Books On Books Collection – Jean Holabird

Vladimir Nabokov: AlphaBet in Color (2005)

Vladimir Nabokov: AlphaBet in Color (2005)
Jean Holabird
Black cloth boards, silver lettering to spine, blind stamped lettering to front board, illustrated title label to inner board; internally bound in the Japanese style with opening overlapping boards and staggered colored pages. H175 W235 mm, 40 pages. Acquired from Klondyke (Almere NL), 11 November 2021.
Photos of the book: Books On Books.

Publisher’s statement:

Vladimir Nabokov saw rich colors in letters and sounds and noted the deficiency of color in literature, praising Gogol as the first Russian writer to truly appreciate yellow and violet. He saw q as browner than k, and s as not the light blue of c, but a curious mixture of azure and mother-of-pearl. For anyone who has ever wondered how the colors Nabokov heard might manifest themselves visually, Alphabet in Color is a remarkable journey of discovery. Jean Holabird’s interpretation of the colored alphabets of one of the twentieth century’s literary greats is a revelation. The book masterfully brings to life the charming and vibrant synesthetic colored letters that until now existed only in Nabokov’s mind. In Alphabet in Color Jean Holabird’s grasp of form and space blends perfectly with Nabokov’s idea that a subtle interaction exists between sound and shape.

As puzzling as the phenomenon of synesthesia is, Holabird’s depictions and the book’s architecture are more engaging in their own right. The lapping pages and binding make this work awkward to handle, which might be thought of as a complement to the book’s non-alphabetical and non-spectral order of letters and colors. It is a warm complement to Le Cadratin’s cool rendition of Rimbaud’s sonnet “Les Voyelles“.

Further Reading

Abecedaries I (in progress)“. Books On Books Collection.

William Joyce“. 18 June 2021. Books On Books Collection. Another example of graphemic-color synesthesia.

Le Cadratin“. 8 February 2022. Books On Books Collection.

Cohut, Maria. 17 August 2018. “Synesthesia: Hearing colors and tasting sounds“. Medical News Today. Accessed 2 February 2022.

Campen, Crétien van. 26 July 2012. “Bibliography: Synesthesia in Art and Science“. Leonardo. Accessed 2 February 2022.

Cytowic, Richard E. 2018. Synesthesia. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.

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