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Most Earth cultures — as far as I know — tend to use square or rectangular surfaces to write upon, and similarly our texts are also organized into square and rectangular shapes. However, a culture that writes in circles (as in all the letters fall along the circumference of an invisible circle) would likely not use squares or rectangles for writing on surfaces due to the wasted space and instead elect to use circular or oval surfaces.

For an example of this writing style in action:

enter image description here

What does this mean for the medium on which longer texts--such as books, records, and even personal writings--are written down? I'm very attached to the idea of books and scrolls as I know them, but in the context of this writing system, I can't see how those would form or be useful to the people using them.

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  • $\begingroup$ Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. $\endgroup$ – Tim B Oct 23 '17 at 11:58
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    $\begingroup$ Look at early maps (especially the Ebstorf and Hereford Mappa Mundi, and Vesconte's map), which were somewhat circular-based. They showed destinations as being parts of ever-farther loops around the town where they were made. Theses didn't intend to show geography as much as they tried to show 'the situation of the world'. Their perception of travel 'distance' was based on the factors most important to them - the time required for travel and cultural changes along the route, as opposed to our modern fixation on distances and geographical perfection A map is a form of communication. $\endgroup$ – user3685427 Oct 23 '17 at 12:49
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    $\begingroup$ Can I just mention how infuriating it was to try reading your sample on a cell phone with the screen turning? $\endgroup$ – Friendlysociopath Oct 23 '17 at 18:16
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    $\begingroup$ it means they have an unbelievable abundance of writing material available if they can waste that much space. You need a grass that makes paper without processing or something similiar to create such abundance. $\endgroup$ – John Oct 26 '17 at 14:12

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They write on horizontal cuts of tree trunks, so they just follow the tree trunk's circles as opposed to trying to make it into a new material. Some might even write in a spiral so as to make it look more artistic.

enter image description here

This is by no means the best method to write, but it's the best one they figured out since they had no access to papyrus and any technology to make actual paper. Then, as time went on, they might get the technology to make paper, but they might just be, somehow (for cultural reasons one would assume), stuck in this way of writing and making circular papers instead of square ones.

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    $\begingroup$ I LOVE this answer. Don't think tree trunk, think thick-trunked fiberous stalk that is shaved into slices like lunch meat and dried --- which would beat the pulping process for making paper. Suddenly the efficiency of writing in circles is useful, whereas justifying writing in circles when manufacturing will always be more efficient with square edges is much harder to justify. $\endgroup$ – JBH Oct 20 '17 at 21:53
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    $\begingroup$ This is great; they also probably invented the Potter's wheel to aid in writing. $\endgroup$ – Spencer Oct 21 '17 at 14:53
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    $\begingroup$ If OP uses tree growth rings as a gimmick, keep in mind that tropical trees don't typically have annual growth rings. Be sure to cut your trees in temperate regions. $\endgroup$ – Clinton Pierce Oct 22 '17 at 3:52
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    $\begingroup$ Bad idea. Writing on the end grain is practically impossible. Cutting across a tree is hard work and wasteful (you lose a lot of the wood to saw cut). The only "benefit" are the rings, but they could easily be made on any surface using a compass $\endgroup$ – Bohemian Oct 22 '17 at 19:57
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    $\begingroup$ The script used for such a writing material would probably look similar to Ogham. $\endgroup$ – chepner Oct 23 '17 at 11:49
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You would still have books made of paper, papyrus or whatever material you choose. You would use the middle section that you left out in your sketch to bind the different pages together, for example by threading them on a string, or a piece of wood.

If you choose to use for example a small piece of wood your books could be rotated, which would make reading easier. Maybe you could then add a string to the start and end of the piece of wood so that you can take the foremost page you just read and put it to the end of the book to read the next page without fearing that some pages get lost in the process.

Basically your books would look like scrolls and could be kept in such for transport. You have a staple of round pages with a stick in the middle to keep them in order and a string going around to turn your pages.

If you want to make both sides readable you could use a second piece of wood so that when you turn the page you change the page to the second piece of wood and can read the backside. But this seems a lot unwieldier than the single-page solution. Still, it would be a possibility and might be used when not relying on books that need to be transported.

