Books On Books Collection – Jean Holabird

Vladimir Nabokov: AlphaBet in Color (2005)

Vladimir Nabokov: AlphaBet in Color (2005)
Jean Holabird
Black cloth boards, silver lettering to spine, blind stamped lettering to front board, illustrated title label to inner board; internally bound in the Japanese style with opening overlapping boards and staggered colored pages. H175 W235 mm, 40 pages. Acquired from Klondyke (Almere NL), 11 November 2021.
Photos of the book: Books On Books.

Publisher’s statement:

Vladimir Nabokov saw rich colors in letters and sounds and noted the deficiency of color in literature, praising Gogol as the first Russian writer to truly appreciate yellow and violet. He saw q as browner than k, and s as not the light blue of c, but a curious mixture of azure and mother-of-pearl. For anyone who has ever wondered how the colors Nabokov heard might manifest themselves visually, Alphabet in Color is a remarkable journey of discovery. Jean Holabird’s interpretation of the colored alphabets of one of the twentieth century’s literary greats is a revelation. The book masterfully brings to life the charming and vibrant synesthetic colored letters that until now existed only in Nabokov’s mind. In Alphabet in Color Jean Holabird’s grasp of form and space blends perfectly with Nabokov’s idea that a subtle interaction exists between sound and shape.

As puzzling as the phenomenon of synesthesia is, Holabird’s depictions and the book’s architecture are more engaging in their own right. The lapping pages and binding make this work awkward to handle, which might be thought of as a complement to the book’s non-alphabetical and non-spectral order of letters and colors. It is a warm complement to Le Cadratin’s cool rendition of Rimbaud’s sonnet “Les Voyelles“.

Further Reading

William Joyce“. 18 June 2021. Books On Books Collection. Another example of graphemic-color synesthesia.

Le Cadratin“. 8 February 2022. Books On Books Collection.

Cohut, Maria. 17 August 2018. “Synesthesia: Hearing colors and tasting sounds“. Medical News Today. Accessed 2 February 2022.

Campen, Crétien van. 26 July 2012. “Bibliography: Synesthesia in Art and Science“. Leonardo. Accessed 2 February 2022.

Cytowic, Richard E. 2018. Synesthesia. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.

Books On Books Collection – Le Cadratin

Voyelles (2012)

Voyelles (1871/1883/2012)
Arthur Rimbaud
Design and direction: Jean-Renaud Dagon H325 x W235 mm, 32 unnumbered pages. Edition of 200, of which this is #67. Acquired from Le Cadratin, 6 November 2021.
Photos: Books On Books Collection.

Le Cadratin is more than a typesetting and printing house or fine press. An atelier-typographique, founded by Jean-Renaud Dagon, its artists perform tightrope acts in typography, ink, paper and form. Under Dagon’s direction, Joanne Bantick, Hugues Eynard, Nicolas Regamey and Roger Jaunin have composed and printed a rendition of Arthur Rimbaud’s sonnet “Les Voyelles” that deserves applause.

Written in 1871 by Rimbaud and first published in 1883 by Paul Verlaine, the sonnet is one of the better known historic literary examples of graphemic-color synesthesia — strongly associating a color with a letter — and in Rimbaud’s case with strong tones of eroticism. Le Cadratin’s artists leave Rimbaud’s eroticism bound to his text, handset in 28pt Roman Idéal, but deliver their own exuberance with subtle tactility and visual texture in large format wooden type using Heidelberg and Vandercook presses.

Voyelles contributes to other themes in the Books On Books Collection besides the alphabet motif. The handling of wooden type echoes David Clifford’s Letterpress Printing ABC and Andrew Morrison’s Ampersand& (2005) and Two Wood Press A-Z (2013). The synesthesia of letters is shared with Jean Holabird’s Vladimir Nabokov: AlphaBet in Color (2005)

Further Reading

David Clifford“. 15 September 2021. Books On Books Collection.

Jean Holabird“. 8 February 2022. Books On Books Collection. For a look at Vladimir Nabokov’s synesthetic alphabet.

William Joyce“. 18 June 2021. Books On Books Collection. For the more innocent end of literary synesthesia where the cold gray-black of numbers gives way to an alphabet of jelly bean colors.”William Joyce”. 202 Books On Books Collection.

Andrew Morrison“.15 September 2021. Books On Books Collection.

Etiemble, René. 1968. Le sonnet des voyelles: de l’audition colorée à la vision érotique. Paris: Gallimard.