The Etruscan language was spoken by the Etruscans in Etruria (Tuscany and Umbria) until about the 1st century AD. After which it continued to be studied by priests and scholars, and it was used in religious ceremonies until the early 5th century AD. The emperor Claudius (10 BC - 54 AD) wrote a history of the Etruscans in 20 volumes, however none of these volumes survive.
Etruscan was related to Raetic, a language once spoken in the Alps, and also to Lemnian, once spoken on the island of Lemnos. It was also possibly related to Camunic, a language once spoken in the northwest of Italy.
The Etruscan alphabet developed from a Western variety of the Greek alphabet brought to Italy by Euboean Greeks. The earliest known inscription dates from the middle of the 6th century BC. Most Etruscan inscriptions are written in horizontal lines from right to left, but some are boustrophedon (running alternately left to right then right to left).
More than 10,000 Etruscan inscriptions have been found on tombstones, vases, statues, mirrors and jewellery. Fragments of an Etruscan book made of linen have also been found. Etruscan texts can be read: i.e. the pronunciation of the letters is known, though scholars are not sure what all the words mean.
No major literary works in Etruscan have survived, however there is evidence for the existence of religious and historical literature and drama. It is also possible that the Etruscans had a notation system for music.
Information about the Etruscan language and alphabet
Etruscan Texts Project (ETP) - an online collection of Etruscan inscriptions
Etruscan Foundation - an organisation dedicated to the study of the cultural and history of the Etruscans: http://www.etruscanfoundation.org
The Mysterious Etruscans
ALPHABETUM - a Unicode font specifically designed for ancient scripts, including classical & medieval Latin, ancient Greek, Etruscan, Oscan, Umbrian, Faliscan, Messapic, Picene, Iberian, Celtiberian, Gothic, Runic, Old & Middle English, Hebrew, Sanskrit, Old Nordic, Ogham, Kharosthi, Glagolitic, Old Cyrillic, Phoenician, Avestan, Ugaritic, Linear B, Anatolian scripts, Coptic, Cypriot, Brahmi, Old Persian cuneiform: http://guindo.pntic.mec.es/~jmag0042/alphabet.html