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A free online atlas that locates and identifies cultures with writing systems in peril, and resources dedicated to saving them.
215 backers pledged $17,263 to help bring this project to life.
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$17,263

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  1. Select this reward

    Pledge $10 or more About $10

    Endangered Alphabets--the Poster

    A digital pdf edition of our 11" x 17" poster promoting the right to read and write in one's own traditional script. Print it out and display it proudly!

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    Pledge $25 or more About $25

    Endangered Alphabets Playing Cards

    One of the best ways to revive traditional writing systems that are in danger of falling into disuse is to create games that use them. The Endangered Alphabets Project has created decks of playing cards that show the letters of indigenous or minority languages and can be used as teaching tools or just for fun. The languages we've created so far: Cherokee and Abenaki from the US, Cree from Canada, Baybayin from the Philippines, Mro and Chakma from Bangladesh, Tifinagh from the Berber countries of North Africa, Glagolitic from Eastern Europe. (You will be asked to indicate which set you want.) Check out examples at www.endangeredalphabets.com.

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    Pledge $40 or more About $40

    Endangered Alphabets Tote Bag

    A sturdy tote bag featuring the Endangered Alphabets logo--the word "sky" or "heaven" in Manchu, one of the most endangered scripts in the world.

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    Pledge $50 or more About $50

    Endangered Alphabets Travel Mug

    A stylish insulated travel mug featuring the Balinese word "Suksma," or "Thank you."

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    Pledge $60 or more About $60

    Endangered Alphabets--the book

    The expanded second edition of my book Endangered Alphabets, which tells the story of how the project developed almost by accident, explains why writing and writing systems are so important to the cultures that developed them, and asks penetrating questions about the technology, aesthetics, psychology and even spirituality of writing.

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    Pledge $75 or more About $75

    The Endangered Alphabets Wall Clock

    A handsome battery-powered wall clock featuring the logo of the Endangered Alphabets Project--the word "sky" or "heaven" in Manchu, one of the most endangered writing systems in the world.

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  7. Select this reward

    Pledge $100 or more About $100

    Sponsor a page of the Atlas

    The Atlas will have a page for each of the world's endangered alphabets (more than 110 so far, and we're discovering more each week), and a pledge at this level will sponsor a page of your choice (depending on availability) and allow you to honor at the foot of that page a friend, family member, loved one, mentor--anyone who seems suitable. (There will be a word limit.) Perfect for loves of language, and human rights.

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    Pledge $125 or more About $125

    Glagolitic Abbey, the board game

    Surely the first board game designed to help reintroduce an endangered alphabet, Glagolitic Abbey is a four-player game set in an abbey in Bulgaria in the year 1200. Four competing characters race to the monks' cells to learn the secrets of the Glagolitic alphabet, find the treasure rumored to have been hidden by King Boris I of Bulgaria, and escape with their lives.

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  9. Select this reward

    Pledge $125 or more About $125

    Chakma "Word"

    A hundred years ago, the Chakma were one of the more numerous and sophisticated peoples of northeastern (British) India. Since Partition and the subsequent bloody birth of Bangladesh, they have increasingly been denied their identity and status to the point where many Chakmas can no longer write their own script or read their extensive literature.

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    Pledge $375 or more About $375

    Cham E

    The letter E in the sinuous script of the minority Cham people of southwestern Vietnam. Carved in amazing mahogany. 13" x 18"

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    Pledge $2,950 or more About $2,950

    Dining Table with Tibetan Blessing

    Okay, this is the big one. A dining or small conference table, roughly five feet in diameter and made entirely of cherrywood (thanks to the skills of cabinetmaker Tim Peters) without a single screw or nail, this is more than a piece of furniture. The wood alone is just stunning. The text I carved in the top reads "Graceful kindness" adapted from the astonishing Tibetan calligraphy of the Buddhist monk Tashi Mannox, the phrase repeated six times like a mantra. Available only in the lower 48 states, but here's the thing: I will personally load this up and drive it to whomever claims it--the first-ever Endangered Alphabets Road Trip. (This means delivery costs will vary; I put $250 as a shipping cost because Kickstarter doesn't have a tab for "Road Trip.") This table has been exhibited several times, and people who see it just gasp.

