5 Surprising Facts About the History of Writing

The act of writing has been an intrinsic part of our daily lives for thousands of years. Writing has enabled us to create and share stories, communicate ideas, and record the events of our lives. Yet, how much do we really know about the history of writing? Today we will explore five surprising facts about the history of writing that will deepen your appreciation for this remarkable human achievement.


Cuneiform tablets are some of the earliest known examples of written language, some of which date back over 5,000 years. The term cuneiform refers to the wedge-shaped marks made on clay tablets using a reed stylus. The Sumerians were the first to use cuneiform writing to record various aspects of their lives, including laws, religion, literature, and trade.

What is surprising about cuneiform is the fact that many of the tablets contain images and symbols that are both pictographic and phonetic. This unique combination of symbols allowed the Sumerians to create a complex written language that could convey a wide range of ideas and concepts.

Egyptian Hieroglyphics

Hieroglyphics is a complex system of writing used by the ancient Egyptians. Initially, it was believed that hieroglyphics were purely symbolic, with no sound-based component. However, recent research suggests that the system was more complicated than previously thought. The Egyptians eventually developed a more sophisticated writing system using hieratic, which was a cursive version of hieroglyphics, allowing for faster writing.

What is surprising about hieroglyphics is the fact that they contained both symbolic and alphabetic elements. This hybrid system meant that the Egyptians could choose to use symbols or alphabetic sounds, depending on the complexity of the word or phrase they were trying to represent.

Chinese Characters

Chinese characters are one of the oldest and most unique writing systems in the world. The characters were originally pictorial, with individual symbols representing words, phrases, and concepts. Over time, the characters evolved into a more complex system that included some phonetic elements.

What is surprising about Chinese characters is how stable they have remained over the centuries, despite numerous attempts to replace them with new scripts. Today, Chinese characters are still used in many parts of the world, including Taiwan, Hong Kong, and China.

The Invention of the Printing Press

The invention of the printing press is often credited to Johannes Gutenberg, who used movable type to print the famous Gutenberg Bible in the 15th century. However, a Korean book called the Jikji was actually the first book printed with movable type in 1377, over 60 years before Gutenberg’s Bible.

What is surprising about this fact is how little-known it is outside of Korea. The Jikji was a Buddhist text that contained the teachings of the Zen master Baegun, and its invention marked a significant milestone in the history of bookmaking.


Braille is a system of raised dots that allows blind and visually impaired individuals to read and write. The system was invented by a young Frenchman named Louis Braille, who lost his sight in a childhood accident. Braille was able to read raised dots with his fingertips and developed a system of raised dots to represent letters and numbers.

What is surprising about Braille is the fact that it was invented by a sighted person, not a blind person. Braille’s invention has been a lifesaver for many people with visual impairments, providing them with a means of literacy that was previously unavailable.

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