Books On Books Collection – Kees Baart, Dick Berendes, Henk Francino and Gerard Post van der Molen

Van Hornbook tot ABC-Prentenboek (2003)

Van Hornbook tot ABC-Prentenboek (2003)
Kees Baart, Dick Berendes, Henk Francino and Gerard Post van der Molen
Double-sided leporello between two pamphlet-sewn booklets and bound between two oversized wooden hornbooks, held in an open cardboard box. H295 x W150 x D 30 mm. First booklet, 18 unnumbered pages; second booklet 8 pages; 52 panels. Edition of 135. Acquired from Fokas Holthuis, 13 September 2022.
Photos: Books On Books Collection. Displayed with permission of the artists.

From Hornbook to ABC Picture Book was organized by four members of the Corps 8 collective. They issued it with the financial backing of the Zeeuwse Nederland Bibliotheek and under the auspices of Drukwerk in de Marge (Printing in the Margin), a foundation established in 1975 by likeminded amateur printers and publishers. Drukwerk in de Marge recalls The Typophiles, a similar group founded in the 1930s in New York that attracted great talents like Frederic Goudy, Bruce Rogers and Beatrice Warde. Like Drukwerk in de Marge, The Typophiles stimulated quirky publications. One of them — Diggings of Many Ampersandhogs (almost the last word on the ampersand) — resides in the Books On Books Collection and, until now, lacked an appropriate partner covering the preceding twenty-six characters of the alphabet.

Van Hornbook includes four brief essays. Following in the footsteps of Andrew White Tuer’s History of the Horn-Book, the first two — “Van Hornbook & Haneboek” / “Of Hornbook & Handbook” and “Van Beeldalfabet & ABC-Prentenboek” / “Of Picture Alphabet & ABC Picture Book” –provide historical context for the format and its successors. Only four hornbooks have survived in the Netherlands, dating from the eighteenth century, so like Tuer, Van Hornbook‘s essayists rely on images from popular historical prints to show the hornbook’s appearance and handling. To the three hundred illustrations of History of the Horn-Book, the Nederlanders add this:

So, Master Jordje!
With AB boardje
And cane on high.
Your earnest weening
Leaves children keening
As school draws nigh!

The print dates to 1785. The Dutch collective’s undertaking and their contributors’ offerings for the leporello are all the more notable for such a narrow historical margin on which to build.

The work’s four editors have the last say with “Verantwoording” / “Explanation”, which is an extended run-up to the colophon. The leporello is printed on 180 gms Antik Gerippt Bütten by Hahnemühle, and the essays are on 130 gms. The heavier weight of the leporello’s panels must have been an open invitation for the contributors to show off. Aside from the constraint of print area, the “Hornbook preparation group” seems to have imposed only one other layout requirement: that each double-panel spread display the same horn-book shape on its left-hand panel. As the images below show, this was just the right touch of uniformity to spark rather than impede the contributors’ creativity and individuality.

In English, the text beneath the two images here reads “A is an Augustin, the standard size in letterpress. An Augustin is equal to a cicero and has twelve points. Two Augustins and 2.5 points equal one centimeter.” Under the image of the shoe, Silvia Zwaaneveldt (De Baaierd, Leiden) converts into points the traditional measure for the “foot”: a foot would equal the size of the king’s foot, which eventually was standardized to twelve inches, which — to save us from chasing after Willem-Alexander or Charles III with a pica stick — is 72 Augustins.

In their contribution for the letter B, Dick Wessels and Ferrie van Ramele invent a fictitious typeface Barbaar, named to allow them an extended joke about the outsider (or barbarian) status of Margedrukkers among traditional printers. If the Dutch reader misses the tongue-in-cheekiness of the entry, the colophon gives away the game:

Realisatie: BYpers, een gelegenheidsinitiatief van Dick Wessels en Ferrie van Ramele. Letters: Barbaar en Yplex (beleg) en Lectura (brood). / “Realization: BYpers, an occasional initiative of Dick Wessels and Ferrie van Ramble. Letters: Barbaar and Yplex (icing) and Lectura (cake).”

Elze ter Harkel (De Vier Seizoenen, Groningen) concocts two panels of verbal and visual puns on the letter C. The alliterative wordplay in the doggerel of “Confetti” is too Dutch and deliberately nonsensical for a satisfactory replica in English, but its reference to cellulose is a clue to the visual papermaking pun in the C’s bubbling up from the pulp vat next to it. Also referring to paper, the panels’ best pun hides in the last altered word of Cicero’s saying “Charta non erubescit“. This is usually translated as “Documents don’t blush”, meaning you can express opinions in print you might blush to express in person, but charta also means “paper”. With the “e” changed to a “c” in the last word, the Latin now means “crumble”. So, it’s “Paper doesn’t crumble”, which ought to make the winking punster blush a little.

