The Mark of the Book That Sets a Man Off from His Unlettered Fellows

  • Frank G. Jennings


Many an anthropologist working his way through the brush of some back country is surprised to find that the natives are not surprised by his arrival. Their own wireless communication may have preceded him by days. Although they may have no permanent writing, no system of regular signs, they will have developed codes for acoustic or visual transmission of information that is every bit as efficient, for their culture, as the high-speed telegraphic symbols are for us. Their reading of the impressions on each other of the world about them will be remarkably sophisticated. They will be able to deal with abstract ideas and generalizations of a rather high order even though their writing might be only twisted fibers or broken sticks. Even this simple cultural development, however, will be in the hands of priests, the initial developers of any writing in any culture. The spread of information and the elaboration of the means whereby it is spread are the result of two parallel efforts; a rationalistic purposeful desire, and a religious impetus, as Julius Lips points out in The Origin of Things.1


Common Noun Visual Transmission Break Stick Human Enterprise Twist Fiber 
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  1. 1.
    Julius E. Lips, The Origin of Things, New York: A. A. Wyn, 1947, p. 242.Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    Will Durant, The Renaissance, New York: Simon and Schuster, 1953, p. 315.Google Scholar
  3. 3.
    T. F. Carter, The Invention of Printing in China, New York: Columbia University Press, 1931, p. 17.Google Scholar

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© Teachers College, Columbia University 1965

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  • Frank G. Jennings

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