Public lettering in all its forms-official inscriptions on buildings, commercial graphics, signs, epitaphs on tombstones, graffiti-is a fixture of urban life. In Public Lettering, Armando Petrucci reconstructs the history of public writing in the West and traces its social functions from the eleventh century through the modern period. Taking the city of Rome as a case study, Petrucci begins with a consideration of the first civic inscriptions after ancient times. Substantial chapters on the uses of public writing in the industrial revolution and the early twentieth century prepare the way for his provocative discussions of public lettering in the the contexts of fascism, post-war radicalism, and the student revolutions of 1968 and 1977. Throughout, Petrucci is concerned with the relations between the functions and styles of letters and the places where they appear. Writing, he argues, is one of the instruments of public power; display lettering is often the image and mirror of power itself, making the social use of written forms a type of conquest. Because of Rome's role as a "World-City," Petrucci's interdisciplinary study has wide-ranging implications for our understanding of the social function of graphic design.