Books On Books Collection – Ursula Hochuli-Gamma

26 farbige Buchstaben

26 Colored Letters

26 farbige Buchstaben (1986) / “26 Colored Letters
Ursula Hochuli-Gamma
Afterword Rolf Kühni
Sewn paperbound. H240 x W152 mm. 36 unnumbered pages. Acquired from VGS Verlagsgenossenschaft, 7 June 2022.
Photos: Books On Books Collection.

Poor letter Z, even when it is giving Zen-like advice, it is relegated to the end of the queue.

Y is for ypsilon: The Ypsilon makes little sense. According to Bayern it is right in the middle.
Z is for Ziel: The destination is not as important as the journey, so we should start from the beginning.

A is for Alphabet; The alphabet belongs to those who write and to those who read.
B is for Buchstaben: All letters fix words in the past, but they also bring them back again.

Cognate words like “Alphabet” provide a clue that this gem of design and letter art is an abecedary, but since all nouns are capitalized in German, it is not that much of a clue. In the English edition of this abecedary (necessary for non-German speakers to appreciate Rolf Kühni’s afterword), these sayings are left in German to preserve the words to which the letters refer– as in B for Buchstaben (“letters”) and Z for Ziel (“destination”). Some are aphorisms (containing a grain of truth) like A, B and E. Some fall more toward religious or political dicta like F. Some play letter jokes as with Y, which is named Ypsilon in German and has been belabored in English as well for its superfluitie. The translations here are non-official and entirely amateurish, but the alternative translation for the letter E might withstand professional and alphabetic scrutiny.

E is for Einfache: The simple left much behind before it became simple. (Easy left much behind before it became easy.)
F is for Frage: The question of “peace or freedom” will sound strange to those who have no bread.

Although this is not letterpress work (typeset on a Compugraphic, printed by Typotron AG with photoliths from Litho-Service AG, both in St Gallen, Switzerland), its artwork foreshadows how the artist would use the wooden letters that her husband, Jost Hochuli, well-known book designer/typographer, rescued from a St. Gallen printer in 1993. A peek at her Metamorphose (2014) and Zeichen, Ziffern, Lettern (2015) shows how she would go on to use them for collage, painting and inspiration.

Double-page spreads from Metamorphose and Zeichen, Ziffern, Lettern (“Characters, Numbers, Letters”).

Further Reading

Given the scarcity of writing online about her work and the absence of any of her works in the British Library, Ursula Hochuli-Gamma seems under-appreciated. Her exhibitions have tended to be local to St. Gallen, but her books can be acquired from Verlagsgenossenschaft St. Gallen and some booksellers.