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    $\begingroup$ I like the idea of a writing material that spools onto a scroll but for some reason rolls out in a circle. Perhaps a excellent papermaking plant that tends to splay out on one side. $\endgroup$ – P Chapman Oct 20 '17 at 13:38
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    $\begingroup$ When it comes to writing on both sides of the page. It might work better to read all the way through the book on one side and then to flip it around and read the opposite direction. $\endgroup$ – etchesketch Oct 20 '17 at 15:54
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    $\begingroup$ If you had a U-shaped stick, it would make flipping pages easier. You start with the U inverted, and all the pages on one side. When you finish the first page, you move it up around the curve of the U and down the other side. You read the backside of the first page (which is now face-up), and then move on to the next page on the stack. I'm sure an innovative person could even find a way of "collapsing" the U, so that when the book is not being read, it is simply a stack of circular papers with the stick collapsed in the middle. To read, you just pull it apart into the U shape. $\endgroup$ – GentlePurpleRain Oct 20 '17 at 16:16
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Instead of the writing style dictating the medium of the writing surface, perhaps it began the other way around. Perhaps there is a common plant that has circular leaves or has bark that peals off in circular patches. Or perhaps an animal that has a skin that when shed or skinned results in a mostly circular sheet of parchment.

Perhaps this item also has a hole in the middle. While perhaps not the most efficient way to store these documents, it would be convenient to run a spindle or cylinder through these holes to store them. The material around the hole would need to be treated and reinforced to prevent tearing though.

With this item resting on the spindle, the scribe begins writing downwards on one side of the spindle (likely right, in a right-hand dominant society). As the scribe writes with one hand, the other hand slowly spins the document.

A high end writing surface would likely be an actual turntable, while a clear and polished surface would be the standard.

Reading such a document that contained multiple pages, would likely require that you remove the top page when finished, and placing it upside down on another spindle. "Closing" the book would be taking the pages off the other spindle, turning them back over and sliding them down the book's spindle.

For the quality books, the top and bottom of the stack would likely be reinforced covers, perhaps leather bound, and would extend out past the pages and would have rims that would be designed to meet each other so that the book is contained withing the box created by it's end pieces. The top and bottom of the stack would likely also have some sort of matching central spindles so that the top cover can hold the pages removed from the bottom.

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  • $\begingroup$ After posting this, I read the answers of John Hamilton and mviereck. A thin slice of a branch or trunk could also be stored in a "book" such as I describe, though it would be considerably heavier. $\endgroup$ – Michael Richardson Oct 20 '17 at 14:26
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Something similar was used by the ancient Minoans from Crete. The Phaistos Disk is an example and uses a spiral track to record the symbols.

Phaistos disk

But there is no reason in principle why paper and ink type media should not be used in a similar way as suggested by others.

Although not particularly practical, one interesting solution to the page turning problem for short(ish) works would simply be to extend the size of the disc used to write on. If it suits your purposes there might be specific religious reasons why some texts should be written on one complete disc rather than split across multiple discs.

One could imagine religious centres having large reading rooms where 4m wide (or more) discs could be read by spinning the wheel slowly around whilst an external cursor pointed to the reading point. The reading point could be adjusted by moving the whole disc (or the reader for bigger books) slowly up or down by 5mm (roughly equivalent to turning a page) if reading horizontally. Perhaps a better method would be to read vertically and arrange the cursor to move inward as the disc was turned to match the spiral pattern on the disc.

Quite a lot could be recorded on one disk assuming 5x5mm for each character in all of the following calculations. Smaller characters obviously could give greater density at the cost of less clarity.

The ~500,000 characters with spaces in a typical novel sized book would require a 2.5km length of track to write on.

using this calculator

calc page

And pretending the “tape” is 5mm thick and we are writing on the edge of it gives H =5mm and an external diameter of 4m for something the size of a novel and 6.2m for something the size of the Bible. This is huge but quite manageable for sacred works in a cathedral like setting. Especially if you want to keep control of who has access to it…

Other options for the unwashed masses would either be illiteracy, use much smaller discs for their petty needs or use some sort of crude and distinctly un-holy “paged” system as described by others for their temporal worldly needs.

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While this style is interesting, I don't think it would look how you have suggested. If you think about the logistics of writing your hands and arms go onto the surface below the writing. In the example given you would end up smudging the ink repeatedly.

