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HAM AND CHEESE: The Foundation of the Modern World

A particular characteristic of an alphabet (as opposed to a syllabary) is its ability to adapt to represent entirely different sounds and languages. This was likely important to the Phoenicians, whose civilization was spread out over 1000s of km of the Mediterranean coastline.

The Phoenician civilization extended over these vast coastal distances at least partly because of the economic importance of their dye-extraction industry. A sea snail – Bolinus Brandaris, the dye-murex – provided the sought-after purple dye for which they were famous.

So no sea snails, no widespread Phoenician civilization, and no widespread use of the Phoenician alphabet, from which our ABC today derives. No alphabet would mean no widespread use of movable type (as in Asia, where it was tried, but proved inferior to woodblock printing).

In short: the letters in the book you are reading today, and the near-universal adoption of movable type printing in the West, both depend on these sea-snails.

So that’s why our books depend on cheese and snails. What about Jesus, underwear, and spectacles?

Well? What about them? Huh? RTWT AT Thread by @incunabula on Thread Reader App – Thread Reader App

Comments on this entry are closed.

  • robert kendall October 22, 2021, 7:56 AM
  • GoneWithTheWind October 22, 2021, 8:11 AM

    I knew a man whose family survived the holodomor in the Ukraine. He had immigrated to the U.S. and I worked with him for a few years. His father and mother had a very small farm and grew beets and other vegetables for their own consumption and sale. Early on his father felt the need to store food. It was common then to dig a ditch, bury root vegetables and cover with hay and dirt. His father made many of these small caches in the wooded area near their house in addition to the normal store of food at the house. When the Russian military confiscated food they found the obvious food supply and were satisfied to take it and leave the family to die that winter. My friend told me that the family would cook beets and whatever other root vegetables they had on coals in the fireplace in the early AM so that the cooking and smells of food were gone by dawn. They would eat their meal before dawn and that was the only time they ate in every 24 hours.

    What does this mean to us? If you are aware and see disaster coming and prepare, but more than just prepare but rather prepare in a way that will defeat the follow-on effort by others to take advantage of your fore-sight you can survive. Does it mean that I think our government has gone so far left/communist that they would use starvation/supply disruption as a means of control? LOL! Of course not! I would never think that of my government. The same government that packed the Jan 6th protestors with Antifa, BLM activists and FBI spies who encouraged the protestors to enter the capitol and “riot” and then that same government illegally jailed many innocent protestors as punishment/lawfare to force them to plead or rot in jail. NO! I trust my government LOL!

  • James ONeil October 22, 2021, 1:46 PM

    I’d add alcohol to the list. I quite sure that numerous times twix to scroll and the hardcover the phrase, ‘Here, hold my beer’, was uttered. 😉

  • Gordon Scott October 22, 2021, 3:12 PM

    Gutenberg had the advantage of experience working with soft metals like gold and silver. This led him to use a less costly soft metal, lead, for his type. Lead could be melted and recast into different type quickly and easily. Earlier presses used wooden type, which had to be carefully carved and wore out quckly.

  • Dr. Chaotica October 23, 2021, 12:45 PM

    Dear Incunabula: Please stop tweeting this stuff and write a book! I will buy it!

  • M.Murcek October 24, 2021, 6:32 AM

    Charles Bukowski – Ham on Rye