This is a book of letters & writing & people speaking to one another, to themselves & to you, their words shaped by their hands & by the history of shapes."" And this, in a flat, longitudinal format, is another of Adkins' earnestly high-toned, craft-looking anomalies--if anything, less effective than usual because it's more ambitious. He's tracing writing (the letters of the alphabet), and type-faces, and communications over the ages (to electronic instruments); at the close, he appends some pointers on practicing calligraphy. There's lots of fine calligraphy in evidence, but that's all most youngsters will get out of this. Adkins has a penchant for throwing information together into a sort of cultural collage: ""When Greek characters were developed over centuries they included vowels, new characters, and some attractive curves."" The information is not infrequently esoteric: re calligraphy--""The cancellaresca evolved into the ronde (developed in the French financial ministry) and then to commercial hands we recognize today as scripts."" The writing has a way of sounding impressive--and not quite making sense: ""Do you also see the dangers and discomforts of a net of communication with a web so fine as to strain the simplest and most necessary human needs?"" Given the number of books (on the juvenile, YA, and adult level) that cover the same material clearly and systematically, this can well be left to exhibits of creative enterprise.