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“ No! Why how could any one write without letters ?”
“I will tell you, Harry. By signs and pictures. The North American Indians used thus to preserve accounts of their wars, and of different events which took place among them. These records, however, were, of course, exceedingly imperfect. The ancient Mexicans also had a similar method of writing, but more perfect and ingenious than that of the Indians. Robertson, in his admirable work on the History of America, tells us, that the servants of their monarch sent to him pictures of all the Spaniards, and of their horses, fire-arms, tents, and so on."
“ And were not the hieroglyphics which we saw at the British Museum the other day, of the same kind ?"
“ They were. They were the work of the
Egyptians. The two celebrated pillars, of which you have seen drawings, called Cleopatra's Needles, which are seven feet square, and a hundred feet high, are on each side covered with them; and the figures are cut, and with the nicest art, an inch deep in the hard granite. This method of writing could not be so accurate as ours; and yet, perhaps, it was more so than we might imagine. They had symbols, the meaning of which was generally well known. Thus a sword was used for a warrior, or cruel tyrant; an eye represented God, who sees all things; a sceptre, a king; a lion, courage ; armies were depicted by hands with weapons in them; and a serpent, with its tail in its mouth, meant eternity.
“ The Chinese writing is somewhat similar. They have no alphabet, but different characters for each word. These signs, in
stances, have some resemblance, real or imaginary, to the things for which they are used. There are said to be more than fifty thousand words in the Chinese language, for each of which there is a different symbol.'
“ How much more simple it is to form all our words, as we do, out of twenty-four letters !”
“ It is."
“ Your question is somewhat difficult, Harry. It is in a very high degree probable, to say the least, that God taught our first parents the use of language, as He gave appropriate names to the different tribes of animals. It is said by the Greek and Roman writers, that the Phenicians first invented letters. They might, as they were a commercial people, first make them known to other
nations; but it is very likely that they derived them from the Jews, as their country was so near to that of the Hebrews.
“ The earliest mention of writing in the Scriptures, and, of course, in the annals of the world, for there are no records of more ancient date, is in several passages of the Book of Exodus. In the first, (Exod. xvii. 14,) God commands Moses to write in a book an account of the defeat of Amalek, and of His determination to manifest His displeasure against that wicked people. The second passage is Exod. xxiv. 4, in which we are told, that · Moses wrote all the words of the Lord.' The third is, Exod. xxxi. 18, where it is said, that God gave the two tables of the law to Moses, which were written on tables of stone by “the finger of God.'”
Writing upon stones, of which the tables given to Moses were the first specimen, so far as we know, appears to have been common afterwards in every age, and among most nations. Thus Job exclaims : ‘0 that my words were written in a book; that they were graven with an iron pen, and lead, in the rock, for ever! (Job, xix. 23, 24.) Very long inscriptions are still found on the stones of the ruins of the most ancient cities in the world. Travellers assure us that in the neighbourhood of Mount Sinai there are mountains and rocks of considerable size, which are covered with writing, but which, on account of the injury it has sustained from the lapse of years, cannot now be decyphered.