The Book of the Fourth World offers detailed analyses of texts that range far back into the centuries of civilised life from what is now Latin- and Anglo-America. At the time of its 'discovery', the American continent was identified as the Fourth World of our planet. In the course of just a few centuries its original inhabitants, though settled there for millennia and countable in many millions, have come to be perceived as a marginal if not entirely dispensable factor in the continent's destiny. Today the term has been taken up again by its native peoples, to describe their own world: both its threatened present condition, and its political history, which stretches back thousands of years before Columbus. In order to explore the literature of this world, Brotherston uses primary sources that have traditionally been ignored because they have not conformed to Western definitions of oral and written literature, such as the scrolls of the Algonkin, the knotted strings (Quipus) of the Inca, Navajo dry-paintings and the encyclopedic pages of Meso-America's screenfold books.