Books On Books Collection – Johannes Lencker

Perspectiva Literaria (1567/1972)

Perspectiva Literaria (1557/1972)
Johannes Lencker, Ed. Eberhard Fiebig
Perfect bound paperback. H235 x W197 mm. 60 unnumbered pages. Acquired from Antiquariat Bernard Richter, 11 November 2021.
Photo: Books On Books Collection.

About a dozen institutions hold copies of the 1567 original from which this 1972 facsimile was made. They list Johannes (or Hans) Lencker (German, active by 1551–died 1585) as the author and Matthias Zündt (German, probably ca. 1498–1572) as the artist, meaning engraver. Lencker’s hand lies behind the book’s images and Perspektivische Buchstaben (“Perspectival Letters“), a pen and brown ink and wash print auctioned in 2019.

Perspektivische Buchstaben
Johannes Lencker
Pen and brown ink and wash. 289 x 182 mm. From Mutual Art.

Portrait of the Nuremberg Goldsmith Hans Lencker (1523-1585) and his 9-year old son Elisius the Younger (1570)
Nicolas Neufchâtel (1533-1587)
National Gallery of Denmark, Copenhagen.

Lencker and Zündt’s achievements with perspective, letters and geometric shapes stand on the shoulders of Leonardo da Vinci (ca. 1490) and Albrecht Dürer (1525), just as theirs stand on those of the rediscoverers of linear perspective: Filippo Brunelleschi (1415), Leon Battista Alberti (1435) and Piero della Francesco (ca.1460). Lencker’s originality lay in designing his letters as solids leaning against geometrical solids and resting on a horizontal shelf. The shelf’s thick, grainy fore edge and the thin parallel line above it, suggesting the shelf’s intersection with a blank wall, set up a field of depth in which the geometrical models’ mass and shape set off the three-dimensionality of the foreshortened letters balanced on and against them. Some letters’ feet and edges seem to enter the viewer’s space, an effect enhanced by a hand-colored version of the original. Sadly the facsimile contains no examples of the hand-colored images.

Perspectiva literaria. Das ist ein clerliche fürreyssung wie man alle Buchstaben des gantzen Alphabets… in die Perspectif einer flachen Ebnen bringen mag (1567)
After drawings by Hans Lencker, engraved by Matthias Zündt
Limp binding in vellum. H307 x W200 mm. 21 of 22 plates.
From Bonhams auction, 19 August 2020.

From 1972 facsimile.

These are not letters for calligraphic or typographic use. They are objects the viewer wants to touch, pick up and play with — something that can also be found in works by Takenobu Igarashi, Ji Lee and Johnson Banks.

Further Reading

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

Boeckeler Erika Mary. 2017. Playful Letters : A Study in Early Modern Alphabetics. Iowa City: University of Iowa Press.

Fahn M. 2019. Christoph, Zacharias und Johannes Lencker: Studien zum Werk einer augsburger Goldschmiedefamilie um 1600 (dissertation). Frankfurt-am-Main: Peter Lang.

Morley, Madeleine. 4 October 2016. “Berlin’s Buchstabenmuseum is the World’s First Collection of 3D Lettering“. Eye on Design(AIGA). Accessed 31 August 2022.