Antje Veldstra (Antje Veldstra Grafiek, Groningen) is an award-winning woodcut artist. Almost all of the X-words in her couplet are the Latin names for trees: Taxodium distichum (Bald Cypress), Larix (Larch), Quercus Ilex (Holm Oak), Taxus (Yew) and Salix caprea (Goat Willow). The first two words, however, — xeno and xylo — are prefixes. The first means “alien,” “strange” or “guest” as in xenophobia (“fear of foreigners”). The second means “wood” as in xylography (“the art of engraving on wood or of printing from woodblocks”). But what is so strange or alien about these trees? The clue is in the background (lower left) of the birch print. Those are runes, the ancient marks of mystery and secret language. The most easily distinguished are (called Gebo, associated with gift and fortuitous outcome) and (called Ehwaz, associated with horse and movement). In her craft, Veldstra, however, does not leave us with the ancients. The last entry — en bovenal Russisch berkentriplex — is Russian birch plywood, commonly used for engraving.

If there remains any doubt about the tone of the entry for B by Dick Wessels and Ferrie van Ramele, consider their entry for Y.

Y is a special case. Eccentric and rare, barely good for a few pages in the dictionary: it owes its survival perhaps mainly to the strength of conventions and the cultural-historical significance of the alphabet as a whole. Without this support, the Y might have already been killed off, on the advice of a government committee that concluded that we could very well make do with the IJ. Economical and transparent, entirely in keeping with contemporary principles.

But so balanced in form, standing firmly on one foot and evoking thoughts of a glass of sparkling red wine, a vase of roses, arms raised to heaven…. Such a letter deserves to be preserved and added with its own name to the ever-expanding stage of letter designs! The Yplex represents the strength and beauty of the marginal figures among the letters of the alphabet, a few of which we still find in this hornbook.

Although still a marginal appearance, that will soon change after the publication of this hornbook. In the register of the new edition of Groenendaal’s Printing Letters, the Yplex will be the only one shining under the Y. Stand by for the Yplex!”

The last letter of the alphabet bedevils abecedarians in every language. Sjaklien Euwals settles on zetduiveltje: “typesetter’s or printer’s little devil”. Word for word in English, the caption reads “Z is the typesetter’s little devil that will not let me loose”. The image rules out the English expression “printer’s devil”, which refers to the printshop apprentice. Euwals’ little devil is the green and red gremlin who leans over her shoulder, grabs her wrist and makes her drop letters from her composing stick. In other words, the imp on whom to blame typographical errors. To capture Sjaklien Euwals’ humor in translation, we might have to go with “Z iz the typezetter’z gremlin that won’t let looze.”

Given the affinity between artists’ books and children’s books (particularly alphabet books), it is surprising how few works of book art pay homage to the form of the horn-book. Van Hornbook tot ABC-Prentenboek sets a high bar. Perhaps increased awareness of it will prime the pump for primers.

Further Reading/Viewing

Elder Futhark“. Last edited 11 August 2022. Wikipedia. Accessed 27 October 2022.

Tuer, Andrew White. 1897. History of the Horn-Book. London: Leadenhall Press.

Books On Books Collection – The Last Word on the Ampersand

Isn’t it surprising that, given the greater frequency in human discourse of “yeah, but” over “yeah, and”, we can write “yeah, &”, but there is no logogram for “but”? No one can say that the last word has been said, written, printed or had about the ampersand. Someone will always be ready to append an & … but that has not stifled many an attempt. Apparently they have occurred every twenty years or so since 1936.

The Typophiles (based in New York and now a non-profit) organized the first attempt. Typographer Frederic W. Goudy and calligrapher Paul Standard contributed serious pamphlets on the subject to otherwise whimsical entries in this now rare portfolio volume: Diggings from Many Ampersandhogs (1936).

Some twenty years later along comes Jan Tschichold’s A Brief History of the Ampersand (1957), initially in German in 1953), which reproduced and updated Goudy’s set of examples and deepened the scholarship on the subject.

After Tschichold’s “last word”, The Ampersand Club (yes, there is one) invited one of its distinguished members — Rutherford Aris, Professor of Chemical Engineering (and Classics!) at the University of Minnesota — to attempt another “last word” in 1980.

While there are a few publications falling around 1999/2000, nothing approaches the colophonic status of the Typophiles’, Tschichold’s or the Ampersanders’ efforts. It’s not as if ampersand aficionados were running out of &s. Consider Robert Slimbach’s Poetica™️ (1992), his family of type that boasts 62 different ampersands.

