Books On Books Collection – Gerard Unger

A Counter-proposal (1967)

Een tegenvoorstel/A counter-proposal/Une contreproposition/Ein gegenvorschlag (1967)
Gerard Unger
Pamphlet. 250 x 250 mm, 4 pages. Acquired from Antiquariaat Frans Melk, 27 April 2021.
Photos: Books On Books Collection.

A few months after Pieter Brattinga issued Wim Crouwel‘s New Alphabet (below left), he followed up with this single-fold riposte from Gerard Unger, invited in fact by Crouwel.

Left: Crouwel. Right: Unger.

Unger urges designing or teaching machines to accommodate “human-readable” letterforms rather than inventing new fonts for machines. Given advances in digital type and artificial intelligence, Unger’s point may have been prescient, but there is still something to be said for the artistic stimulus of machine constraints.

Brattinga extended the dialogue later to include Timothy Epps and Christopher Evans in 1970. If, as it did, the Epps/Evans alphabet led to LINE UP by Raffaella della Olga and Three Star Press, what other works of art have benefited from similar alphabetic and typographical dialogues?

Alphabet (1970), Timothy Epps and Christopher Evans; LINE UP (2020) Raffaella della Olga

Jeffrey Morin and Steven Ferlauto‘s Sacred Space (2003) has its roots in Ferlauto’s historical research into Roman capitals. Jennifer Farrell‘s The Well-Travelled Ampersand (2019) has its roots in the letterform and design thinking of Adrian Frutiger, Frederic Goudy, Dard Hunter, Edward Johnston and Russell Maret, among several others. Inclusion of source material like that by Crouwel, Epps and Evans, and Unger in the Collection offers paths to increased appreciation of those works of art inspired by them. Something for the future history of book art.

Further Reading

Abecedaries I (in progress)“, Books On Books Collection, 31 March 2020.

Wim Crouwel“, Books On Books Collection, 12 May 2021.

Timothy Epps and Christopher Evans“, Books On Books Collection, 26 April 2021.

Russell Maret“, Books On Books Collection, 20 September 2019.

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

Raffaella della Olga“, Books On Books Collection, 8 December 2020.

The Last Word on the Ampersand“, Books On Books Collection, 27 June 2020. See for Jennifer Farrell.

Olocco, Riccardo. “The inner consistency of Gerard Unger“, CAST: The science of type, its history and culture, 18 May 2017. Accessed 10 May 2021.

Perondi, Luciano. “‘The digital wave’ by Robin Kinross“, CAST: The science of type, its history and culture, 17 March 2020. Accessed 10 May 2021.

Books On Books Collection – Taller Leñateros

Incantations (2005)

Incantations (2005)
Mayan Women
Fathermothers of the Book: Ámbar Past with Xun Okotz and Xpetra Ernándes
Casebound, glued. H250 x W250 x D50 mm, 194 pages. Acquired from Taller Leñateros, Chiapas, Mexico, 23 July 2020.

Acquisition of this anthology of magical songs and ritual paintings of Tsotsil women from the Highlands of Chiapas came primarily from an interest in its “paper”. The artists and craftworkers at Taller Leñateros keep alive the tradition of amate (or huun in Mayan) making. It is a substrate formed of macerated bark fiber pounded until the required thinness is reached. If the term “paper” applies only to material made from fiber macerated until each individual filament is a separate unit, then mixed with water, sieved with a screen and drained to generate a thin layer of intertwined fiber (Dard Hunter, p. 5), amate is not paper. Only the endpapers of the book appear to be made of amate. The text block is a combination of recycled office paper and off-white art paper.

Also of sculptural interest was the book cover, a paper mask in high and low relief cast from recycled cardboard, corn silk, and coffee. Arriving tightly enclosed in a brown cardboard clamshell box, painted and stenciled in black, lined with the same black endpapers used in the book, it made a startling entrance, enhanced by the firm prying to free it.

Even once free, Incantations resists the reader. So tightly glued and bound to its spine, the book block must be prised open. Small flakes of the paper mask cover fall. Repeated use would surely break it down. At first, disheartening, the resistance begins to play to the strength of the text and illustrations. Non-Mayan eyes and fingers seem to be intruding in an occult space.

La Jicara (1998)


La Jicara (1998)
Leñateros Workshop
Double-sided accordion journal made of sheets of brown kraft paper joined to create 56 double-sided pages, wrapped with a string threaded through a carved gourd. Acquired from Taller Leñateros, 23 July 2020.

In contrast to the Incantations‘ European codex, La Jicara presents the pre-Hispanic accordion-fold codex. Including envelopes with enclosures, tipped-in artwork, foldout pages, inserted books and cards, a full-size news sheet and inserted postcards — almost all socially and politically charged — the journal invokes the brutal internecine and Hispanic destruction of first the Mayan and then the Aztec print legacies. The original story has been recounted, forgotten and recounted for centuries — one recent recounting embedded in The Catalogue of Shipwrecked Books: Young Columbus and the Quest for a Universal Library (2019) and its forgetting reflected in the absence of any chapter recounting it in Lost Libraries: The Destruction of Great Book Collections since Antiquity (2004).

Dancers #51 and Aztec Warrior #53

Dancers #51 and Aztec Warrior #53 (N.D.)
Cristobal Vazquez
Woodcut serigraphy. Acquired from Taller Leñateros, 23 July 2020.

Further Reading

The First Seven Books of the Rijswijk Paper Biennial“, Books On Books Collection, 10 October 2019. See René Teygeler’s essay in the fifth book The Spirit of Paper (2004).

Hunter, Dard. Papermaking: The History and Technique of an Ancient Craft (New York: Dover, 1978).

Matthew, Heather. “Hand Papermaking in Mexico: Amate Paper & Traditional Mayan Techniques“, Paperslurry, N.D.