Instead the writing would start at the center and form a spiral (or concentric circles but spirals have more obvious "start reading" points and easier flow) outward from that point. The letters would be arranged with their "top" towards the center of the circle and their "bottom" towards the outside. The paper would then be formed in a circle itself. The circles could be bound in books at one edge by flattening off a small part of the circle. Scrolls would just involve rolling up the circular paper. Or the paper could be laid onto rectangles of a cheaper substance (for example sheets of wood) and then still bound into square books.

Alternatively they could use rectangular paper and write the main message in the center and then other messages (like footnotes) in the four corners around that. Even smaller messages could then be entered in the remaining space.

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    $\begingroup$ If you read the sentences you will realize that the sentences are written beginning in the middle and then going to the outer part. Not from the outer part inwards. Interesting point about using the corners for corner-notes. $\endgroup$ – Secespitus Oct 20 '17 at 12:35
  • $\begingroup$ @Secespitus Good point, I fixed the answer. The smudging problem still applies though because you're leaning across writing you already did to add new things. $\endgroup$ – Tim B Oct 20 '17 at 12:43
  • $\begingroup$ In regards to smudging you could flip the text upside down, so you are writing at the bottom of the circle instead. That way, if you rotate the circle as you write, the movements of your writing hand would match how we do it anyway. $\endgroup$ – Bazul Oct 20 '17 at 18:02
  • $\begingroup$ Agree with this orientation of the text read/write from the bottom of the wheel. If this is not Earth then maybe they are not human, so it would maybe be a limit of their bodies, such as only one "arm" that writes while many shorter "toes" turn a wheel…. Their bodies may be unmaneuverable with very limited reach, and several servant helpers rotate the writing disc, while others endlessly sew or manufacture the new layer of the spiral…. I imagine the writing being a result of sitting around a circle. If the center point moves up like a closed umbrella, the circle doesn't need more sitting area. $\endgroup$ – wetcircuit Oct 21 '17 at 17:57
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This writing style could have appeared from the necessity of people being able to carry messages that wouldn't be easily lost or damaged.

They would carve symbols on a bracelet type of thing, made of somewhat malleable metal, not too malleable, that messengers would carry on their arms for safekeeping, but would still allow them freedom of movement when needed.

A cross of these:

https://i.pinimg.com/originals/1a/30/11/1a3011c08b65e778eb7b22f9d1c85e75.jpg

http://www.langantiques.com/university/images/7/78/Ancient_Egyptian_Bangle_Bracelet.jpg

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All the ancient civilizations used pottery to record stories:

enter image description here

Africa https://www.google.com/search?biw=1440&bih=708&tbm=isch&sa=1&q=african+pottery&oq=african+pottery&gs_l=psy-ab.3..0l10.31607.32557.0.33003.7.7.0.0.0.0.84.547.7.7.0....0...1.1.64.psy-ab..0.7.546...0i7i30k1j0i13k1j0i10k1.0.08iOlzzUwko

Babylon https://www.google.com/search?biw=1440&bih=708&tbm=isch&sa=1&q=babylonian+pottery&oq=babylo+pottery&gs_l=psy-ab.3.0.0i7i30k1l2.84490.91215.0.92845.18.11.7.0.0.0.108.930.10j1.11.0....0...1.1.64.psy-ab..1.12.628...0j0i13k1j0i8i13i30k1.0._cYqsKmBnus#imgrc=8Ckc8rhrrb34DM:

Egypt https://www.google.com/search?biw=1440&bih=708&tbm=isch&sa=1&q=egyptian+pottery&oq=egyp+pottery&gs_l=psy-ab.3.1.0i13k1j0i7i30k1l9.50226.51065.0.53690.4.4.0.0.0.0.94.327.4.4.0....0...1.1.64.psy-ab..0.4.325....0.Ojl7qwq_I6c

Greece https://www.google.com/search?q=greek+pottery&tbm=isch&tbo=u&source=univ&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwiq97Can4DXAhULjlQKHe54AdEQsAQIJw&biw=1440&bih=708

China https://www.google.com/search?biw=1440&bih=708&tbm=isch&sa=1&q=chinese+pottery&oq=chinese+pottery&gs_l=psy-ab.3..0i67k1j0l7j0i67k1j0.11300.12377.0.13041.7.7.0.0.0.0.100.601.6j1.7.0....0...1.1.64.psy-ab..0.7.598...0i7i30k1j0i13k1.0.59cdOxGdtJ4