Robert Slimbach’s 62 ampersands in the Poetica™️ family

Jumping the gun on 2020, we have both the 2018 reissued edition of Tschichold’s “last word” on the subject and Ray Czapkowski‘s 2019 celebration of the Diggings of Many Ampersandhogs. It is somewhat fitting that the publisher of the reissue of Tschichold is named ~zeug, which is the German suffix appended to a verb to indicate the instrument for carrying out the verb’s activity — e.g., Spielen (to play), Spielzeug (toy). And entirely fitting, too, that ~zeug could not resist the urge to make up a deluxe version by adding Et & Ampersands: A Contemporary Collection to Tschichold’s A Brief History.

By definition, the Velvetyne/~zeug catalogue is not a last word, and its cataloging of newly designed ampersands attests to the ongoing “and-ness” of letter design, which brings us to the first item in this sub-collection within Books On Books …

Hungry Dutch (2020)

Hungry Dutch: A Typographic Adventure (2016)

Russell Maret

Maret’s pattern, matrix and punch for the Hungry Dutch ampersand came into the collection in 2020 as recognition of Books On Books’ contributing sponsorship of the design and manufacture of the typeface.

… & … A Brief History of the Ampersand (2018)

Jan Tsichichold

… & … The Ampersand in Script and Print (1980)

The Ampersand in Script & Print: An Essay in Honour of the Ampersand Club on the Occasion of its Semicentenary (1980)

Rutherford Aris

The endnoting to the pages displaying the numbered ampersands suits the publication of this scholarly “after-dinner” speech, which has one rocking back & forth between typographical puns and paleographical insights.

… & … Ampersand& (2006)

Ampersand& (2006)

Andrew Morrison

Board covers with a Caslon paper wrapper, cased over eleven linen-taped handsewn leaves of Somerset 300gsm, eleven images printed on a Vandercook proofing press. H175 x W180 mm. Acquired from the artist, 5 May 2020.

Printers have affection for the ampersand, not just because of its usefulness in shortening lines and in embellishing spaces, but also, I believe, because of its uniquely human shape; in one stroke it describes us, becomes a human pictogram. Placed together, ampersands appear endlessly various and take on human characteristics of slovenliness, arrogance, timidity and flamboyance. Ben Shahn said that the letters of the alphabet have an “austere dignity”, the ampersand in woodblock form, by contrast, is avuncular and buoyant. The book is a small celebration of the alphabet’s twenty-seventh letter and of design improvisation and characterisation within one simple symbolic form.
It’s hard to identify all the fonts used as many wooden fonts are local variations of standard faces but the book includes Cheltenham, Windsor, Gill, Grotesque and Caslon as well as some ampersands hand cut for this production. The text on the final page is hand set in Albertus.
— Information provided by the artist.

… & … The Well-Travelled Ampersand (2017)

The Well-Travelled Ampersand (2015-17)

Jennifer Farrell

Book: Dustjacket and case over perfect binding of 34 pages, offset, multiple edition. 178 x 178 mm. Portfolio: Sleeve of gray French Kraftone encasing 16 prints on white French Kraftone. 305 x 305 mm. Edition of 50, of which this is #42. Acquired from the artist, 5 May 2020. Photos: Courtesy of the artist.

The book (2017) comes in response to interest in Farrell’s portfolio of sixteen prints of celebrated designers’ ampersands (2015-17). Farrell has constructed each designer’s ampersand with ornaments and flourishes carefully locked into shape with typesetting furniture forms. Each also contains images composed of ornaments, and each conveys the city or country associated with the original designer or typeface. The artist has provided extensive commentary and numerous photos here and here.

London: Johnston Underground (1916) Edward Johnston. Photo: Books On Books Collection.

Paris: Frutiger (1976) Adrian Frutiger. Photo: Books On Books Collection.

Switzerland: Sonnenzimmer (2015) Nick Butcher & Nadine Nakanishi. Photo: Books On Books Collection.

Further Reading (& Viewing)

300&65 Ampersands” (NL: Ampersandampersand, ND). Accessed 19 June 2020.

Aris, Rutherford. The ampersand in script & print : an essay in honour of the Ampersand Club on the occasion of its semicentenary ([NL]: Ampersand Club, 1980)

Banham, Rob. “Material histories: Tschichold & ampersands“, Typography & Graphic Communications, 27 October 2016.

