Books On Books Collection – Elliott Kaufman

Alphabet Everywhere (2012)

Alphabet Everywhere (2012)
Elliott Kaufman
Casebound, paper over board, cutout cover. 235 x 235 mm. 62 pages. Published by Abbeville Press. Acquired from Amazon, 22 September 2022.
Photos: Books On Books Collection. Displayed with permission of the artist.

Evident across the images in his alphabet book and website, Elliott Kaufman’s work revolves around architectural motives. The Books On Books collection has found a recurrent theme in architectural alphabets. Would that Johann David Steingruber’s designs for palaces in the shape of the letters from A to Z had actually been built so that Kaufman could photograph them.


Architectonisches Alphabeth (1773)
bestehend aus dreyßig Rissen wovon Jeder Buchstab nach seiner kenntlichen Anlage auf eine ansehnliche und geräumige Fürstliche Wohnung, dann auf alle Religionen, Schloß-Capellen und ein Buchstab gänzlich zu einen Closter, übrigens aber der mehreste Theil nach teutscher Landes-Art mit Einheiz-Stätte auf Oefen und nur theils mit Camins eingerichtet, wobey auch Nach den mehrest irregulairen Grund-Anlagen vielerley Arten der Haupt- und Neben-Stiegen vorgefallen, dergleichen sonsten in Architectonischen Rissen nicht gefunden werden, zu welchen auch Die Façaden mit merklich abwechslender Architectur aufgezogen sind.
Johann David Steingruber
Casebound. H395 x W240 mm. 71 folios. Acquired at auction from Kiefer Buch- und Kunstauktionen, 15 December 2022.
Photos: Books On Books Collection.

More Romantic than romantic, Victor Hugo wrote to his wife while traveling that the alphabet is all around us in nature. Kaufman has a different view. Kaufman’s several images per letter prove the point of his book’s title but in keeping with his architectural slant: our constructions distribute our oldest construction all around us. Ironically if inadvertently, Kaufman gives the Romantic another tweak of the nose.

In his Hunchback of Nôtre Dame, Hugo has his character Archdeacon Claude Frollo point to a book in his hand and then to the cathedral outside and say, “This will kill that”, by which he meant among other things that the book’s permanence of replicability will outlast the building’s permanence of stone. If by fictional time travel we could put Kaufman’s book in the archdeacon’s hand, we could point to the cathedral and retort: “But Venerable Sir, look here how ‘that’ foretells the building blocks of ‘this’.”

Further Reading

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

Architecture“. 12 November 2018. Books on Books Collection.

Federico Babina“. 20 April 2021. Books On Books Collection.

Antonio Basoli“. 20 April 2021. Books On Books Collection.

Lanore Cady“. 16 December 2022. Books On Books Collection.

Nerma Prnjavorac Cridge“. 14 February 2021. Books On Books Collection.

Francesco Dondina“. 16 December 2022. Books On Books Collection.

Jeffrey Morin & Steven Ferlauto“. 23 April 2021. Books On Books Collection.

Richard Niessen“. 20 April 2021. Books On Books Collection.

Paul Noble“. 23 April 2021. Books On Books Collection.

Antonio & Giovanni Battista de Pian“. 20 April 2021. Books On Books Collection.

Johann David Steingruber“. 23 April 2021. Books On Books Collection.

Edward Andrew Zega & Bernd H. Dams“. 23 April 2021. Books On Books Collection.

Côme, Tony. “The Typotectural Suites“, The Palace of Typographic Masonry. Accessed 5 April 2021.

Holl, Steven. 1980. The alphabetical city. New York: Princeton Architectural Press.

Hugo, Victor, and Jessie Haynes, trans. 1831 (1902). Nôtre Dame de Paris. New York: D. Appleton & Co.

Hugo, Victor, and Nathan Haskell Dole, trans. 1890 (1895). Victor Hugo’s Letters to His Wife and Others (The Alps and the Pyrenees). Boston, MA: Estes and Lauriat.

Macken, Marian. 2018. Binding Space: The Book as Spatial Practice. London and New York: Routledge.

McEwen, Hugh. Polyglot Buildings. 12 January 2012. Issuu. Accessed 13 March 2021.

Niessen, Richard. 2018. The Palace of Typographic Masonry. Leipzig: Spector Books.

Noble, Paul, and Georgina Starr. “N is for Nobson“, ARTtube, 21 October 2018. Accessed 13 March 2021.

Polano, Sergio. January 2019. “Architectural Abecedari“, Casabella, 893, pp. 62-75 + 100-101 (eng.). Milan.

Tsimourdagkas, Chrysostomos. 2014. Typotecture: Histories, Theories and Digital Futures of Typographic Elements in Architectural Design. Doctoral dissertation, Royal College of Art, London. Accessed 13 March 2021.

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