Literacy was uncommon amongst the general populace for a very long time. In antiquity, it was mostly scribes and people who could afford an education could read and write. Even nobles and rulers couldn’t read or write mostly! They had scribes for that business… Writing was also hard to learn for people in many civilizations, as their writing systems were pictorial or syllabic mostly, and there could be hundreds if not thousands of characters. Actual alphabets came up in Roman, Greek and Phoenician culture though. The library of Alexandria tried to collect as many books as possible! In the Middle Ages, literacy wasn’t up so much either. Most people were illiterate peasants and craftsmen. The clergy could read, and probably some rich educated people. Rulers often didn’t know how to read and signed their name with a seal at the end of a letter. Some rulers like Charlemagne took the initiative to read and write as he was interested in education. The Renaissance had increased literacy as information became more available through inventions like the printing press.