Books On Books Collection – Pat Sweet

Hieroglyphs (2009)

Hieroglyphs (2009)
Pat Sweet
Miniature. H57 x W38 mm. 40 pages. Acquired from Rebecca Bingham, 23 November 2022.
Photos: Books On Books Collection. Displayed with artist’s permission.

Not until the early 19th century was the Egyptian writing system of hieroglyphs deciphered. How much more quickly Jean-François Champollion and Thomas Young could have accomplished it if hieroglyphs were alphabet-based.

It is understandable that a 20th century Western book artist steeped in the alphabet might be lured into projecting a need for an ABC artist’s book onto the ancient Egyptian system. With this miniature, Pat Sweet has answered that need and reinterpreted twenty-six hieroglyphs to pay an “alphabet-in-cheek” homage to one of the earliest writing systems. Taking basic hieroglyphs (each shown at the foot of a page), Sweet transforms them into fanciful, colorful images.

In some cases, the colors recall the hand-colored folios produced after Champollion’s death and based on his reproductions of hieroglyphs. In other cases, the style echoes medieval and Renaissance illuminated letters, 18th century decorated letters and even Art Deco illustrations. The endpapers below certainly run from a melange of them to the Surreal. The tongue-in-cheek wit extends to the format and cover. No scroll here, but rather a codex covered in papyrus.

Jean-François Champollion and Jacques Joseph Champollion-Figeac [ed.]
Monuments De L’Égypte Et De La Nubie
Paris: Firmin Didot Frères, 1835.
Oxford, Bodleian Library SAC:333 Cha:

Further Reading

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

“Mark Van Stone”. Books On Books Collection. [in progress]

Hendrix Lee Thea Vignau-Wilberg and Joris Hoefnagel. 1997. An Abecedarium: Illuminated Alphabets from the Court of the Emperor Rudolf II. London: Thames and Hudson.

Rumford, James. 2000. Seeker of Knowledge: The Man Who Deciphered Egyptian Hieroglyphs. Boston: Houghton Mifflin.

Sweet, Pat . 2013. Bo Press so Far: Mbs Conclave 2013. Riverside California: Bo Press Miniature Books.

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