You must write a 4 page summary/ analysis of each “Part”/ section. This should have an introduction, main body (summary), and conclusion. In your conclusion spend time analyzing why the chapter is significant to the history of graphic design. You must include a handful of images in your analysis to support your summary. You are able to focus on any area of the section to summarize; I will leave that up to your personal interests and discretion.
You must FIRST summarize the section as a whole and SECOND address how you see the influence present within contemporary design and how it’s significant to the history of graphic design.
Part I the Prologue to Graphic Design The visual message from prehistory through the medieval era:
01 The Invention of Writing
03 The Asian Contribution
04 Illuminated Manuscripts
Meggs, Philip B.; Purvis, Alston W. (2011-11-02). Meggs’ History of Graphic Design-Wiley. Kindle Edition.
1 The Invention of Writing
It is not known precisely when or where Homo sapiens, the biological species of conscious, thinking creatures, emerged. As the search for our prehistoric origins continues, the early innovations of our ancestors have been pushed back further in time. It is believed that we evolved from a species that lived in the southern part of Africa. These early hominids ventured out onto the grassy plains and into caves as the forests in that part of the world slowly disappeared. In the tall grass, the hominids began to stand erect. Perhaps this adaptation was a result of the need to watch for predators, to help discourage enemies by increasing the hominids’ apparent size, or to hold branches as weapons. In any event, the hand developed an ability to carry food and hold objects. Found near Lake Turkana in Kenya, a nearly three-million-year-old stone that had been sharpened into an implement proves the thoughtful and deliberate development of a technology—a tool. Early shaped stones may have been used to dig for roots or to cut away flesh from dead animals for food. While we can only speculate about the use of early tools, we know that they mark a major step in the human species’ immense journey from primitive origins toward a civilized state. A number of quantum leaps provided the capacity to organize a community and gain some measure of control over human destiny. Speech—the ability to make sounds in order to communicate—was an early skill developed by the species on the long evolutionary trail from its archaic beginnings. Writing is the visual counterpart of speech. Marks, symbols, pictures, or letters drawn or written upon a surface or substrate became a graphic counterpart of the spoken word or unspoken thought. The limitations of speech include the fallibility of human memory and an immediacy of expression that cannot transcend time and place. Until the electronic age, spoken words vanished without a trace, while written words remained. The invention of writing brought people the luster of civilization and made it possible to preserve hard-won knowledge, experiences, and thoughts. The development of writing and visible language had its earliest origins in simple pictures, for a close connection exists between the drawing of pictures and the marking of writing. Both are natural ways of communicating ideas, and early people used pictures as an elementary way to record and transmit information.
Prehistoric visual communications
Early human markings found in Africa are over two hundred thousand years old. From the early Paleolithic to the Neolithic period (35,000 to 4000 BCE), early Africans and Europeans left paintings in caves, including the Lascaux caves in southern France (Fig. 1-1) and Altamira in Spain. Black was made from charcoal, and a range of warm tones, from light yellows through red-browns, were made from red and yellow iron oxides. This palette of pigments was mixed with fat as a medium. Images of animals were drawn and painted upon the walls of these former subterranean water channels occupied as a refuge by prehistoric men and women. Perhaps the pigment was smeared onto the walls with a finger, or a brush was fabricated from bristles or reeds. This was not the beginning of art as we know it. Rather, it was the dawning of visual communications, because these early pictures were made for survival and for utilitarian and ritualistic purposes. The presence of what appear to be spear marks in the sides of some of these animal images indicates that they were used in magical rites designed to gain power over animals and success in the hunt.
Abstract geometric signs, including dots, squares, and other configurations, are intermingled with the animals in many cave paintings. Whether they represent man-made objects or are protowriting is not known, and never will be, because they were made before the beginning of recorded history (the five-thousand-year period during which people have recorded in writing a chronicle of their knowledge of facts and events). The animals painted in the caves are pictographs—elementary pictures or sketches that represent the things depicted.