Middle East https://www.google.com/search?biw=1440&bih=708&tbm=isch&sa=1&q=middle+eastern+pottery&oq=middle+e+pottery&gs_l=psy-ab.3.0.0i7i30k1l2j0i7i5i30k1l2.56788.58137.0.59447.8.8.0.0.0.0.87.647.8.8.0....0...1.1.64.psy-ab..0.8.645...0.0.hsZZMhVCJm8

American Indian https://www.google.com/search?biw=1440&bih=708&tbm=isch&sa=1&q=indian+pottery&oq=indian+pottery&gs_l=psy-ab.3..0l10.47497.48047.0.48737.6.6.0.0.0.0.119.546.5j1.6.0....0...1.1.64.psy-ab..1.5.453...0i7i30k1j0i13k1.0.0IbrkwKIT_I

India https://www.google.com/search?biw=1440&bih=708&tbm=isch&sa=1&q=india+pottery&oq=india+pottery&gs_l=psy-ab.3..0j0i7i30k1l9.34910.34910.0.36097.1.1.0.0.0.0.84.84.1.1.0....0...1.1.64.psy-ab..0.1.83....0.YPd1-QhblKg

Inca https://www.google.com/search?biw=1440&bih=708&tbm=isch&sa=1&q=inca+pottery&oq=inca+pottery&gs_l=psy-ab.3..0i67k1j0l7j0i7i30k1l2.42447.43125.0.43668.4.4.0.0.0.0.86.324.4.4.0....0...1.1.64.psy-ab..0.4.321...0i5i30k1.0.A0p8omHlJdI

...and the list goes on.

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While it is a very weird way of writing/reading information it does allow for the fun fact you can have 'infinitely' long chapters of a medium, unlike books which fail once the binding reaches a certain size (and this fact maybe the reason that things are developed by your culture this way?)

I imagine the writing is always a single line in depth, and the medium follows the shape of these brushes:

Weird metal brushes in circular shape

You'd read them by simply slotting your finger into the gap behind the 'start' and bending it outwards slightly, so as it rotated you can continue to read the 'next' page, all you have to do is continually rotate it to proceed.

For extremely long chapters of material, it could possible be mounted on some sort of stick, maybe with a device which does the holding of the two 'pages' apart automatically, as you push/pull it through.

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Apart from being really inconvenient, if there was a culture writing like that, for space-saving reason you could use cone-shaped blocks.

They can be stored very space-saving. If you write considering the angle of the cone and stretch your font accordingly, when looking on the cone from the top, it would look like what you described.

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It might not translate exactly to circular writing, but I can see writing on the outside of a cylinder to come close. A sentence can start at one end of the cylinder, then slope slightly so that as the words go around the cylinder, the lettering becomes stacked. This would be similar to spiraling on a flat plane, but not be limited by the area of a flat piece of paper. It would, however, be limited to how long and how large a diameter the cylinder is.

So, a person would rotate the cylinder as they wrote or read. This could lead to interesting geometries such as a paper/cloth "scroll" that keeps the text at a certain distance between the top and bottom of the cylinder as the user turns it. The material would feed out of one end and into the other to maintain this distance. It could then be translated into a similar style electronic device where the words flow the length of the cylinder, rather than turning pages. It would end up being more line a vertical scroll on a web page, I think.

This could also include a device that had multiple cylinders that have material flowing around, or into them, for longer text. A simpler version could be just a bundle of sticks that are consecutively marked for a large book. The bundle could be attached, in order of reading, into a mat. This mat could then be rolled out and the individual cylinders be rotated for reading. Finish one cylinder and go onto the next in the mat. I'm thinking something like a bamboo scroll, except the pieces would be cylindrical instead of flat.

Another option would be telescoping rods to contain large amount of text in a compressed length.

This culture might design reading materials based on concepts like mobius strips or klein bottles.

This type of writing could be be explained by citing ancient writing on trees, bamboo, or whatever else is of significant diameter to write on. Creating quality writing material would then be as easy as creating a simple lathe, which an ancient culture could manage fairly simply. In fact, Wikipedia states that turning originates as early as 1300 BCE with a 2 person lathe in ancient Egypt. Wikipedia states that paper making was documented in 25-250 CE, which the lathe predates considerably. That doesn't account for papyrus and other pre-paper materials, but it's something to work with.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_paper https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lathe

Hope I gave you something to work with!