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    Pledge $30 or more About $30

    Our children's picture-book dictionary

    The first edition of a book that is a first in many ways--the Children's Picture Dictionary of the Chittagong Hill Tracts. Designed for indigenous children in Bangladesh, this is almost certainly the world's first multi-language pictorial dictionary of endangered languages. Only three copies left!

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    Reward no longer available 3 backers
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    Pledge $125 or more About $125

    Balinese "words"

    A carving of the word "words" in the beautifully fluid (and endangered) Balinese script.

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    Pledge $125 or more About $125

    Makassarese "Word"

    Carved in curly Vermont maple, the word "Word" in Makassarese, one of the ancestral scripts of Indonesia. An ideal gift for teachers, translators, and writers.

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    Pledge $125 or more About $125

    Mandaic "Word"

    Mandaic is one of the world's most fascinating and mystical scripts. For the Mandaeans, the act of writing is such a powerful force of Gnostic enlightenment that in a sense each person is a Word, a bearer of truth.

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    Pledge $135 or more About $135

    Set of Coasters

    A set of four cherry coasters, 4" x 4" x 1/4", each with an initial of your choice in an endangered writing system of your choice.

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    Reward no longer available 10 backers
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    Pledge $200 or more About $200

    Glagolitic "Words"

    The Glagolitic alphabet was once one of the two scripts used by the Greek Orthodox Church for sacred texts in the Slavic countries, but by the end of the 20th century only two priests were still using it. This carving, which says "Words" in Glagolitic, is the perfect gift for anyone of Eastern European Christian heritage--or anyone who finds writing endlessly fascinating.

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    Pledge $250 or more About $250

    Manchu "Sky" or "Heaven"

    A carving in walnut of the Manchu word for "sky" or "heaven," which forms the basis of the Endangered Alphabets logo.

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    Pledge $250 or more About $250

    Javanese "Here begins a poem"

    One of the fascinating aspects of the Endangered Alphabets is the ways in which they show us things about our own alphabet we didn't even know we are missing. This Javanese glyph, or symbol-cluster, is called "purwapada," and it indicates the beginning of a poem. What a remarkable invention--and how wonderful to regard poetry so keenly as to feel the need to identify it, to highlight its significance.

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    Pledge $299 or more About $299

    "Be" in Chu-Nom

    For centuries, Vietnamese was written in a Chinese-style script called Nom or Chu-Nom--a heritage that included the work of an amazing woman poet, Ho Xuan Huong, who was writing at a time (the early nineteenth century) when few women wrote at all. She is now considered one of the greatest Vietnamese poets--but as soon as her poetry is translated into the Latin script it necessarily loses something in the process. This carving, on amazing quilted maple, says simply "Be."

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    Pledge $299 or more About $299

    Tibetan "Prosperity"

    The Tibetan word "prosperity," based on the calligraphy of Urgyen Gyalpo, carved in flame mahogany

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    Pledge $375 or more About $375

    "Anit"--"Love" in Cham

    Carved in amazing bubble maple, this is the word for "love" in Cham, an endangered alphabet from Vietnam. I mean, really. Only one available because I'm not sure where I would go to find more wood like this.

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    Pledge $475 or more About $475

    One Ring to Rule them All

    Elvish is not an endangered alphabet in the conventional sense, I know--but when I saw this amazing ring of applewood I knew I had to carve, as a Tolkien tribute, the inscription from the One Ring. 28" x 15".

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    Pledge $550 or more About $550

    Balinese "Sacred Space"

    One of the wonderful and illuminating aspects of the Endangered Alphabets Project is that it shows new relationships between writing, culture, and thinking. Balinese has a unique character, unlike anything in the Latin alphabet, that is placed in a piece of writing to indicate that what follows is a sacred text. It struck me that to carve that character and hang it on a door, say, would imply "This is a sacred space. Treat it, and yourself, and those around you, and the world, with attention and respect." Carved in curly maple, 17" x 12".

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Funding period

- (30 days)

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