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 – 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. This would have likely included the works by Giovannino de’ Grassi (1390-1405), Felice Feliciano (1463), Fra Luca Pacioli (1509), Francesco Torniello (1517), Albrecht Dürer (1525) and Geoffroy Tory(1529). 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”.

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.