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SERENDIPITIES. Language and Lunacy Essays: Eco, Umberto

SERENDIPITIES. Language and Lunacy Essays

Eco, Umberto

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ISBN 10: 0297643258 / ISBN 13: 9780297643258
Published by Weidenfeld and Nicolson, London, 1999
Hardcover
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About this Item

First U.K. Edition. Hardcover. Signed by Eco on the title-page. First English edition, first printing, with "First published in Great Britain in 1999" on copyright page, with no mention of a later printing. Fascinating explorations of wrongheaded thinking about history. The U.S. edition was issued in 1998. While all signed copies of this work by the recently deceased author of THE NAME OF THE ROSE are scarce, the UK edition is harder to find at this time. 8vo boards. Very fine in very fine unclipped dj. Bookseller Inventory # 27367

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Bibliographic Details

Title: SERENDIPITIES. Language and Lunacy Essays

Publisher: Weidenfeld and Nicolson, London

Publication Date: 1999

Binding: Hardcover

Dust Jacket Condition: Dust Jacket Included

Signed: Signed by Author(s)

Edition: First U.K. Edition.

About this title

Synopsis:

. with dustjacket, 1999 2nd imp, very slight tanning to page edges

Review:

The multitalented Umberto Eco--novelist, critic, and literary theorist--turns his attention to the history of linguistics. In linguistics, as in the other sciences, Eco explains, there are serendipities: "Even the most lunatic experiments can produce strange side effects, stimulating research that proves perhaps less amusing but scientifically more serious." In his earlier book The Search for the Perfect Language, for example, he discussed the project of discovering the language spoken before the collapse of the Tower of Babel. Although misconceived, the project by chance led to advances in mathematical logic, artificial intelligence, and even world peace--the goal of artificial languages like Esperanto and the unfortunately named Volapük. In the five essays in Serendipities, Eco explores some related serendipitous episodes in the history of linguistics; as always, his characteristic blend of playfulness and erudition is bound to be irresistible to any lover of language.

The first essay, "The Force of Falsity," discusses false documents with momentous repercussions, such as the letter of Prester John, which encouraged European explorers and conquerors to seek its supposed author, the Christian ruler of a distant and fantastically wealthy land. In the second essay, Eco considers Dante's relation to the idea of the perfect language. The third essay discusses early misinterpretations of Egyptian, Chinese, and Mexican ideograms. The Jesuit savant Athanasius Kircher, for example, devoted page upon page to mystical interpretations of a hieroglyph that later turned out to represent nothing more profound than the Greek letter lambda. The remaining two essays are devoted to single authors: "The Language of the Austral Land" concerns Gabriel de Foigny's instructive parody of contemporary attempts to devise the perfect language, while "The Linguistics of Joseph de Maistre" endeavors, with indifferent success, to make sense of the counterrevolutionary Savoyard's musings on the nature of language. --Glenn Branch

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