The First Writing (2004)
The First Writing (2004)
Leporello attached to front board; leather thong and bead closure.. H178 x W127 mm (7 x 5 in) closed; W1245 mm open (49 in). 10 panels. Edition of 50, of which this is #40. Purchased from Vamp&Tramp, 4 January 2022.
Photos: Books On Books Collection.
Strange as it sounds to the Western ear, writing came before the alphabet. And like the alphabet, that ancient writing has inspired artists’ books. Two of them in the Books On Books collection are Helen Malone’s Alphabetic Codes (2005) and Cari Ferraro’s The First Writing (2004).
Crumpled Lokta paper dyed to resemble old leather and decorated with a crescent moon in gold metallic ink covers the boards of The First Writing. Just as much as old leather — and along with the interior — it evokes a painted cave wall to conjure up the archeologist Marija Gimbutas’s theory “that the first writing actually predated Sumerian businessmen by a few thousand years, and instead grew out of symbolic marks on ritual objects made to venerate the Great Mother in Old Europe”. Inspired by the archaelogist’s catalogue of marks in her book The Civilization of the Goddess, the glyphs and stylized alphabet round out Ferraro’s poetic invocation of the theory against the background of undeciphered symbols found in the 5000-year-old circular passage tombs at Knowth and Newgrange in Ireland (both described by Gimbutas). A link to Ferraro’s excellent essay on Gimbutas’s work can be found below under Further Reading.
“Abecedaries I (in progress)“. Books On Books Collection.
“Lanore Cady“. 16 December 2022. Books On Books Collection. Artist’s book.
“Lyn Davies“. 7 August 2022. Books On Books Collection. Reference and fine print.
“Timothy Donaldson“. 1 February 2023. Books On Books Collection. Reference.
“Rudyard Kipling and Chloë Cheese“. Books On Books Collection. Illustrated children’s book. [In progress]
“Abe Kuipers“. Books On Books Collection. Artist’s book. [In progress]
“Helen Malone“. 23 July 2020. Books On Books Collection. Sculpture book.
“Don Robb and Anne Smith“. Books On Books Collection. Illustrated children’s book. [In progress]
“James Rumford. 21 November 2022. Books On Books Collection. Illustrated children’s book.
“Tiphaine Samoyault“. Books On Books Collection. Illustrated children’s book. [In progress]
“Ben Shahn“. 20 July 2022. Books On Books Collection. Artist’s book.
“Pat Sweet“. 18 January 2023. Books On Books Collection. Artist’s miniature book.
“Tommy Thompson“. 21 August 2022. Books On Books Collection. Reference.
“Dave Wood“. Books On Books Collection. Artist’s book. [In progress]
Clodd, Edward. 1913. The Story of the Alphabet. London: Hodder and Stoughton. 1913. Superseded by several later works, but is freely available online with line illustrations and some black and white photos.
Diringer, David, and Reinhold Regensburger. 1968. The alphabet: a key to the history of mankind. London: Hutchinson. A standard, beginning to be challenged by late 20th and early 21st century archaeological findings and palaeographical studies.
Drucker, Johanna. 1999. The alphabetic labyrinth: the letters in history and imagination. New York, N.Y.: Thames and Hudson.
Ege, Otto. 1921/1998. The Story of the Alphabet, Its Evolution and Development… Embellished Typographically with Printer’s Flowers Arranged by Richard J. Hoffman. Van Nuys, CA: Richard J. Hoffman. A miniature. The type ornaments chosen by Hoffman are arranged chronologically by designer (Garamond, Granjon, Rogers) and printed in color.
Ferraro, Cari. 2010. “Sacred Script: Ancient Marks from Old Europe“. Cari Ferraro: Prose & Letters. Accessed 4 January 2022. Also published in Alphabet : the journal of the Friends of Calligraphy. Volume 35.3. San Francisco Friends of Calligraphy.
Firmage, Richard A. 2001. The alphabet. London: Bloomsbury.
Fischer, Steven Roger. 2008. A history of writing. London: Reaktion Books.
Gimbutas Marija. 1991. The Civilization of the Goddess. San Francisco Calif: HarperSanFrancisco.
Jackson, Donald. 1997. The story of writing. Monmouth, England: Calligraphy Centre.
Pflughaupt, Laurent. 2008. Letter by letter: an alphabetical miscellany. New York: Princeton Architectural Press.
Robinson, Andrew. 1995. The story of writing. London: Thames and Hudson.
Rosen, Michael. 2014. Alphabetical: how every letter tells a story. London: John Murray.
Sacks, David. 2003. Language visible unraveling the mystery of the alphabet from A to Z. New York: Broadway Books.
Thompson, Tommy. 1952. The ABC of our alphabet. London: Studio Publications. Not a fine press publication, but its layout, illustrations and use of two colors bear comparison with the Davies book. It too is out of print and unfortunately more rare.