Books On Books Collection – Borje Svensson & James Diaz

Letters (1982)

Letters (1982)
Borje Svensson and James Diaz
Book in a box. H61 x W61 X D61 cm, 18 accordion panels and diorama. Collins © 1982, Borje Svensson.
Photos of the work: Books On Books Collection.

Animals (1982)

Animals (1982)
Borje Svensson and James Diaz Letters (1982)
Book in a box. H61 x W61 X D61, 18 accordion panels and diorama. Collins © 1982, Borje Svensson
Photos of the work: Books On Books Collection.

Given the effectiveness of Svensson and Diaz’s Letters alphabet book-in-a-box effort, it is surprising that they did not follow up the alphabetical theme from Animals, especially since animals have made up the most popular category of alphabet books for centuries. Another 24 or 25 books in boxes beckon. Alphabetical cubes of birds, cats, dogs and the zemmi! And what about the ampersand? And what different paper artistry might Diaz have performed if requested to fill out the series with further innovation? Consider Claire Van Vliet’s alphabetical Tumbling Blocks for Pris and Bruce (1996), Helen Hiebert’s Alpha Beta (2010) and Karen Hanmer’s The Spectrum A to Z.

Before its acquisition by Harpers in 1985, William Collins & Sons settled on the less risky venture of four books in boxes: Animals, Letters, Numbers and Colors. First with Elgin Davis Studios, James Diaz was the paper engineer behind all four and later joined David A. Carter (see his tribute to Bruno Munari here) to produce The Elements of Pop Up: A Pop Up Book for Aspiring Paper Engineers (1999), still used as a primary textbook.

Of course, B. S. Johnson and Marc Saporta pioneered boxes containing loose pages or leaves to be read in any order, but to find contemporary books in boxes where the box is not just a storage mechanism but functionally integrated, we have to look to Ed Hutchins, Sue Johnson and Hedi Kyle among others.

More celebrations of the alphabet and book as “total expansion of the letter” to come.

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