Lesion topography and reading ability were analysed in 17 patients with dominant posterior cerebral artery territory infarction. Patients with dominant posterior cerebral artery infarction in whom reading was unaffected served as an anatomical control group. Normal readers had lesions in the medial and ventral occipital lobe, sparing dorsal white matter pathways and the ventral temporal lobe. Global and permanent alexia occurred only with additional injury to the splenium, forceps major or white matter above the occipital horn of the lateral ventricle. These data suggest that callosal pathways mediating reading lie above the occipital horn and have little connection with the ventromedial occipital region. Patients with 'spelling dyslexia' had large lesions of the ventral temporal lobe involving cortical regions believed to participate in later stages of visual processing. These findings provide a framework for the prediction of dyslexia type and severity based on lesion topography.