Books On Books Collection – Felice Feliciano

Alphabetum Romanum (c. 1460)

Alphabetum Romanum: The Letterforms of Felice Feliciano
Felice Feliciano (c. 1460)
Jason Dewinetz, drafting/printing (2010) and Mark Cockram, bookbinding (2022)
Boxed and casebound, sewn. Box: 222 x 172 x 30 mm. Book: 202 x 155 mm. 82 pages. Sheets acquired from designer/publisher. Binding acquired from designer book binder.
Photos: Books On Books Collection.

One of the pleasures of collecting alphabet-related works and living close to Oxford University is the opportunity to place new work next to older ones. An added pleasure in this case is seeing a new work made newer by a designer bookbinder.

As the foreword and afterword to this work explain, Jason Dewinetz’s redrawing of Felice Feliciano’s letterforms (c. 1460) was in fact prompted by two 20th century responses to Feliciano’s original: the first being Giovanni Mardersteig’s edition in 1960 at Editiones Officinae Bodoni and the second, also overseen by Mardersteig, being the facsimile edition issued by Jaca Book Codici over 1985-87 and separately by Belser Verlag in 1985. The Bodleian Library has both the Officinae Bodoni and Belser editions. An opportunity too good to miss and one worth sharing.

Left: Dewinetz edition. Center: Feliciano’s original in the Vatican facsimile. Right: Officinae Bodoni edition. Photo: Books On Books.

Dewinetz does not reproduce Feliciano’s commentary. His aim is to focus attention entirely on the letters. Although he has restricted his re-presentation of the letters to the recto page (whereas in Feliciano’s original, the letters after A occupy the verso and recto), he is too clever a designer not to find a way to capture the one instance in which Feliciano’s letter drawing and double-page spread interact entertainingly.

For the opening of Paul F. Gehl’s foreword, Dewinetz captures the dramatic flourish of Feliciano’s Q,
whose tail crosses the double-page spread in his original. See below. Photos: Books On Books.

From the Vatican facsimile, Feliciano’s double-page spread with Q and S. Photo: Books On Books.

What happened to the letter R? Feliciano must have felt the need to give it its own double-page spread to show off a variation in coloring and tails. Like Mardersteig, Dewinetz gives the Rs each their own page. Unlike Mardersteig (and Feliciano), he places the Rs in correct alphabetical order.

Feliciano’s letter Rs from the Vatican facsimile. Photo: Books On Books.

Dewinetz’s re-drawing Q,R,R,S. Photo: Books On Books Collection.

Mardersteig follows Feliciano’s disrupted alphabetical order, but for Q and S to keep to a design that places each letter on a recto page facing a schematic drawing on the verso, Mardersteig has to forego the center-crossing tail of the Q and place S on a separate insert leaf.

Mardersteig’s QSRR sequence in the Ediciones Officinae Bodoni edition. Photo: Books On Books.

As a designer bookbinder, Mark Cockram has a deft eye and touch as he looks for and executes the designs inspired by the text. He could not resist Dewinetz’s cropped Q from the foreword by Paul F. Gehl. Taking his Q (as it were) however from the Goudy display font, he gives it a deserved prominence, stamped in black, on the double-trayed box’s spine. The choice of a different font reminds me of Eric Gill’s quip: “letter designing is still an occupation worthy of the enthusiasm of rational beings, and, though a Q which were all queue & no Q would be ‘past a joke’, it is difficult to say exactly where a tail should end”.

Left photo: Courtesy of Mark Cockram. Right photo: Books On Books Collection.

Apparently it was a tail of which Cockram could not let go. Further echoing Dewinetz’s cropping, truncated letter forms peek through the Palimpsest Parchment with which the book itself is bound (flat back). They are laserprinted on hand colored papers, colors inspired by those used in the book. Cockram also echoes the book’s color “ghosting” on the box by layering blank strips of hand colored papers beneath the cloth during the making process. The color-echoes between box and book continue with the box’s interior.

Photos: Books On Books Collection.

The handsome bindings of the Vatican facsimile and Mardersteig edition have stood up to their library existence. In muted tones and gilt, they speak to the design esthetics of a different era.

