Sorry, this episode is not currently available

Spreading the Word

Fry's Planet Word Episode 4 of 5

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.

Release date:

1 hour

Last on

Fri 30 Dec 2011 00:00


Role Contributor
WriterStephen Fry
PresenterStephen Fry
Director of photographySimon Ffrench
Sound RecordistAdam Toy
Sound RecordistTim Hodge
Sound RecordistSean O'Neil
ComposerDebbie Wiseman
ComposerAndy Hopkins
Production ManagerLucy Tate
Executive ProducerCassian Harrison
Executive ProducerGina Carter
DirectorHelen Williamson
ProducerHelen Williamson
Series ProducerJohn-Paul Davidson