Books On Books Collection – Martín Gubbins

Alfabeto (2017)

Alfabeto (2017)
Martín Gubbins
Hardback. 180 x 180 mm. 60 pages. Acquired from Naranja Publicaciones, 28 July 2022.
Photos: Books On Books Collection.

Each letter of the Spanish alphabet is printed in sans serif across a full page to create a grid-like or plaid-like pattern. All letters are printed once in black on white paper and twice in white on black paper; with sheets facing one another. For the English-speaking reader, that’s a bonus of two pages for the ñ.

Held at normal reading length, the double-page spreads do have a plaid effect, but inspected closely, the effect becomes that of wire mesh from which the letters leap out from the less tightly woven spots.

Unsurprisingly the plaids are as distinct from, and similar to, one another as letter shapes are. Sometimes, as with the letter b, an illusion of three dimensionality takes hold.

The most surprising — though they should not be — are the letters i and l. With no crossbar, bowl or curve, they cannot create a plaid pattern. Rather, their black on white, white on black patterns look like barcodes.

Gubbins One of the founding members of the Foro de Escritores (www.fde.cl) Chilean version of Bob Cobbing’s Writers Forum in London, and noted figure in the avant-garde poetry scene in Latin America. Gubbins has collaborated with the American poet and artist John M. Bennett, in whose honor

Some visual artists call this kind of work a “tapuscript“. Some throw it together under the heading of language art or concrete or visual poetry. Karl Kempton prefers the term “visual text art” over any other. Conceding the term to cover the broad genre, works like Alfabeto that cover the entire alphabet in sequence — or even play with its sequence — might deserve the sub generic term “visual alphabet art”. Kempton himself, Roberto de Vicq de Cumptich, Raffaella della Olga, Sharon Werner & Sharon Forss — as well as many of the artists in Victoria Bean and Chris McCabe’s anthology and those in Philip Davenport’s — surely provide a sufficient number of examples.

Further Reading

Bean, Victoria, and Chris McCabe. 2016. The new concrete: visual poetry in the 21st century. London: Hayward Publishing.

Davenport, Philip. 2013. The dark would: anthology of language art. Manchester-Berlin: Apple Pie Editions.

Kempton, Karl. 2018. A History of Visual Text Art. Manchester-Berlin: Apple Pie Editions. Accessed 15 December 2020.

Olga, Raffaella della“. Books On Books Collection. For “tapuscript”.

Books On Books Collection – Roberto de Vicq de Cumptich

Bembo’s Zoo: An Animal ABC Book (2000)

Bembo’s Zoo: An Animal ABC Book (2000)
Roberto de Vicq de Cumptich
Hardback. H222 x W340 x D1.0 mm, 32 pages.

Each animal is drawn using the Roman letters of the Bembo font family, based on a letter cut by Francesco Griffo (1450-1518) for the Venetian printer for Aldus Manutius (1450-1515) and named after the prolific Renaissance scholar Pietro Bembo (1470-1547). Stanley Morison (1889-1967) revived the font while at the Monotype Corporation.

For the Books On Books Collection, Bembo’s Zoo is a light-hearted reminder of the abecedaries and typographic themes of more serious works.

Further Reading

Abecedaries ( (in progress), Books On Books Collection, 31 March 2020.

Aldus Manutius, 6 February 1515 – 6 February 2015“, Bookmarking Book Art, 8 February 2015.

Heavenly Monkey“, Books On Books Collection, 23 November 2020. For a bio-bibliography of Francesco Griffo.

More Manutius in Manchester and More to Come“, Bookmarking Book Art, 1 June 2015.