Vatican facsimile binding

Officinae Bodoni edition binding

When the Dewinetz/Cockram edition joins the Vatican facsimile and Officinae Bodoni edition at the Bodleian, students of lettering, type design, bookmaking and bookbinding and their history will have a feast of an opportunity to compare and contrast.

Further Reading

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

Gill, Eric. 1931. An essay on typography. London: Sheed & Ward.

Feliciano, Felice, & Mardersteig, Giovanni. 1985. Alphabetum romanum: Vat. Lat. 6852 : Aus der Bibliotheca Apostolica Vaticana (Codices e Vaticanis selecti ; v. 70). Zürich: Belser Verlag.

Feliciano, Felice, Mardersteig, G., & Ferrari, O. 1960. Alphabetum Romanum (Ital. ed.] ed., Biblioteca apostolica vaticana. Mss. (Cod. Vat. 6852)). Verona: Officinae Bodoni.

Books On Books Collection – Jeffrey Morin & Steven Ferlauto

Sacred Space (2003)

Sacred Space (2003)
Jeffrey Morin and Steven Ferlauto
Book: Reduction linoleum prints with typographic illustrations using overprinting of letterforms; open spine sewn with brown cord binding; brown cloth-covered boards; title and design on front board; endpapers of handmade paper from Nepal. Book: 6 x 14.25″; 17 leaves.
Chapel kit: Six walls, roof, base. Walls: copper rod skeleton with Okawara rice paper skin covered with a casting resin. Book and kit housed in wooden box. Roof copper-leafed Davey board. Roof forms the tray in which the book rests. Base: Box lid becomes the base for the chapel. Brass holes in the base allow the rods to fit exactly. Print pattern on the base becomes the floor pattern. Box painted with copper leaf. Sculpture base 15.75 x 11.5″, height 12″.
Edition of 35, of which this is #23. Acquired from Vamp & Tramp, 7 February 2021.
Photos of the work: Books On Books Collection.

Jeffrey Morin calls Sacred Space an extension of Steven Ferlauto’s research into the role of geometry in the development of the Roman alphabet. As noted in Ferlauto’s site, this included the works by Fra Luca Pacioli (1509) and Geoffroy Tory(1529). Other works to consider include those by Giovannino de’ Grassi (1390-1405), Felice Feliciano (1463), Damianus Moyllus (1483), Hartmann Schedel (1498-1507), the Newberry Master (after 1498), Sigismondo Fanti (1514), Francesco Torniello (1517), Albrecht Dürer (1525) and Giovan Battisti Verini (1526). Morin and Ferlauto first displayed the artistic result of that research in The Sacred Abecedarium (2000).

To access sources for each, click on the images above.

The Sacred Abecedarium (1999)
Steven Ferlauto & Jeffrey Morin
Photo: University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, Special Collections. Displayed with permission of the artists.

To access the source, click here.

But Sacred Space is more than an extension. It is an intimate monument of book art. Made intimate by the content and texture of its book, made more intimate by the viewer’s having to construct the chapel. Made monumental by the echo of typographic history, made more monumental in Galileo Galilei’s echo from its floor: Mathematics is the alphabet with which God has created the universe.

The book “attaches” to the structure in several ways. For its epigraph, the book uses Galilei’s actual words that led to those attributed to him and appearing on the floor of the chapel, and when stored away, the underside of the chapel’s roof serves as storage for the book. Following the epigraph in the book, three passages appear, sharing impressions of three different sacred spaces: William Bunce’s description of a plexiglas hunting shack on an island in a Canadian lake, Thomas Merton’s prayer on the hermitage in Kentucky, and Mother Maria Marthe‘s plan for her “shapel” in Lilies of the Field by William E. Barrett. Three very different sets of words create three very different settings on the common ground of oblong pages of papers made with Siberian iris leaf fiber at the Root River Mill in Wisconsin. Difference and commonality strike a recurring theme that links book and structure.

The book’s description of the shack’s sloping roof and its plexiglas walls echoes but contrasts with the chapel’s sloping roof and translucent panels. A shack (or “shapel”) may differ from a chapel and still have common physical features. The sans serif letters, linocut-printed and jumbled in the book’s gutter, echo but contrast with the serif letters, inkjet-printed and geometrically placed on the panels.

