Books On Books Collection – Ellen Sollod

In the distance, along the green and rugged crests of the Jura, the yellow beds of dried torrents in all directions made Y’s.

Have you ever noticed what a picturesque letter Y is with its numberless significations?

A tree is a Y; the parting of two roads is a Y; the confluence of two rivers is a Y; an ass’s or ox’s head is a Y; a glass as it stands on its foot is a Y; a lily on its stem is a Y; a suppliant raising his hands to heaven is a Y. — Victor Hugo, “On the Road to Aix-les-Bains”, 24 September [18??]

Source Code (2019)

Source Code (2019)
Ellen Sollod
Cloth- covered clamshell box with image tipped on holds a leporello book with a loose colophon sheet laid in. Book: H5.5 x W5.5 x D1 inches closed; W154″ open. Unique edition. Acquired from Vamp&Tramp Booksellers, 7 October 2022.
Photos: Courtesy of the artist; Books On Books Collection.

After finding the alphabet all around in nature, Hugo develops this Romantic notion further in his letter with which this entry began:

Human society, the world, man as a whole, is in the alphabet. …The alphabet is a source.

By gathering from nature the building blocks for the alphabet in her photographs taken while in residence at Brush Creek, Wyoming, Ellen Sollod inverts yet underscores Hugo’s notion. The source of Sollod’s alphabet is the natural environment. Artificially, nature is in this alphabet. Both are “source code”.

Referring to the twigs, logs and branches as “building blocks” also inverts Hugo’s continued development of the notion in his letter:

A is the roof, the gable with its cross-beam, the arch, arx …

Below, however, the twigs are the A; the split log, the B; and the broken branches, the C. Nature provides the alphabet’s building blocks, but of course, the building is by human agency.

In the end, the source code requires human agency — whether to perceive it, build it, or build with it.

Printed on Hahnemuhle Fine Art rice paper and laid in a cloth-covered clamshell box with an image tipped on top and inside, this sepia-tinged offering of source code may leave us feeling edgy in our admiration.

Further Reading

Hugo, Victor, and Kenneth Hardacre (ed.). 1991. Man and His World in the Alphabet. Moreton-in-Marsh: Kit-Cat Press.

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