The Elder Futhark Runes are one of the oldest Runic alphabets in the Germanic or Norse traditions. According tot he mythology, Odin hung himself upside down from the Yggdrasil (the tree of life) for a period of nine days and nights in order to gain insight into the meaning of the runes. In doing so, he sacrificed an eye to a crow, which enabled him to gain insight into other realms.
The runic alphabet is very different to our Latin-inspired alphabet in that, with runes, the symbols have much more meaning that just the letter itself. The runes have a whole metaphor of meaning behind each symbol.
If you are looking for a good book to go with the runes that explain the meanings more fully, I would recommend Katie Gerard's book, Odin's Gateways. (Please note the link will take you direct to the publisher, Avalonia Books for those of you who try to avoid buying from big multi-nationals!)