Main content
Sorry, this episode is not currently available

Spreading the Word

Episode 4 of 5

Stephen Fry looks at the written word, starting with the earliest form of writing - cuneiform, and ending with the modern inventions of blogging and twittering.

In this programme, Stephen Fry explores 'the written word'. Writing is a great invention - making it possible to communicate across space and time. Without writing we would have no history and very little technology.

Stephen discovers the earliest writing - cuneiform - at the British Museum, and learns how our alphabet came from the Phoenicians. As part of his exploration of the diversity of scripts, Stephen visits 106-year-old Mr Zhou, the inventor of the Chinese phonetic writing system called Pinyin, who relates how literacy increased four-fold after its introduction under Mao.

After the written word came the printed word, and Stephen looks at how this has shaped our relationship with writing, giving us libraries, dictionaries and encyclopaedias. From the Bodleian to Diderot's favourite café to the cutting-edge research at MIT, Stephen explores how the written word evolved into printing, then libraries, encyclopaedias and computer code. Blogging and twittering is just the tip of a brave new future which no one dares predict.

1 hour

Last on

Fri 30 Dec 2011 00:00


Role Contributor
Writer Stephen Fry
Presenter Stephen Fry
Director of photography Simon Ffrench
Sound Recordist Adam Toy
Sound Recordist Tim Hodge
Sound Recordist Sean O'Neil
Composer Debbie Wiseman
Composer Andy Hopkins
Production Manager Lucy Tate
Executive Producer Cassian Harrison
Executive Producer Gina Carter
Director Helen Williamson
Producer Helen Williamson
Series Producer John-Paul Davidson


  • Sun 16 Oct 2011 21:00
  • Tue 18 Oct 2011 00:20
  • Tue 18 Oct 2011 01:20
  • Sat 17 Dec 2011 01:05
  • Fri 30 Dec 2011 00:00