Did a writing system ever develop that had a bi-directional writing style, alternating every line, with character orientation and order being preserved between lines? (Essentially Boustrophedon, without changing the orientation or word order of letters each line)

A hypothetical example of this writing system, would be the following:

"The quick brown fox

".dog lazy the over jumps

(Reading L-R in Ln 1, then R-L in Ln 2)

  • 1
    Can you give an example of "one character orientation"?
    – fdb
    Jun 21, 2021 at 11:04
  • So for example: "The quick brown fox (br) jumps over the lazy dog" Versus the hypothetical style I proposed: "The quick brown fox (br) dog lazy the over jumps" So there aren't two different orientations per character (LR & RL) but just one (LR). (br - line break)
    – TomDot Com
    Jun 21, 2021 at 11:19
  • So you actually mean the character order within a word, not orientation of individual characters (L vs. ⅃)? Jun 21, 2021 at 12:19
  • 1
    You may want to take a look at latin.stackexchange.com/a/504/39
    – Alex B.
    Jun 21, 2021 at 13:20
  • @VladimirF I've edited the question to further specify that character order also remains preserved, in addition to orientation.
    – TomDot Com
    Jun 21, 2021 at 14:15

1 Answer 1


This is a quite high level "no" answer. All boustrophedon like writing systems I have ever seen in practice are of two types:

  • (standard) boustrophedon, where the direction of the current line is hinted by the direction of the glyphs (in hieroglyphic writing, all persons and animals look in the writing direction, in alphabetic scripts the asymmetric glyphs also hint the direction.
  • reverse boustrophedon, like Rongorongo, where the glyphs are also turned over, so in effect the glyphs are rotated 180 degree.

When the writing system is alphabetic or syllabic (with multisyllabic words), the order of letters or syllables is in general "as they are heard/read".

Everything beyond that is reaching into the realm of weak cryptography (permutation codes).

I have several books on writing systems of the world (e.g. Jensen: Die Schrift; Haarmann: Universalgeschichte der Schrift) and none of them mentions any boustrophedon-like writing system where the glyphs don't adapt to the current reading/writing direction.

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