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Artists' Books

Artists' Books

Many artists who use the book format incorporate the alphabet into their work. The letters are used as design elements but may also require the viewer to look at letters on a page in a new way.

The University of Delaware Special Collections has a large collection of artist's books.

Ludwig Zeller.

Alphacollage. Erin, Ont.: Porcupine's Quill, c1982.

Every letter of the alphabet is a collage composed of many individual figures. These tiny details were taken from nineteenth-century anatomy and science texts and encyclopedias, giving the book a mysterious, alchemical tone.

Gunnar A. Kaldewey, 1946-

ABC. New York: Kaldewey Press, 1983.

In 1985 Gunnar A. Kaldewey set up a hand press in Poestenkill, north of New York City. In the years since, he has printed over 60 unique limited editions at the highest levels of craftsmanship.

Ronald King, 1932-

The White Alphabet. Guildford, England: Circle Press, 1984.

The White Alphabet is a double-sided concertina alphabet book, without text, that consists of 26 pop-up capital letters. The name Circle Press was chosen by Ronald King to suggest his vision of a group of like-minded persons working within a shared, supportive framework. This circle, over more than thirty years, has enlarged to include over a hundred artists and poets.

Martha L. Carothers.

Alphabetless Book. Newark, Del.: Post Press, 1984.

The book includes no printing but has an alphabet of words relating to absence embossed along the bottom edge. The absence reflects a typographer's job case with the pieces of type missing.

Barbara Crow.

An Acrobatic Alphabet; wood engravings by Barbara Crow. Andoversford (Gloucestershire): Whittington Press, c1986.

The wood engraved plates are colored by hand.

Johanna Drucker, 1952-

Through Light and the Alphabet. Berkeley, Calif.: J. Drucker, c1986.

In an artist's statement for the book, Drucker wrote, "The book was inspired in part by the absolutely beautiful Caslon type we had acquired at UC Berkeley for use in the Architecture School, Visual Studies studio. The text is a polemic against the limits of language as the defining boundary of experience or sentience."

John Gerard, 1955-

Alphabet Soup. Berlin: Druckwerkstatt des BBK, 1988.

The alphabet is hidden in the book's hand-made paper. During the papermaking process, the pulp has the consistency of a thick soup.

Hedi Kyle.

A & Z. [S.l.]: The artist, 1990.

Hedi Kyle is well-known both as a conservator and as book artist. She is credited with developing the flag bookbinding structure, seen here.

David Hockney, 1937-

Hockney's Alphabet; drawings by David Hockney; written Contributions edited by Stephen Spender. London: Faber and Faber for the AIDS Crisis Trust, c1991.

Published as an AIDS fundraiser, the work is comprised of 26 letters drawn by Hockney and 26 short pieces by distinguished writers including Joyce Carol Oates, John Updike, and Susan Sontag.

Julie Leonard.

Al pha bet. Iowa City: Half Moon Press, 1998.

Julie Leonard chose words about words, common and current, obscure and ancient for her alphabet. As in dictionaries, the words are divided into syllables, sections of themselves that suggest the composite nature of language and communication.

Mary McCarthy.

Tribal Alphabet. [Boston]: The Artist, 1998.

Images representing 26 African tribes illustrate the English alphabet. The images were based on actual tribal masks, veils, face painting and sculpture.

Werner Pfeiffer, 1937-

Alphabeticum. Red Hook, N.Y.: Pear Whistle Press, 2006.

Two designs from Pfeiffer's "typographic exploration." The letter "i" was produced by inking and stamping a 72 point Baskerville type letter 225 times. The letter "m" is based on the Standard Bold Extended typeface and done by a linoleum block cut.

Werner Pfeiffer.

Abracadabra: an Homage to N.H. Werkman; a Set of Typographic Explorations. Red Hook, N.Y.: Pear Whistle Press, 2007.

Artist and book designer Werner Pfeiffer produces typographical magic in this interactive work. The pages spell out the magician's incantation "abracadabra." The pages are mounted into three flexagon structures that magically appear and disappear by folding and flexing the paper. Flexagons are geometric models made from folded strips of paper that can be folded, or flexed, to reveal hidden faces.

Sarah Horowitz.

Alpha botanica. Portland, Oregon: Wiesedruck, 2007.

English and Hebrew alphabets begin at the front and the back of this modern herbal.

Marion Bataille, 1963-

ABC3D. Roaring Brook Press, 2008.

Marion Bataille is a French graphic and book designer. This edition of ABC3D is an inexpensive reprint of her original hand-made artist's book.

Nathaniel H. Puffer Collection

Russell Maret.

Letters O and T from Æthelwold Etc. New York City: The Author, 2009.

According to Russell Maret, "The 26 letters in Æthelwold Etc. are born partly of the belief that the communal form of the alphabet is as responsible for a letter's legibility as that letter's specific form. If, for instance, you were to come upon a basket weave pattern in the Duomo floor, your mind would not necessarily view it as an O even though it is circular. If you came upon the same basket weave pattern printed in a book, preceding a P and following an N, there would be no doubt that it was an O."

Miniature Books

Working in miniature gives a book artist the flexibility to try a wide range of forms and materials. While all of these books use the alphabet as a framework, they vary widely in design and technique. Special Collections holds over 3,000 miniature books dating from the eighteenth to the twenty-first centuries.

A Comic Alphabet. Los Angeles, Calif.: Leadenhall Press, 1978.

Marnie Flook Miniature Book Collection.

Carol Cunningham.

Alphabet Alfresco. Mill Valley, Calif.: Sunflower Press, 1985.

Marnie Flook Miniature Book Collection

Maryline Poole Adams.

Alphabet Shoes. Berkeley, CA: Poole Press, c1988.

Marnie Flook Miniature Book Collection.

Maryline Poole Adams.

Alice Baker Can--: an Alpha-betical Collection of Assorted Baby Charms. Berkeley, CA: Poole Press, 1992.

Marnie Flook Miniature Book Collection.

John Tonkin.

The Quirky Phonetic Alphabet. Canberra, Australia: Bookarts Press, c2000.

Marnie Flook Miniature Book Collection

Maria G. Pisano.

XYZ. Plainsboro, N.J.: Memory Press, c2001.

Maryline Poole Adams.

Elephant Alphabet. Berkeley, CA: Poole Press, 2004.

Marnie Flook Miniature Book Collection

Miniature Books about Printing and Typography

All of these miniature books are about printing and typography.

Type and the Alphabet. Lafayette, Calif.: Red Squirrel Press, 1973.

Marnie Flook Miniature Book Collection

A B C's for Booklovers. Valparaiso, IN: Sandlin's Books & Bindery, 1992.

Marnie Flook Miniature Book Collection

Luca de Pacioli, ca. 1445-1517.

The Divine Alphabet. Seattle, Wash.: Tabula Rasa Press, 1993.

Marnie Flook Miniature Book Collection

Nicolas McDowall.

A Bodoni Charade. Llandogo, U.K.: Old Stile Press, 1995.

6-line Wood Letter Alphabets. Marcham: Alembic Press, 1995-1997.

Marnie Flook Miniature Book Collection

David Clifford.

Letterpress Printing ABC. Vancouver: Heavenly Monkey, 2004 (Vancouver: Black Stone Press).

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