A is for alphabet

How alphabets shape our thoughts and words

Beth Daley (Europeana Foundation)

If you’re reading this, I’m pretty sure you know your ABCs. But learning to read isn’t all there is to the alphabet. An ABC can teach you a whole lot more...

In Europeana, we have traditional alphabets showing you how to form letters in Gothic style or through embroidery. Then other practical ones, like an alphabet of sign language and one of signal flags. We also have educational ABCs for children, like the alphabet of baby Jesus and the alphabet of games. Learn more about the people of the world through an alphabet of the five corners of the world, as well as one of soldiers arranged and dressed according to rank.

There are, of course, some satirical alphabets that take the idea of an educational ABC and take it on a witty journey - see the alphabet of Paris’ grotesque cries and a comic alphabet from the Netherlands.

And for a bit of relaxation, here’s one for anyone hooked on this year’s leisure time must-do activity - an alphabet to colour in yourself.

Explore over 9,000 results for ‘alphabet’ on Europeana. Here are just a few...


Alphabet des jeux, National library of France, public domain


Handarbeitsheft : Alphabete für Stickerei & Stickmustervorlage, Spielzeugmuseum Nürnberg, CC BY-NC-SA

signal flags

Table of signal flags, both Numeral and Alphabetical, Royal Museums Greenwich, CC By-NC-SA


Capital und Versal Buech Allerhandt Grosser und Kleiner Alphabet zue den Haubtschrifften und Buechern... / Hans Rogel, National Library of France, public domain.


Alphabet de l’Enfant Jesus, National Library of France, public domain


Alphabet des cinq parties du monde, National Library of France, public domain.


Hands showing the sign language alphabet. Coloured etching. The Wellcome Library, CC BY


Le travail par la récréation : alphabet à colorier / dessin de H. Delalain, National Library of France, public domain


Soldiers arranged alphabetically in different uniforms, The Wellcome Library, CC BY

1970_184, 6/3/09, 11:02 AM, 8C, 7348x6044 (12+1249), 100%, December 2008, 1/120 s, R35.8, G6.6, B7.4

’Alphabet Comique’, Deventer Musea, CC BY-SA

books book illustrations typography