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The Solid Form of Language: An Essay on Writing and Meaning

4.03  ·  Rating details ·  78 ratings  ·  7 reviews

"Drop a word in the ocean of meaning and concentric ripples form. To define a single word means to try to catch those ripples. No one’s hands are fast enough." With this concise and broadly informative essay, renowned poet, typographer and linguist Robert Bringhurst presents a brief history of writing and a new way of classifying and understanding the relationship between

Paperback, 75 pages
Published August 1st 2004 by Gaspereau Press
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Apr 09, 2008 rated it it was amazing
This essay by Bringhurst originally appeared in John Berry's collection Language, Culture, Type. It knocked my socks off, and I asked the author's permission to photocopy it for my Intro to Book Publishing course at Portland State. He said, no, and indicated that we should use the revised version reissued in this edition from Gaspereau Press.

The volume is an elegantly letterpress printed edition. The typography and design are lovely, though I think the tightness of the binding conflicts a little
May 15, 2015 rated it really liked it
An immensely interesting 69-page essay on written language including a fascinating discussion of the taxonomy of the same, in which various languages are categorized by their semographic, prosodic, syllabic, and alphabetic characteristics. The dense descriptions of the functions and evolutions of graphic representations of language could have used more concrete examples from time to time. I loved the illustrations, which included the evolution of written letters and symbols in various languages ...more
Lee Klein
Jul 28, 2014 rated it really liked it
A beautiful little letterpress essay that's given me a glimpse of how much I don't know about linguistics and the history of languages in speech or script. ...more
Lucian Childs
Dec 07, 2021 rated it it was amazing
Excellent, beautifully printed and bound. An essay on writing in its many forms and its intersection with meaning and linguistics. Keep an internet-connected device handy to look up examples of the script types the author identifies, as many are not illustrated in the text.
Tanya Marquardt
Jul 10, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I adored this book - the word nerd in me was doing jumping jacks the entire read. Bringhurst interweaves many concepts of linguistics, unpacking the ways we write, speak, and read, and how these can effect our perceptions of self and of the world. These concepts were applied to various languages and cultures, which I deeply appreciated, and were made complete with a series of detailed and gorgeously reproduced images of ancient and contemporary fonts, texts, and pictures. It was an integrated ap ...more
May 18, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: the-best
Short, technical, compelling, wide-ranging: all of Bringhurst's usual distinctions constitute this little gem. Less poetically charged than some of his other theoretical writings, The Solid Form of Language gains rather than loses from this narrowed focus. Finally, like every Gaspereau Press book, the object itself is quite nice----however, depending on your affiliations to the material text, you may want to borrow this one from a library and skip purchasing it, given its brevity. ...more
Apr 22, 2009 rated it really liked it
An interesting essay on the history and development of written scripts. Also, a nicely designed little book itself.
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Robert Bringhurst is a Canadian poet, typographer and author. He is the author of The Elements of Typographic Style – a reference book of typefaces, glyphs and the visual and geometric arrangement of type. He has also translated works of epic poetry from Haida mythology into English.

He lives on Quadra Island, near Campbell River, British Columbia (approximately 170 km northwest of Vancouver).

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