The Hebrew language is an ancient one and its three thousand year old alphabet, it may be argued, is one of the oldest still in use.
The letters of the Hebrew Alefbet had their origins in a time when common objects, ideas, and gestures were first represented as pictograms or hieroglyphs.
These gradually evolved into simpler forms (letters) associated with specific sounds. Finally, these letters and their sounds evolved into the words of written language.
The Hebrew letters have been the subject of much dissertation and interpretation throughout history. Each letter has been ascribed its own mystical powers and symbolism as a building block of creation and the scaffolding of the Torah. The letters have long held mystery and meaning for both scholars and artists.
Aesthetically I have always admired their form, but I wanted to know more about the primordial configuration of each letter. What was the pictogram from which it had it evolved? Was there always a relationship between its form and its name, and how had that changed or evolved over time?
I had the rudiments of the answers I sought from my introduction to Hebrew as a child. As I researched the letters’ elemental origins my understanding and appreciation expanded. Letters, which in my youth offered only a portion of their meaning, became more complete. For example, Lamed, which I knew meant, “to learn,” evolved from a glyph of a shepherd’s crook. This uncovered much about its form and made multiple interpretations of the nature of learning itself imaginable.
With this book, I offer images and their narratives as a tribute to these ancient, mysterious, and beautiful letters.