The collection of over 2000 examples is large to cover the Western scripts, comprising Europe, Near East and the Americas. The palaeography of the rest of the world is covered, albeit less comprehensively, through examples elsewhere in the special collections.
While continuous writing conveying a message started in Syria, Sumer or Highland Iran ca. 3500 BC, single symbols, glyphs, marks representing names, places, tracks, gods, etc. are much older. Apart from Australia, where it possibly all started, the four earliest major river valley civilisations, represent the earliest symbols and writing from 4th millennium BC onwards, as mentioned in the introduction.
Some examples of each of these are listed, supplied with the earliest examples from Europe and the Americas.