The Endangered Alphabets

The Endangered Alphabets Project, which was such a hit at the last two Burlington Book Festivals, returns in 2012 in new and expanded form.

Tim Brookes with one of his Endangered Alphabets wood carvings.

Here’s the plot: the world has only about 100 alphabets and fully a third are endangered—no longer taught in schools, no longer used for commerce or government, understood only by a few elders, restricted to a few monasteries or used only in ceremonial documents, magic spells, or secret love letters.

Artist/writer Tim Brookes has spent the past three years tracking down the few people who can still read and write in these vanishing scripts, then carving pieces of text in Vermont tiger maple to preserve these remarkable, beautiful, exotic letterings and draw attention to the need to preserve cultural identity.

One of Tim Brookes’ astonishing wood carvings.

This year he has created a series of remarkable monumental carvings for the Festival that will become part of the architecture of the Fletcher Free Library. They will be installed for the duration of the weekend.

The Endangered Alphabets Project, which had one of its first public exhibitions at the Festival, has since become a global cause celebre, appearing at Yale University, Cambridge (UK) University and Barcelona University with future appearances scheduled in Australia, Thailand, England, Ireland and at the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C. Check out the videos below for more information the the Endangered Alphabets.

An introduction to the Endangered Alphabets:

Tim discusses Tifinagh, the astonishing writing used by the Berber people of North Africa:

Endangered Alphabets book trailer:

About Tim Brookes:

Endangered Alphabets founder and author Tim Brookes.

Tim Brookes is Director of the Professional Writing Program at Champlain College. He was a regular essayist on NPR for twenty years and is the author of twelve books, some of which he barely remembers writing. Now he comes to think of it, much of his life seems highly improbable, and though he mainly writes non-fiction, he suspects he may be the fictional invention of another writer altogether. His collected blatherings can be found at

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