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  • $\begingroup$ While not exactly what the OP was looking for, +1 for a well thought out answer and a unique perspective that adds to the discussion. An excellent first answer. Cheers! $\endgroup$ – JBH Oct 20 '17 at 22:10
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I assume, writing in circles would likely lead to write in spirals. Mysthical reasons could be to stay with circles, or writing on wooden discs with annual rings.

Branches are good to write in circles or spirales around them. You would spin the branch for reading. (Though, it would be a circle or spiral, but you never see the circle as a whole).

Round discs of wood are imaginable, too, directly providing annual rings as lines for circular writing. One drawback: wooden discs tend to snatch from the outside to the center, because the outer parts shrink more than the center. (Though, with some experience in drying wood you can avoid snatches.) You could remove the wooden center to avoid snatches. You get wooden rings with circular lines.

A book would be a collection of thin circular wooden discs with annual rings, with a circular hole in the middle, hold together with a circular cord.

Little sidestep: rune stones sometimes show sort of circular or spiral writings (but more often knots or lines).

enter image description here (Picture from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Viking_runestones)

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Trying to think out of the box here; because it's possible that such a culture never considered books made of flat pages.

The suggestion of using a round paper (e.g. the current top answer, a slice of a tree) works well as a first step. But as your civilization expands, the need for compact storage (and a way to "flip through" a book) becomes more important.

The below suggestion is what they might think of as the successor to disc-shaped paper/tablets.


When I was a kid, I use to play with a water-balloon-tube toy. It's hard to explain, so let me just show you one:

enter image description here

According to Google, the best results are found by searching "water tubes toy", "water wiggly" or "water snakes toy".

Notice that there is a hole in the middle that connects to the other side. This is a hollow tube, where the sides are filled with water.

This tube has an interesting property, you can slide the membrane back and forth, in a way that the inside of the tube becomes the outside of the tube.

This is again hard to explain, so let me show you a quick video. It's easy to understand when you see it:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cbCt6VEA1Dg


This could function as a book. Imagine if the words are written on the outside, like so:

enter image description here

  • The "page" is the outside of the tube.
  • You can "scroll" through the text by sliding the tube, thus revealing what's written on the inside.

Construction notes:

  • The water makes this a bulky toy. However, if you manage to develop a material that is very slippery (on the inside), you no longer need the water for lubrication.
  • Need a bigger page? Make a cylinder with a bigger radius. Or a taller cylinder (it depends on whether the radius is grammatically important, I guess)
  • For a sufficiently advanced culture, they may develop some sort of internal mechanism that allows many inside layers at the same time (e.g. layering it back and forth on the inside).
  • If they're unable to make such a multi-layer tube, you might be inclined to put each chapter of a book on a different tube; and a book then becomes a box of tubes (chapters).
  • There's an interesting option of making a marquee. Put the tube on a stand that makes it shift the page by one line every e.g. 10 seconds; and also let the tube rotate (1 rotation = 10 seconds). Not only does it allow for people to read the text without moving their head (similar to how a ticker works), but because you are showing multiple lines at the same time, it's possible for several people to read a different part of the text (by focusing on different lines).

Minor edit

I'm very attached to the idea of books and scrolls as I know them, but in the context of this writing system, I can't see how those would form or be useful to the people using them.

Good news! Such a device still looks like a scroll, so you can retain the visual aspect of it.

You could also retain the visual aspect of a book, if you use the book as a box to store the tubes in. Not unlike a cigar box:

enter image description here

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Circular writing might also have the advantage of making the hierarchy of ideas in a written work immediately apparent, because the words (or logograms or whatever) that are central to your argument are literally at the center of the page. You can glance at the page and know its topic immediately, then read the details spirally off the center if you're interested. More complex documents with multiple central ideas could be made by attaching two or more circular pages edge-to-edge, with multiple possible paths for a reader to follow.

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It seems, from the example, that they do not write in discs, but in arcs. That is, they don't really spiral in to reach the center.

So I pondered: why would this work, and for whom?

