Books On Books Collection – Paulus Franck

Schatzkammer Allerhand Versalien (1601/1995)

Schatzkammer Allerhand Versalien (1601/1995)
Paulus Franck
Facsimile edition created by Joseph Kiermeier-Debre and Fritz Franz Vogel as part of the boxed set Alphabets Buchstaben Calligraphy, published by Ravensburger Buchverlag (1998). Hardback. H275 x W255 mm, 80 pages. Acquired from Antiquariat Terrahe & Oswald, 14 March 2021. Photos: Books On Books Collection.

Little is known of Paulus Franck himself (although the editors reveal a Caravaggesque manslaughter charge in his home town of Memmingen), so the focus rests mainly on Schatzkammer, Allerhand Versalien Lateinisch vnnd Teutsch: allen Cantzleyen Schreibstuben Notaren Schreibern vnd denen so sich des zierlichen schreibens befleissigen zudienst vnd wolgefallen von neüen in Druckh also verferttiget (as the full title goes). The editors position Franck’s Treasury in the context of the phenomena of the writing master, penmanship and calligraphy from 1500 to 1800, even regaling the reader with tales of poor Franck’s castigation by Nuremberg’s calligraphic dynasty the Neudörffers. The editors neatly use the margins of their book to add to the historical context. Below, on the verso pages, they have the geometrically controlled design of Albrecht Durer (1525), and on the recto, the exuberance of John Seddon (1695).

One element not extolled by the editors is the printing from woodcuts. The quality of the woodcuts can be better appreciated by looking at the scanned original available from the Bayerische Staats Bibliothek (BSB). Conveniently, the site BibliOdyssey has downloaded the letters and provided additional links. At his Type Design Information Page, Luc Devroye also reproduces Franck’s ornate letters from the 1601 manual as well as from a later volume produced by Paul Fürst (better known for his print “Der Doctor Schnabel von Rom“) and printed by Christoph Gerhard in 1655.

This facsimile of Franck’s Treasury makes up one of four volumes in a box set, edited by Joseph Kiermeier-Debre and Fritz Franz Vogel. The other three present works by Antonio Basoli, Johann Theodor de Bry and Johann David Steingruber. To see Franck’s continuing influence, visit the collection entry on Tauba Auerbach.

Further Reading

Tauba Auerbach“, Books On Books Collection, 23 March 2021.

Johann Theodor de Bry“, Books On Books Collection, 2021.

Jeffrey Morin“, Books On Books Collection, 23 April 2021.

Richard Niessen“, Books On Books Collection, 23 April 2021.

Paul Noble“, Books On Books Collection, 23 April 2021.

Devroye, Luc. n.d. “Paulus Franck“. Type Design Information Page. Accessed 20 March 2022.

Peacay. 17 December 2013. “Uppercase Treasure“, BibliOdyssey. Accessed 19 March 2022.


Books On Books Collection – Tauba Auerbach

How to Spell the Alphabet (2007)

How to Spell the Alphabet (2007)
Tauba Auerbach
H255 x W220 mm, 112 pages. Acquired from Zubal Books, 26 October 2021.
Photos: Books On Books Collection. Displayed with artist’s permission.

Auerbach writes in her preface:

The intention of this work is to take an inquisitive look at language, and to apply the unique properties of the system to the system itself. Subjecting language to its own idiosyncrasies and inconsistencies in iteration after iteration in turn brings about major changes and remarkable patterns. … My focus on the flaws or glitches of language is not in the spirit of criticism, but in the interest of cultivating a new idea of possibility or perfection.

It is also in the spirit of artistic playfulness. “How to Spell the Alphabet” is the title of one of Auerbach’s best-known works. A work of ink and pencil on paper (2005), it begins “EY BEE CEE DEE” and was featured in MoMA’s “Ecstatic Alphabet” exhibition (6 May – 27 August 2012). That shows just one way in which How to Spell the Alphabet‘s artistic playfulness makes the letters of the alphabet ecstatic (“to stand outside themselves”). In keeping with the book’s cover and the name of Auerbach’s publishing operation established in 2013 (Diagonal Press), each of those ways adds another angle, another way into, another perspective on her work. This entry, however, deals with only one of them: what Auerbach calls “letter worship”. Expanding on that, she writes:

These pieces are an exaggeration of the slowness of hand-drawing letters. Taking several weeks to draw, each one is a meditation on the form of a single letter on its own, isolated from meaning or context. … These specific letters are inspired by a German alphabet designed by Paulus Franck in 1601. In the tradition of illuminated manuscripts, such an ornamental font treats each letter both as an object of worship and as a means of expressing worship towards what is written. But … they are also an expression of the idea that celebration — in this case, through embellishment — can lead to obliteration. They are meant to teeter on the edge of decipherability, oscillating between legibility and abstraction.

“A” by Tauba Auerbach (left) and Paulus Franck (right). Photos: Books On Books Collection.

“E” by Auerbach (left); “E” and “F” by Franck (center); “F” by Auerbach (right).

“I” by Auerbach (left) and by Franck (right).

“Q” by Auerbach (left); “Q” and “R” by Franck (center); “R” by Auerbach.

That reference to oscillation between legibility and abstraction also draws attention to Auerbach’s fascination with helix-like and chiral (handedness) images and phenomena, which lies at the heart of her major 2021-22 exhibition and even finds expression in its title SvZ. Auerbach’s work oscillates between the world of the alphabet and the world of science and math, just as the letter and the world oscillate when we grasp at the meaning of their relationship.

NO (2005) (left); Stacking (NO) (2007) and Stacking (YES) (2007) (center); YES (2005)(left).Photos: Courtesy of Tauba Auerbach.

Further Reading

Abecedaries I (in progress)“, Books On Books Collection, 31 March 2020 to present.

Paulus Franck“, Books On Books Collection, 23 March 2022.

Auerbach, Tauba. 2020. Tauba Auerbach: S v Z. San Francisco, CA: San Francisco Museum of Modern Art.

Bravo, Tony. 23 December 2021. “Science and Math Entwined with Art”, San Francisco Chronicle.

Jones, Caroline A. November 2021. “Tauba Medium”, ArtForum.

Franck, Paulus, and Joseph Kiermeier-Debre. 1998. Schatzkammer Allerhand Versalien. Ravensburg: Ravensburger Verlag.

Provan, Alexander. December 2021. “Playing Dice with the Universe”. Art in America.