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Language is the medium through which humans communicate. From the beginning of recorded history, humans have been devising visual symbols to register this communication. These symbols and the shapes they take have a close relationship to the culture they are developed by and for. When language takes a visual form it is not only a recording of speech but also a recording of motion and cultural ideals. Through an understanding of the material circumstances involved in the development of a script, we can dissect the expressive range of the shapes made with these materials. From here, we understand scripts and letterforms not as random or predetermined shapes but as points of relevant cultural and individual decisions. The reed pen, use for thousands of years throughout the Mediterranean, influenced the development of many widespread scripts. Using this pen as the major material circumstance for the Egyptian, Greek, and Latin scripts, a distinction can be made between written, drawn, and inscribed text. These material differences are naturally tied to particular movements in the recording process. These differences allow for distinct expressive ranges that can be used to communicate various cultural ideas. This cultural communication goes beyond the linguistic recording. By understanding the reed pen as it is connected to Egyptian, Greek, and Roman writing and culture, a method of analysis is created with which any script or typeface may be seen as a product of material, cultural, and historical circumstances.



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