Throughout the world, from Africa to North America to the islands of New Zealand, prehistoric people left numerous petroglyphs (Fig. 1-2), which are carved or scratched signs or simple figures on rock. Many of the petroglyphs are pictographs, and some may be ideographs, or symbols to represent ideas or concepts. (Fig. 1-3) A high level of observation and memory is evidenced in many prehistoric drawings. In an engraved reindeer antler found in the cave of Lorthet in southern France (Fig. 1-4), the scratched drawings of deer and salmon are remarkably accurate. Even more important, however, are two diamond-shaped forms with interior marks, which imply an early symbol-making ability. The early pictographs evolved in two ways: first, they were the beginning of pictorial art—the objects and events of the world were recorded with increasing fidelity and exactitude as the centuries passed; second, they formed the basis of writing. The images, regardless of whether the original pictorial form was retained, ultimately became symbols for spoken-language sounds.
The Paleolithic artist developed a tendency toward simplification and stylization. Figures became increasingly abbreviated and were expressed with a minimum number of lines. By the late Paleolithic period, some petroglyphs andpictographs had been reduced to the point of almost resembling letters.
The cradle of civilization
Until recent discoveries indicated that early peoples in Thailand may have practiced agriculture and manufactured pottery at an even earlier date, archaeologists had long believed that the ancient land of Mesopotamia, “the land between rivers,” was the cradle of civilization. Between the Tigris and Euphrates rivers, which flow from the mountains of eastern Turkey across the land that is now Iraq and into the Persian Gulf, there lies a flat, once-fertile plain whose wet winters and hot, dry summers proved very attractive to early human culture. Here, early humans ceased their restless nomadic wanderings and established a village society. Around 8000 BCE, wild grain was planted, animals were domesticated, and agriculture began. By the year 6000 BCE, objects were being hammered from copper; the Bronze Age was ushered in about 3000 BCE, when copper was alloyed with tin to make durable tools and weapons. The invention of the wheel followed.
The leap from village culture to high civilization occurred after the Sumerian people arrived in Mesopotamia near the end of the fourth millennium BCE. The origin of the Sumerians—who settled in the lower part of the Fertile Crescent before 3000 BCE—remains a great mystery. As vital as the technologies developed in Mesopotamia were for the future of the human race, the Sumerians’ contribution to social and intellectual progress had even more impact upon the future. The Sumerians invented a system of gods headed by a supreme deity named Anu, who was the god of the heavens. An intricate system of god-man relationships was developed. The city emerged, with the necessary social order for large numbers of people to live together. But of the numerous inventions in Sumer that launched people onto the path of civilization, the invention of writing brought about an intellectual revolution that had a vast impact upon social order, economic progress, and technological and future cultural developments.
The history of Mesopotamia records waves of invaders who conquered the peoples living there. The culture established by the Sumerians conquered the invaders in turn, and the sequence of ruling peoples who dominated Mesopotamia during its long history includes Akkadians, Assyrians, Babylonians, and Chaldeans. Persians from the west and Hittites from the north also conquered the area and spread Mesopotamian civilization beyond the Fertile Crescent.
The earliest writing
Religion dominated life in the Mesopotamian city-state, just as the massive ziggurat, a stepped temple compound, dominated the city. Its vast, multistory brick temples were constructed as a series of recessed levels, becoming smaller toward the top of the shrine. Inside, priests and scribes wielded enormous power, as they controlled the inventories of the gods and the king and ministered to the magical and religious needs of the people. Writing may have evolved because this temple economy had an increasing need for record keeping. The temple chiefs consciously sought a system for recording information.
In human memory, time can become a blur, and important facts are often forgotten. In Mesopotamian terms, such important facts might include the answers to questions like: Who delivered their taxes in the form of crops? How much food was stored, and was it adequate to meet community needs before the next harvest? As even these relatively simple questions show, an accurate continuum of knowledge became imperative if the temple priests were to be able to maintain the order and stability necessary in the city-state. One theory holds that the origin of visible language evolved from the need to identify the contents of sacks and pottery containers used to store food. Small clay tags were made that identified the contents with a pictograph, and the amount with an elementary decimal numbering system based on the ten human fingers.