Okawara rice paper attached to the silver-soldered copper frame with epoxy resin created a shallow tray into which polymer coating was poured. In this process, the otherwise flimsy rice paper, which contrasts with the fibrous, opaque handmade paper of the book, assumes a stiff plasticity in common with the shack’s plexiglas and becomes the chapel walls set into brass-lined holes in the wooden base. The roofs may slope in common, but the chapel’s copper-leafed davey board roof contrasts with the shack’s clear one, down which birds skitter when trying to land. Despite its apparent metallic solidity, the chapel roof sits loosely on the front and rear panels, exerting a stabilizing pressure, whereas the shack’s plexiglas roof is fixed to a single roof beam.

The chapel’s structure, its stained-glass-like walls, patterned floor and copper-leafing echo Thomas Merton’s prayer, which is sandwiched between the humorous hunters and Mother Maria Marthe, just as the structure is sandwiched between its shack-like roof and wooden platform. In its text and construction, Sacred Space seems to say sacred spaces occur in the spaces in between — even where letter meets surface.

Further Reading

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

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

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

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

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

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

Paul Noble“, Books On Books Collection, 20 April 2021.

Johann David Steingruber“, Books On Books Collection, 20 April 2021.

Barrett, William E. 1962/1985. Lilies of the field. New York: Warner Books.

Bunce, William. n.d. Description provided to Caren Heft (Root River Mill). “Sacred Space“, sailorBOYpress. Accessed 10 March 2021.

Dürer, Albrecht, and Walter L. Strauss. The Painter’s Manual : A Manual of Measurement of Lines, Areas, and Solids by Means of Compass and Ruler Assembled by Albrecht Dürer for the Use of All Lovers of Art with Appropriate Illustrations Arranged to Be Printed in the Year MDXXV. New York: Abaris, 1977. Print.

Feliciano, Felice, and Giovanni Mardersteig. Alphabetum Romanum. Engl. Ed.] ed. Verona: Editiones Officinae Bodoni, 1960. Print.

Grassi, Giovannino de’. 1390-1405/1961. Taccuino di disegni. [Bergamo]: Edizioni “Monumenta bergomensia”.

Gray, Nicolete. 2005. “The Newberry Alphabet and the revival of the Roman capital in fifteenth-century Italy”, Typography Papers. Vol. 6.

Looze, Laurence de. 2018. The Letter and the Cosmos: How the Alphabet Has Shaped the Western View of the World. Toronto: University of Toronto Press.

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.

Merton, Thomas, and Jonathan Montaldo. 2001. Dialogues with silence: prayers & drawings. San Francisco: HarperSanFrancisco.

Pacioli, Luca, Antonio Capella, Leonardo, and Piero. 1509. Divina proportione opera a tutti glingegni perspicaci e curiosi necessaria oue ciascun studioso di philosophia, prospectiua pictura sculpura, architectura, musica, e altre mathematice, suauissima, sottile, e admirabile doctrina consequira, e delectarassi, cõ varie questione de secretissima scientia. M. Antonio Capella eruditiss. recensente. [Venetiis]: A. Paganius Paganinus characteribus elegantissimis accuratissime imprimebat.

Torniello, Francisco. 1517. Opera del modo de fare le littere maiuscole antique, con mesura de circino: & resone de penna. Composita per Francisco Torniello da Nouaria scriptore professo. Milano: Gotardo qual de libri e stampatore: dicto da Ponte. Ambrosiana Library.

Tory, Geoffroy. 1529. Champ fleury: au quel est contenu lart & science de la deue & vraye proportio[n] des lettres attiques, quo[n] dit autreme[n]t lettres antiques, & vulgairement lettres romaines proportionnees selon le corps & visage humain. [Paris]: A vendre a Paris sus Petit Pont a Lenseigne du Pot Casse par Maistre Geofroy Tory de Bourges … et par Giles Gourmont … en la Rue sainct Iaques a Lenseigne des Trois Coronnes.

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.