ḫāʾ Η ēta H И iže *haglaz
9 ṭaytu “wheel” /tˤ/, /θˤ/ 9 Teth ṭēt טṭēṯ ط‎ ṭāʾ, ظ‎ ẓāʾ Θ thēta Ѳ fita
10 yadu “arm” /j/ 10 Yodh yōd יyōḏ ي‎ yāʾ Ι iota I І ižei *isaz
11 kapu “hand” /k/ 20 Kaph kap כ ךkāf ك‎ kāf Κ kappa K К kako
12 lamdu “goad” /l/ 30 Lamedh lāmed לlāmeḏ ل‎ lām Λ lambda L Л lyudiye *laguz / *laukaz
13 mayim “waters” /m/ 40 Mem mēm מ םmēm م‎ mīm Μ mu M М myslite
14 naḥšu “snake” / nunu “fish” /n/ 50 Nun nun נ ןnun ن‎ nūn Ν nu N Н našĭ
15 samku “support” / “fish” ? /s/ 60 Samek sāmek סsāmeḵ Ξ ksi, (Χ ksi) (X) Ѯ ksi, (Х xĕrŭ)
16 ʿaynu “eye” /ʕ/, /ɣ/ 70 Ayin ʿayin עʿayin ع‎ ʿayn, غ‎ ġayn Ο omikron O О onŭ
17 pu “mouth” / piʾtu “corner” /p/ 80 Pe פ ף ف‎ fāʾ Π pi P П pokoi
18 ṣadu “plant” /sˤ/, /ɬˤ/ 90 Sade ṣādē צ ץṣāḏi ص‎ ṣād, ض‎ ḍād Ϻ san, (Ϡ sampi) Ц tsi, Ч črvĭ
19 qupu “Copper”? /kˤ/ or /q/ 100 Qoph qōp קqōf ق‎ qāf Ϙ koppa Q Ҁ koppa
20 raʾsu “head” /r/ or /ɾ/ 200 Res rēš רrēš ر‎ rāʾ Ρ rho R Р rĭtsi *raidô
21 šinnu “tooth” / šimšsun /ʃ/, /ɬ/ 300 Sin šin שšin/śin س‎ sīn, ش‎ šīn Σ sigma, ϛ stigma S С slovo, Ш ša, Щ šta, / Ѕ dzĕlo *sowilô
22 tawu “mark” /t/, /θ/ 400 Taw tāw תtāv ت‎ tāʾ, ث‎ ṯāʾ Τ tau T Т tvrdo *tîwaz

These 22 consonants account for the phonology of Northwest Semitic. Of the 29 consonant phonemes commonly reconstructed for Proto-Semitic, seven are missing: the interdental fricatives ḏ, ṯ, ṱ, the voiceless lateral fricatives ś, ṣ́, the voiced uvular fricative ġ, and the distinction between uvular and pharyngeal voiceless fricatives ḫ, ḥ, in Canaanite merged in ḥet. The six variant letters added in the Arabic alphabet include these (except for ś, which survives as a separate phoneme in Ge’ez ): ḏāl; ṯāʾ; ḍād; ġġayn; ṣ́ẓāʾ; ḫāʾ

Complex derivations and independent alphabets

Although this description presents the evolution of scripts in a linear fashion, this is a simplification. For example, the Manchu alphabet, descended from the abjads of West Asia, was also influenced by Korean hangul, which was either independent (the traditional view) or derived from the abugidas of South Asia. Georgian apparently derives from the Aramaic family, but was strongly influenced in its conception by Greek. A modified version of the Greek alphabet, using an additional half dozen demotic hieroglyphs, was used to write Coptic Egyptian. Then there is Cree syllabics (an abugida), which is a fusion of Devanagari and Pitman shorthand developed by the missionary James Evans.

Possible independently invented alphabets are:

  •  Meroitic alphabet, a 3rd-century BCE adaptation of hieroglyphs in Nubia to the south of Egypt
  •  Rongorongo script of Easter Island.
  • Maldivian script, which is unique in that, although it is clearly modeled after Arabic and perhaps other existing alphabets, it derives its letter forms from numerals.
  • Korean Hangul, which was created independently in 1443.
  • Osmanya alphabet was devised for Somali in the 1920s by Osman Yusuf Kenadid, and the forms of its consonants appear to be complete innovations.
  • Zhuyin phonetic alphabet derives from Chinese characters.
  • Santali alphabet of eastern India appears to be based on traditional symbols such as “danger” and “meeting place”, as well as pictographs invented by its creator. (The names of the Santali letters are related to the sound they represent through the acrophonic principle, as in the original alphabet, but it is the final consonant or vowel of the name that the letter represents: le “swelling” represents e, while en “thresh grain” represents n.)
  • In early medieval Ireland, Ogham consisted of tally marks
  • monumental inscriptions of the Old Persian Empire were written in an essentially alphabetic cuneiform script whose letter forms seem to have been created for the occasion.