Eyes are a possible reason that it might make for a better form of writing: a species with differential focus/zoom (like an eagle, with the center of the eye very zoomed in, but the outer eye more wide-angle), and good peripheral vision, might find it easier to focus with its wide-angle view, especially if moving the eyes is strenuous. So, writing going in a circle around the periphery of its vision would be ideal.

But what mechanism would create such a form of writing?

What about a very stretchy latex-like tube, coarse on the inside but teflon-smooth on the outside? Thread it through the back of a large ring, and stretch the opening of the tube back over the ring, so it's wrapped around the ring.

You can then read from, or write on, the part of the tube stretched out on the ring.

Squeezing the tube that wrapped over behind the ring will pull more tube through, until eventually the whole tube is inside out - you then need to undo the operation to "rewind" the book. Or maybe just the page: whether to have a whole book on a single coil, or a book made of a sheaf of coils is up to you (or to the publisher). Sort of the difference between long old-world scrolls, and newer books with short pages.

With one tube per page, this would end up looking not unlike the Incan Khipu knot-writing, but with far greater information-density, and obviously no knots (though a knot would work as a "spoiler" tag, you'd have to undo it before reading; and a knot sealed with a chop would work for privacy protection):

Incan Khipu

Historically, this would have been a good way to store very dense writings in a very small space, because the text would shrink as the surface did - a single coiled hose could hold a whole encyclopaedia! Also, the writings would be protected on the inside of the hose.

In modern times, of course, devices would be just a ring, with a display on, and no hose... much more convenient, but some people would feel that it wasn't the same as curling up with a good coil.

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Tibetan prayer wheels style approach is probably the closest one can get physically.

tibetan prayer wheel google search result

Old telephone dials are another example, but they worked because of limited set of characters(numbers) to put in. It may be noted that numbers were all pointed up and not pointing away from the center. Since human eyes have planar vision, it would require much more effort and time to read text written in circles.

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    $\begingroup$ Can you expand a bit your answer? As it is now is just a link... $\endgroup$ – L.Dutch Oct 26 '17 at 12:32
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Assuming a somewhat primitive culture:

They use chains, necklaces, strings and such. Things that are circles. If you write on top of the chain (basically looking at an O as you suggested in your question) or on the outside as in the LotR movies (or even on the inside?) doesn't matter I believe.

It can be used as jewelry. It can be used to decorate their temples. It can be worn by high officials. They can have a "book on a stick" that basically looks like a Christmas tree.

Important passages are engraved into metal (e.g. gold) chains that last for ages. Every day bureaucracy and book keeping might write on for example leather/textile scarfs or a poncho that they wear all day and then have access to all day.

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There are several real languages with round characters.
Burmese:

ဤသည်ကိုမြန်မာဘာသာစကားသည်။ ဒါကဥပမာတစ်ခုဝါကျဖြစ်ပါတယ်။

Sinhala

මෙය සිංහල භාෂාවයි. මේක උදාහරණයක්.

Malayalam

ഇതാണ് മലയാളം ഭാഷ. ഇത് ഒരു ഉദാഹരണമാണ്.

Telugu

ఇది తెలుగు భాష. ఇది ఒక ఉదాహరణ వాక్యం.

Lao

ນີ້ແມ່ນພາສາລາວ. ນີ້ແມ່ນປະໂຫຍກຕົວຢ່າງ.

If you are looking for each "page" to be read in the round, you could curve the headstroke into a circle or spiral in languages such as
Hindi:

यह हिंदी भाषा है यह एक उदाहरण वाक्य है, ताकि आप देख सकें कि बहुत, बहुत लंबे समय के सिरस्ट्रोक के साथ एक सास क्या दिखता है।

Real world example.

As far as how to bind a language written in the round, the first thing that comes to mind is how East Asians used to carry money, this for example.

Alternatively, they could write on a semi-circular surface which would be "bound" (perhaps rung around an axle?) on the flat edge. This would make the entire "book" a sphere.

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They use the writer's equivalent to a pottery wheel:

enter image description here

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The media used may not be the same as that which the written language's originating culture used

The storyline in use can have any number of reasons why and how the circular writing came to be in use, and it can be easily alluded to by describing other elements of the story such as the characters, world environments, other inhabitants, and their motivations.

