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New Book on Writing is “Part Travelogue, Part Essay, Part Crusade”

The cover of Writing Beyond Writing shows one of the author's carvings in Mongolian script.

Writing Beyond Writing: Lessons from Endangered Alphabets

Tim Brookes, author of Writing Beyond Writing, and one of his carvings of minority scripts

Tim Brookes, author of Writing Beyond Writing

One of Tim Brookes' carvings in endangered Mongolian calligraphy

"To Love Love": one of Tim Brookes' carvings in endangered Mongolian calligraphy by Tamir Purev

Founder of Endangered Alphabets Project Champions Indigenous and Minority Alphabets Worldwide

a game-changer” that will “make everyone think again about what writing is all about.”
— David Crystal

BURLINGTON, VERMONT, USA, January 12, 2024 / -- A new book on writing challenges many long-held beliefs about the art and nature of writing and asks questions that even its author, during a career of 17 books and three decades as a college writing professor, never thought to ask.

“Everything changed in 2009 when I began carving minority alphabets in wood,” explained Tim Brookes, founder of the Endangered Alphabets Project and author of Writing Beyond Writing, to be published on January 23, 2024. “For one thing, I discovered that 90% of the world’s scripts are to some degree threatened, in some cases still used by only a handful of people.

“But the act of carving forced me to look and think about writing in an entirely new way—as a manual art rather than a communication tool. And researching different forms of writing around the world showed me how narrow, mechanistic and shallow our own alphabet and our definition of writing is.”

The book has already won acclaim from some of the most highly-regarded experts in the field. David Crystal, author of The Cambridge Encyclopedia of Language, called it “a game-changer” that will “make everyone think again about what writing is all about.”

“This book brings the world of alphabets, scripts, and the entire process of writing into the limelight,” Crystal wrote. “It provides an overview of the subject that is unprecedented in its wealth of language illustration, and gives much-needed practical suggestions for dealing with the crisis facing those communities whose scripts are endangered.”

Amalia E. Gnanadesikan, author of The Writing Revolution: Cuneiform to the Internet, called it “a deeply human and humane book” and “a sustained love song to one of humanity’s most remarkable achievements in all its glorious embodied and enculturated forms.”

His carving and research led Brookes to found the non-profit Endangered Alphabets Project in 2010, since when he has identified more than 300 scripts in use around the world, some deeply spiritual, some used for magic or divination, some deeply embedded in the visual panorama of their landscape and culture. These discoveries have led him to create books, educational materials, artwork and games to help support efforts at cultural and linguistic revitalization.

“Writing Beyond Writing is part travelogue, part essay, part crusade,” he said. “Discovering all these alphabets, most of them entirely new to me, has taught me that a culture’s unique script is an embodiment of that culture’s collective wisdom and view of the world, as much a cultural product as music, dance, or costume.

“For a community to lose its traditional script means losing not only generations of knowledge, but also a set of iconic visual emblems that say, `This is us. We are here, and we have the right to dignity, identity, and a footprint on the Earth.’”

Writing Beyond Writing will be launched as part of the activities of World Endangered Writing Day on January 23, 2024. It can be ordered at

The Endangered Alphabets Project is the only organization in the world dedicated to preserving and revitalizing endangered cultures by researching, cataloging, and promoting their indigenous writing systems through talks, exhibitions, educational materials, games, and artwork.

For more information, contact

Tim Brookes
Endangered Alphabets Project
+1 802-310-5429
email us here
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Carving of the Week: Tim Brookes discusses an indigenous script created by a culture so dependent on the camel that its letters are based on camel brands.