The earliest written records are tablets that apparently list commodities by pictographic drawings of objects accompanied by numerals and personal names inscribed in orderly columns (Figs. 1-5 and 1-6). An abundance of clay in Sumer made it the logical material for record keeping, and a reed stylus sharpened to a point was used to draw the fine, curved lines of the early pictographs. The clay mud tablet was held in the left hand, and pictographs were scratched in the surface with the wooden stylus. Beginning in the top right corner of the tablet, the lines were written in careful vertical columns. The inscribed tablet was then dried in the hot sun or baked rock-hard in a kiln.
This writing system underwent an evolution over several centuries. Writing was structured on a grid of horizontal and vertical spatial divisions. Sometimes the scribe would smear the writing as his hand moved across the tablet. Around 2800 BCE scribes turned the pictographs on their sides and began to write in horizontal rows, from left to right and top to bottom (Fig. 1-7). This made writing easier, and it made the pictographs less literal. About three hundred years later, writing speed was increased by replacing the sharp-pointed stylus with a triangular-tipped one. This stylus was pushed into the clay instead of being dragged through it.
The characters were now composed of a series of wedge-shaped strokes rather than a continuous line drawing (Figs. 1-8, 1-9, 1-10, 1-11, 1-12, 1-13). This innovation radically altered the nature of the writing; pictographs evolved into an abstract sign writing called cuneiform (from the Latin for “wedge-shaped”).
While the graphic form of Sumerian writing was evolving, its ability to record information was expanding. From the first stage, when picture-symbols represented animate and inanimate objects, signs became ideographs and began to represent abstract ideas. The symbol for sun, for example, began to represent ideas such as “day” and “light.” As early scribes developed their written language to function in the same way as their speech, the need to represent spoken sounds not easily depicted arose.
Adverbs, prepositions, and personal names often could not be adapted to pictographic representation. Picture symbols began to represent the sounds of the objects depicted instead of the objects themselves. Cuneiform became rebus writing, which is pictures and/or pictographs representing words and syllables with the same or similar sound as the object depicted. Pictures were used as phonograms, or graphic symbols for sounds. The highest development of cuneiform was its use of abstract signs to represent syllables, which are sounds made by combining more elementary sounds.
Cuneiform was a difficult writing system to master, even after the Assyrians simplified it into only 560 signs. Youngsters selected to become scribes began their schooling at the edubba, the writing school or “tablet house,” before the age of ten and worked from sunrise to sunset every day, with only six days off per month. Professional opportunities in the priesthood, estate management, accounting, medicine, and government were reserved for these select few. Writing took on important magical and ceremonial qualities. The general public held those who could write in awe, and it was believed that death occurred when a divine scribe etched one’s name in a mythical Book of Fate.
Early Sumerian artisans mixed writing with relief images. The Blau monument (Fig. 1-14) may be the oldest extant artifact combining words and pictures on the same surface.
The knowledge explosion made possible by writing was remarkable. Mesopotamians organized libraries that contained thousands of tablets about religion, mathematics, history, law, medicine, and astronomy. There was a beginning of literature as poetry, myths, epics, and legends were recorded on clay tablets. Writing also fostered a sense of history; tablets chronicled with meticulous exactitude the events that occurred during the reign of each monarch. Thousands of commercial contracts and records still remain.
Writing enabled society to stabilize itself under the rule of law. Measurements and weights were standardized and guaranteed by written inscription (Fig. 1-15). Law codes, such as the Code of Hammurabi, who reigned from 1792 to 1750 BCE, spelled out crimes and their punishments, thus establishing social order and justice. The Code of Hammurabi is written in careful cuneiform on a 2.5-meter (8-foot) tall stele, an inscribed or carved stone or slab used for commemorative purposes (Figs. 1-16 and 1-17). The stele contains 282 laws gridded in twenty-one columns. Steles with Hammurabi’s reformed law code were erected in the main temple of Marduk at Babylon and in other cities. Written in a precise style, harsh penalties were expressed with clarity and brevity. Some of these commandments include: “a thief stealing from a child is to be put to death”; “a physician operating on a slightly wounded man with a bronze scalpel shall have his hands cut off”; and “a builder who builds a house that falls and kills the owner shall be put to death.”