To help address the portion of your question: "I can't see how those would form or be useful to the people using them.", and considering that there is no defined setting for the world(s) the question applies to, here's an example of one way it may not matter how exactly the media in use "here/today" came to be with circular writing in use.

Philanthropic Twirling Aliens

Long ago and far away, there exists a culture of intelligent people that live on a planet with an atmosphere that has many vertical thermal winds miles deep into the atmosphere. Within these thermal vents travel up and down a variety of life, including these people. Their awake time is spent floating slowly down from the uppermost level of the atmosphere, twirling gently all the while. When they near surface level, they aim for a nearby upward direction vent and shoot back up to the top to start the long leisurely trip back down again.

The people have bodies that consist of, among other body parts, retractable spiral lofting wing-like appendages, and their most common orientation is with the eyes on the very bottom of their bodies. Think bat hanging upside down except the eyes dangle from the "bottom" of their heads and it's all day, not just at sleep.

This means they are fully comfortable writing and reading amidst a continually circular moving view. Even when they settle in hanging upside down on perches at dark, they feel most comfortable on perches that slowly spin (they see fine in the dark, but too many other creatures do not--vent travel at night is for the adventure-junkies only).

They use the shed skin of the makeupaname, found only on their world and falls off in absolutely felicitous circular pieces of "paper".

Expeditions of these people periodically embark on long off-world journeys to other worlds in search of less advanced cultures of intelligent beings capable of learning written languages in order to help them along in their intellectual evolution. One such journey brought them to Earth, where they encountered Earthlings that very easily learned one of their languages.

Alas, there was no makeupaname skin available for additional paper to practice with, so the Earth people used whatever was available at the time and location.

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The Phoenician languages used scrolls for hundreds of years before books came along.

The jump to using books required the invention and dissemination of new rules about breaking text into manageable segments. These rules don't make the text more legible; mainly they help with organization and storage.

Pages are only one example of the many innovations embedded in modern books.

Your culture's circular texts work fine for early writing; as their civilization becomes more complex, so will their texts.

I don't see any reason that books disrupt circle-writing more than scroll-writing.

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This is not a direct answer, but it does impact the writing material of your civilization quite a bit.

If you see a normal object, you can recognize it, no matter how it is turned. You might not see an upside-down car often, but you will see that it is a car. However, reading mirrored or flipped writing is much more difficult.

This is because many letters actually mean something different when they are flipped or mirrored, like the 'w' and 'm'. While learning to read, people learn to repress flipping characters, and that is why we can't read mirrored text, but do understand the difference between 'w' and 'm'.

This leads to the idea that, maybe, if our writing system didn't have pairs like that, we would all be able to read upside down just fine. If that is true, your civilization doesn't need weird ways of rotating round text, as long as no characters look like others when turned.

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Consider a different medium: woven fibers.

Ancient American cultures used knotted strings to encode messages. Step it up a notch and you have macrame pages of text. Move up one more notch and you have woven prayer mats or even rugs. Hang them on walls, ceilings, lay them out on floors.

You could even go natural, and weave tales into cultured plots of plants. Another ancient American custom was to culture strawberry beds and other flowering plants (including flowers in some regions) into sculpted shapes of form and color. Those who had the proper training could walk the streets of the towns and cities and read the tales (usually bragging about the accomplishments of a notable person, group, or even town) that had been woven into the local horticulture.

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In a culture that writes in circles, what would the medium for writing look like?

Good question? Another good question that already has a secure answer: Why do floppy disks, HDs and DVDs get data wrote to then in circles? Answer: because this way make randomic access to data much more easy/swift.

Maybe, I am risking here, that culture has two eyes, but only one eye is able to close look things, the other one is only able to distant seeing. One thing that culture, HDs, floppy disks and DVDs has in common is they are single eyed readers.

For the media I suggest plain disk formated paper :).

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enter image description hereThere are many options. I hope they would came to the idea of "Reeb foliation", which makes infinitely big surfaces wrap arround themselves. They are all contained in a torus. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Reeb_foliation

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  • $\begingroup$ Welcome to the site. I would advise you to flesh out this answer a bit more, we tend to discourage answers which are link only as links can change so if you could summarise the key points in the link that would be great. If you want to find out more please see the help center and tour. $\endgroup$ – Bellerophon Oct 21 '17 at 16:29

protected by L.Dutch Aug 27 at 3:30

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