During the month of February 2016, Alphabettes contributors opened their minds and hearts to create the Love Letters series. From Rio to Bangalore, Spain to California, we were taken on a world-wide tour of beloved treasures, found objects, personal histories and typographic ephemera. Enjoy the collection and let’s do it again soon.
2016 is a leap year, and all thanks to that I get to be here a second time to profess my love for one more thing. Even though I haven’t bought a newspaper to read the news in years, every time I spot a newspaper whose copy I don’t own, I need to buy it. What started as a couple of innocent purchases has turned into an obsession—some would even call it love!
A sample of nameplates from Indian newspapers (from top to bottom): Gujarat Samachar (Gujarati), Eenadu (Telugu), Madhyamam (Malayalam), Andolan (Kannada), Dinaethal (Tamil), Dainik Bhaskar (Devanagari), Lokmat (Marathi in Devanagari), Rozana Spokesman (Punjabi in Gurmukhi), Inquilab (Urdu in Nastaliq), Namasthe Telangana (Telugu), Sakal Bela (Bengali) and The Pioneer (English)
I had one hell of a hard time deciding what to write about. I considered writing about specimen books or lettering manuals, flea markets or abandoned factories, house numbers or old advertising signage, puns or portmanteaus or the state I go into when I draw type at night; things that capture me completely and fill me with deep joy and sometimes make me feel like I have little pink hearts bubbling out of my ears.
But I also love just looking: at tiny, unremarkable, mundane things; and even weird or bad design that only makes limited sense outside its target audience. And, I may not be part of that audience, especially when I’m traveling (which I love for this reason, too: an outside look at things). I often get a kick out of the amazing, impenetrable kind of bad we often overlook.
So I decided to write about Sant’Anna.
Type designers take joy in the little things. We obsess over our &s and †s, we toil over the ear on a double-story g, we include oft-forgotten characters just for fun, and we inject all of our personality into %s and #s. As a fledgling type designer, I’ve found the most joy in interpolation.
« Every designer should collect things » said Véronique Vienne, in a talk she gave in Amiens (France) back in 2013, when I was still studying typeface design there. This had quite an impact on me. At that time, I had already started collecting the tiny (and annoying) stickers you find on fruits and vegetables. Suddenly I didn’t feel like a weirdo anymore.
I don’t remember exactly why I started keeping them, and I still don’t know what attracts me most about the tiny sticky pieces: seeing them on the fruits or stocking them in my notebook, all together.
This post is about sharing my love for lettering on book covers that I’ve discovered and some collected over the last few years. That’s the easy part, but making a selection is quite hard, because there are lots of them I love. I hope you will enjoy it. I will start with two fabulous books I got in Warsaw.
Finding the divine in the details—what others overlook—is not so much an amusing pastime, but a constant state of being. When out on a hike, I often stop to question a seemingly meaningless feature. What species of moss is this? Why does this look like a witch’s hat? Who lives in this hole? The answers can be fascinating.
Living in a city, one might find charming little doodads in the gutter and under hedges as well. The metal numbers and letters on telephone polls—what’s the deal with those? In the same week, I found two that had liberated themselves somehow. For years, I’ve been accumulating these letters, or odd bits that look like letters. Some as possible solutions for future typeface projects, others just for the sake of the collection.
Loving might be a too strong word for my fascination with so-called ghost signs, but I do feel strangely attracted to them. It was probably in England where I came across ghost signs for the first time, but it was only when I moved to the USA that I started photographing them.
The beautiful handwriting of a notary on an officially stamped paper clearly states it: 1 bed in two colours, 4 cushions, 2 duvets, 12 bed sheets, 1 mosquito net, 2 tablecloths, 12 towels, 1 bedside table, 1 table and 1 sofa was all it took for my great great great grandmother to convince her husband to marry her. What a funny way to declare eternal love! However, contrary to what one might have wished, their love did not last forever. A second letter, written 24 years later, reveals that her late husband made sure to be remembered, leaving her with an exorbitant debt to pay back to the government.
Alas, these family letters were not the most authentic samples of love … but maybe the couple would be happy to know that their great great great grandchild is now in love with every single word that is written in them. I, thus, declare that I am in love with these letters, not because of the content—which I actually find highly entertaining—but because of the unique, elegant and impossible to decipher samples of Greek notaries’ handwriting. Enjoy!
Image 1 and 2: Saturday 2nd of April 1846. Marriage contract of my great great great grandmother. Written in Greek Polytonic.
Declaring my love for pigeons is not an easy task. It was not easy to accept it in the first place. But one day I looked back I realised that my friends were right, I have a thing for pigeons. And this thing has a name: Peristerophilia. (With the exception of labeorphilia – love of beer bottle labels, I believe this loveletter-philia to be unique in having a name, whether that is something good or not, well, I really can’t say).
Was this love for pigeons triggered by my grandfather’s love for pigeon keeping? Back in the 60s my grandfather, Bibiano, used to breed pigeons in the attic and participate in competitions that consisted in, basically, many good looking male pigeons (at least if you are a female-pigeon) trying to conquer the female pigeon in dispute, and of course, bring her back. Cachorro, my grandfather’s palomo, was a winner, irresistible for all pigeon-ladies and Bibiano’s reason to be proud.
In my mother’s family archive, an old box full of old pictures, ephemera and other artefacts, there is still a copy of Bibiano’s membership card of the Spanish federation of pigeon keeping (Federación Española de Colombicultura).*