Ox, House, Stick (2007)
Ox, House, Stick: The History of Our Alphabet (2007)
Don Robb (text) and Anne Smith (ills)
Casebound, illustrated paper over boards. H280 x W217 mm. 48 pages.Acquired from The Saint Bookstore, 14 August 2022. Photos: Books On Books Collection.
Text copyright © 2007 by Donald Robb. Illustrations copyright © 2007 by Anne Smith/Lilla Rogers Studio.
Used with permission by Charlesbridge Publishing, Inc. 9 Galen Street, Suite 220, Watertown, MA 02472. (617)-926 0329
A fair number of fiction and non-fiction children’s books on the history of the alphabet have made their way into the Books On Books Collection.
Of the fiction variety, there is Rudyard Kipling’s “Just So Story” of the alphabet’s invention: How the Alphabet Was Made (1983), illustrated by Chloe Cheese. Another fiction entry is James Rumford’s retelling of Cadmus’ visit to Crete in There’s a Monster in the Alphabet (2002) and William Joyce’s inventive The Numberlys (2014).
In the non-fiction category are William Dugan’s How Our Alphabet Grew (1972), Tiphaine Samoyault’s Alphabetical Order (1998), Renzo Rossi’s The Revolution of the Alphabet (2009) and the entry here: Don Robb’s and Anne Smith’s Ox, House, Stick.
Ox, House, Stick is scheduled to appear as part of an exhibition at the Bodleian Libraries in Oxford (opening 15 July 2023). “A is for Ox” designates the display case devoted to the question: Where did the alphabet come from? It’s not just a question for archaeologists, historians, linguists and paleographers — or children’s book authors and illustrators. It’s one generating repeated inspiration for book artists as shown by Abe Kuipers’ Letters (1971), Lanore Cady’s Houses & Letters (1977), another rendition of the Kipling tale by Gerald Lange in The Neolithic Adventures of Taffi-Mai Metallu-Mai (1997), designed by Gerald Lange and produced with Robin Price, Dave Wood’s Alphabetica (2002), Cari Ferraro’s The First Writing (2004), and Helen Malone’s Alphabetic Codes (2005).
Artists’ books share much with children’s books in general. They both play with form and structure. They play with words and images, sometimes images without words and sometimes just shapes. Almost always an attention to all the senses. Children’s alphabet books in particular display features that appeal to book artists: play with animals, the Babel of languages, bodies, calligraphy, colors, design (of letters, page and book) and, as above, alphabet origin stories. Viewing and exploring alphabet books and artist’s books side by side heightens the enjoyment and appreciation of both.
“Abecedaries I (in progress)“. Books On Books Collection.
“Lanore Cady“. 16 December 2022. Books On Books Collection. Artist’s book.
“William Dugan“. Books On Books Collection. [In progress]
“Cari Ferraro“. 1 February 2023. Books On Books Collection. Artist’s book.
“William Joyce“. 18 June 2021. Books On Books Collection.Illustrated children’s book.
“Rudyard Kipling and Chloë Cheese“. 15 February 2023. Books On Books Collection. Illustrated children’s book.
“Rudyard Kipling and Gerald Lange“. Artist’s book. [In progress]
“Abe Kuipers“. 15 February 2023. Books On Books Collection. Artist’s book.
“Helen Malone“. 23 July 2020. Books On Books Collection. Artist’s book.
“Renzo Rossi“. 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]
Animal alphabets & artists books
Marie Angel, An Animated Alphabet (1996)
Leonard Baskin, Hosie’s Alphabet (1972)
Paul Cox, Abstract Alphabet: A Book of Animals (2001)
E.N. Ellis, An Alphabet (1985)
C.B. Falls, ABC Book (1957)
David L. Kulhavy & Charles D. Jones, A Forest Insect Alphabet (2013)
Enid Marx, Marco’s Animal Alphabet (2000)
Carol Schwartzott, ABC of Birds (2020)
John Norris Wood, An Alphabet in Praise of Toads & Frogs (2002)
Babel (languages), alphabets & artists’ books
Golnar Adili, Father Gave Water/Baabaa Aab Daad (2022)
Islam Aly, 28 Letters (2013)
Brynja Baldursdottír, Fuþark (1992)
Ellen Heck, A is for Bee (2022)
Tatyana Mavrina, Сказочная Азбука / Skazochnaia Azbuka / A Fairy Tale Alphabet (1969)
Claire Jeanine Satin, Alphabook (1998/99)
Ben Shahn, The Alphabet of Creation (1954)
Both but between (2021)
Sam Winston, One and Everything (2022)
Bodies & artists’ books
Anthon Beeke, Alphabet (1970)
Anthon Beeke & René Knip, Body Type (2011)
Toshifumi Kawahara, Dancing Alphabet (1991)
Françoise and Douglas Kirkland, Physical Poetry Alphabet (2018)
Marie Lancelin, Gestes Alphabétiques (2014)
Lisa Merkin, Bodies of Language (2021)
Annette Messager, Mes Enluminaires (1988) [In progress]
Vítězslav Nezval, Abeceda/Alphabet (1926/2001)
Rowland Scherman, Love Letters (1975) [In progress]
Calligraphy, alphabets and artists’ books
Mari Angel, Marie Angel’s Exotic Alphabet (1992)
Tauba Auerbach, How to Spell the Alphabet (2007)
Rebecca Bingham, Lady Letters (1986)
Rebecca Bingham, Alphabet Salmagundi (1988)
Carol DuBosch, Alphabet of Calligraphic Tricks (2014)
Carol DuBosch, Embossed Alphabet Gallery (2019)
Francesca Lohmann, An Alphabetical Accumulation (2017)
Suzanne Moore, A Blind Alphabet (1986)
Edward Andrew Zega & Bernd H. Dams, An Architectural Alphabet : ABC (2008)
Colors, alphabets and artists’ books
Rebecca Bingham, Golden Alphabet (1986)
Rebecca Bingham, Defining the Rainbow (2018)
Sonia Delaunay, Alphabet (1972)
Carol DuBosch, Rainbow Alphabet Snowflake (2013)
Ursula Hochuli-Gamma, 26 farbige Buchstaben (1986)
Karen Hanmer, The Spectrum (2003)
Amy Lapidow, Spiralbet (1998)
Lisa McGarry, Be Amazed (and other words to live by) (2013)
Kveta Pacovská, A l’infini (2007) [In progress]
Design (of letters, page and book), alphabets & artists’ books
Anne Bertier, Anne Dessine-moi une lettre(2004)
Roberto de Vicq de Cumptich, Bembo’s Zoo: An Animal ABC Book (2000)
Felice Feliciano & Jason Dewinetz, Alphabetum Romanum: The Letterforms of Felice Feliciano (c. 1460, 2010)
Jeff Morin & Steven Ferlauto, Sacred Space (2003)
Andrew Morrison, Two Wood Press A-Z (2020
David Pelletier, The Graphic Alphabet (1996)
Bruce Rogers, Champ rosé(1933)
Kevin Steele, The Movable Book of Letterforms(2009) [In progress]
Sharon Werner & Sharon Forss, Alphabeasties (2009)