Bennett, Paul A; Charles M Adams; Gerald D McDonald; Hellmut Lehmann-Haupt. Concerning ampersands : a typophilic inquisition (New York: Typophiles, 1936)

Brodribb, Conant. & : the handy ampersand (Oxford : Demi-Griffin Press, 1987)

Cary, Jr., Melbert B. Some new light on the genesis of the ampersand (New York: Press of the Woolly Whale, 1936)

Czapkowski, Ray. “Ands & Ampersands”, American Printing History Association, 28 November 2019. On Goudy’s pamphlet and Diggings of Many Ampersands.

Eckmair, Frank C., and Edward O Smith, My nice little ampersand in American wood type, 1828-1900 (Buffalo, NY: F.C. Eckmair, 1984)

Farrell, Jennifer. The Well-Travelled Ampersand (Chicago: Starshaped Press, 2017)

Finley, Morgan. Another & another & another & : twenty-four explorations of the ampersand ([NL]: [NP], 200-?)

Firefly Press. Miscellaneous ampersands from the typecases of Firefly Press (Cambridge, MA: Firefly Press, 1982)

Goudy, Frederic W. Ands & ampersands, from the first century B.C. to the twentieth A.D. (New York: Typophiles, 1936)

Heller, Robert. “The Art of the Ampersand”, Visual Communication Quarterly, v15 n1-2 (200804): 100-112.

Houston, Keith. Shady characters : ampersands, interrobangs and other typographical curiosities (London: Penguin Books, 2015) See Houston’s postings on the ampersand.

Johnston, Edward. Writing & Illuminating & Lettering, reprint edition (London: Pitman House Ltd, 1977), Plate XII and p. 408.

Koeberlin, Christoph. “Ampersand”, Typefacts, 14 April 2009.

Left Side Right Side Brain Games. “History of the & (Ampersand)”, Chalking Points: A Series on Language. Accessed 20 June 2020.

Lehmann-Haupt, Hellmut. The legend of the ampersand (New York: New York University, 1936)

Luse, Karen. An experiment in literary excavation (Portland, ME: Karen Luse, 2005). Cavity created in textblock within which sections of pages are removed to form an ampersand. book attached to painted wooden board.

McLeod, Tara. The ampersand : the character known as an ampersand is an abbreviated form of and (Auckland: Pear Tree Press, 2004)

Miller, Melvin M. The origin and historical development of the ampersand ([NL]: Design Program of the Dept. of Fine Arts at Indiana University, 1965)

Minzoni, Marco. “Ampersand: A Symbol that Refuses to Die, Pixart Printing, 6 December 2019. Accessed 8 June 2020.

Mono Lino Typesetting Co. “The ampersand is an often neglected little fellow : it can link a name to any surface, join 2 enemies & help you through a tight space …” (Toronto: Mono Lino Typesetting Co., [19–])

Morley, Christopher, and Charles McCurdy The apologia of the ampersand (New York: Powgen Press, 1936[?])

Morrison, Andrew, Ampersand& (Stroud, Gloucestershire: Andrew Morrison, 2006)

Schiller, Albert. A curious invention (New York: Advertising Agencies’ Service Company; Typophiles, 1937)

Smith, G. Roland. Ampersands & oddments : notes for a jobbing calligrapher (Tonbridge: Skriber, 2009)

Standard, Paul; Clarence Pearson Hornung; Melvin Loos. The ampersand, sign of continuity (New York: George Grady Press, [195-?])

Stricker, Thomas Perry. & cetera : symbol of oblivion (New York: Lewis A. Alliger, 1936)

Sweet, Pat. Out of the alphabet (Riverside, CA: Bo Press Miniature Books, 2018)

Trenholm, George F. Ampersand (Boston: The Abbey Press, 1936)

Tsichichold, Jan, and Frederick Plaat. [Formenwandlungen der Et-Zeichen.] The Ampersand: its origin and development … Translated … by Frederick Plaat (London: Woudhuysen, 1957)

Tschichold, Jan; Jean-Marie Clarke; Marc H Smith. A brief history of the ampersand ; et & ampersands : une recolte internationale = a contemporary collection (Paris: ~zeug & Velvetyne Type Foundry, 2018)

Van Rosendaal, Meg, and Gail Stevens. In quest of ampersands : & (Calgary: Inkworks, 1985)

Velvetyne Type Foundry; ~Zeug; Association La Générale. Et & ampersands : une récolte internationale = a contemporary collection : [workshop, Paris, 6-7 mai 2017] (Paris: ~Zeug & Velvetyne Type Foundry, 2017)

Web Designer Depot. “The History of the Ampersand and Showcase“, 13 January 2010. Accessed 8 June 2020.

Wroth, Lawrence C. Mystical reflections on the ampersand (Portland, ME: Southworth-Anthoesen Press, 1937)
Alphabooks – Ampersand – & (2015)
That Company Called If