I am being somewhat eccentric. Not only do I really love the art of letterpress printing, but also find greatest joy using metal type. To many people this may seem to be senselessly time consuming. People keep asking me why I persevere, even as far back as when I started in 1999. I still haven’t yet found an appropriate answer.
I like my metal type and also the pieces made of wood. Most of them are real little beauties. Some are a bit strange and some print easily, whilst others are a real pain to work with. Sometimes it seems to me as if they were just like ‘people’: some you get along with from the start, whilst with others you keep on getting it wrong.
My many samples of metal type are like my ‘team of staff’, with whom I work every time I’m involved in the printing process. So I decided to give my type the possibility to stand up for themselves. For all of 2012 I’ve been printing my alphabet cards. Now, in early December, I’m nearly finished printing the entire set. Each alphabet shows itself off on a single artist’s card printed on my hand-driven proofing press. Some cards wanted ornaments to surround them, others wanted a background print and some demanded to just exist on their own, if you please.
So here they are. Almost one hundred of them. Of course the cards are limited editions – neither signed, nor numbered – however, there are not more than 30 copies of each card.
I decided to work on strong paper with a good structured surface, mainly white, some off-white or even a pale grey. The background prints are linocuts or typographical designs using a larger size metal or wood type.
The cards are all half folds and on the back of each card is the name of the font, the year when it was issued along with the name of the type designer including the years of his/her birth and death.
To find all cards on display please go to:
How can we know that an ‘X’ is actually a letter and not just a crisscross mark on a slip of paper or on a shard of pottery? This is most certainly a question an archaeologist would ask at an excavation site. Every piece of ceramic that has been carefully extracted from the debris might show scratches that could either be part of a written message or merely traces of the craftsman’s tool having no meaning whatsoever. Thus, how can we know that a sign is actually a sign carrying a meaning?
The idea of making this game came to me some ten years ago. We were on our way home after visiting an artist’s book fair. We took a break in our journey and sat in a café of some service station somewhere along the motorway, when suddenly there it was – that lovely ‘light-globe moment’ when inspiration strikes – I could almost see the finished result in front of me: 80 cards in 40 pairs … and each letter of the alphabet used twice…I’d use old style Black Letter design … pairing the modern faces of serif, slab, sans, hand…and….
I wanted that every letter be entirely stripped of any context. It had to stand-up entirely on its own, giving the rational brain no possibility of ‘cheating’ by guessing from the context, which sign it might be. So I decided to have square cards with the singled out letter printed right in the centre.
Looking at one of these cards is a rudimentary experience. In fact you may not immediately know whether the letter is being held and looked at upside down. Using these cards will somehow force you into looking more closely at the characteristic features of every single letter in the Alphabet, with which we are all so familiar and which is an intrinsic part of our daily lives. But singled out and stripped from any context these letters might no longer appear so common and familiar. I have created a game that makes us consider aspects of our daily lives we normally don’t even bother to think about.
All cards are housed in an especially made Beechwood box with sliding lid. The cards are printed letterpress from metal type and exactly the same metal type has been used to print a sheet showing all the correct pairings. The cards are made from strong bookbinder’s board and have either a green or red reverse side. There is, of course, a list with the names of the fonts used and a sheet explaining the basic rules. However, everyone using these cards can feel free to invent his or her own version of the ‘Rules of the Game’.
The game has been printed in a limited edition of 44 numbered and signed copies.