MichaelEmeryArt

Innis comments on how the invention of writing and the advancement of military techniques led to the founding of ancient empires: The sword and the pen worked together. Power was increased by concentration in a few hands, specialization of function was enforced, and scribes with leisure to keep and study records contributed to the advancement of knowledge and thought. The written record signed, sealed, and swiftly transmitted was essential to military power and the extension of government. Small communities were written into large states and states were consolidated into empire. The monarchies of Egypt and Persia, the Roman empire and the city states were essentially products of writing.

Following the invention of writing, the special form of heightened language, characteristic of the oral tradition and a collective society, gave way to private writing. Records and messages displaced the collective memory. Poetry was written and detached from the collective festival

Graham Wallas has reminded us that writing as compared with speaking involves an impression at the second remove and reading an impression at the third remove. The voice of a second-rate person is more impressive than the published opinion of superior ability.

  • 2007 edition, p. 31.