Holzmüller and the Quays

ib1.jpg

US one sheet (1996).

Heinrich Holzmüller (also spelt Holtzmüller) was a German printmaker and calligrapher active during the 16th century. He may have been dead for centuries but this inconvenience didn’t prevent him from appearing as an interviewer in the catalogue for the MoMA exhibition of artworks by the Brothers Quay that ran throughout the end of 2012.

ib4.jpg

Film tie-in edition of Jakob von Gunten (1995).

One of the more informative pieces of information to come from that interview concerned the Quays’ resurrection of typefaces designed by Holzmüller in his Liber Perutilis, a book about lettering and calligraphy published in 1553. The Quay versions were most visible around the time of the production of their first feature, Institute Benjamenta (1995): you can see them on the posters, on the cover of the Serpent’s Tail tie-in edition of Jakob von Gunten and also inside the rare soundtrack CD which the Quays designed for Lech Jankowski.

ib2.jpg

Institute Benjamenta soundtrack booklet (1998).

ib3.jpg

Institute Benjamenta soundtrack booklet (1998).

I’ve had the MoMA catalogue since it was published, and more than once had searched half-heartedly for Holzmüller’s book without success. A more recent search turned up the goods, however (sometimes it helps to keep following leads from one page to another): a copy of Liber Perutilis may be found online at the Universitätsbibliothek Basel.

holzmuller.jpg

Liber Perutilis is only a short book compared to some in the field, but it’s also much more varied and original than others I’ve seen. Among the alphabets which the Quays digitised there are sets showing the letters doubled and tripled in the manner of monograms. The Quays have often signed themselves using a double Q so this may explain the attraction. The undoubled alphabet is especially striking for Holzmüller’s distortions of the letterforms which make them seem like characters viewed under rippled glass. At a time when most books about lettering and calligraphy were showing alphabets produced by careful and elegant hands this is a feature which to our eyes seems surprisingly advanced. The Quays have copied the alphabets fairly closely, making minor changes such as rounding off an E and adding the J and U which are always missing in Latin alphabets of the period. Elsewhere in the book there are many examples of calligraphic flourishes and some unusual pieces of decorative knotwork. As for Holzmüller’s posthumous interview, copies of the MoMA catalogue are still available, while the interview itself will be reprinted in the booklet for the BFI’s forthcoming Blu-ray collection, Inner Sanctums—Quay Brothers: The Collected Animated Films 1979–2013.

Previously on { feuilleton }
Unmistaken Hands: Ex Voto F.H., a film by the Brothers Quay
Animation Magazine: The Brothers Quay
The Cabinet of Jan Svankmajer, a film by the Brothers Quay
More Brothers Quay scarcities
Eurydice…She, So Beloved, a film by the Brothers Quay
Inventorium of Traces, a film by the Brothers Quay
Maska: Stanislaw Lem and the Brothers Quay
Stille Nacht V: Dog Door
Quay Brothers: On Deciphering the Pharmacist’s Prescription for Lip-Reading Puppets
Brothers Quay scarcities
Crossed destinies revisited
Crossed destinies: when the Quays met Calvino
The Brothers Quay on DVD

Weekend links 233

casas.jpg

Alchemical Stone (2014) by Daniel Lasso Casas. Via full fathom five.

• “I am unsure if this reality is an everyday one. We don’t know if the universe belongs to a realist genre or a fantastic one, because if, as idealists believe, everything is a dream, then what we call reality is essentially oneiric.” Jorge Luis Borges in 1984 in conversation with Argentinian poet and essayist Osvaldo Ferrari.

• “I am transgender, so ‘he’ is not appropriate and ‘she’ is problematic. I’m what I think of as pure transgender.” Antony Hegarty talks to Cian Traynor about Turning, a new DVD and album project.

Unearthing Forgotten Horrors 2014 is a weekend festival of rural weirdness at the Star and Shadow Cinema, Newcastle-upon-Tyne.

Henry Darger, one of the most celebrated examples of an outsider artist (see: Vivian Girls), has been uniformly ignored by the literary firmament. Despite the success of his artwork, none of his fiction manuscripts have seen print. The language of literature is the language of privilege, in which even the stories of the working class are regularly clad in a bourgeois prose. The language of literature cannot be extricated from its white, genteel roots. Those of us without access to education are welcome to practice, but we must come in from the cold, adopt the house language. We must be civilized, scrubbed clean. Naiveté has no place in the colosseum of words.

Ravi Mangla on Coming in from the Cold: Outsider Art in Literature

Carel de Nerée tot Babberich en Henri van Booven, a collection of Beardsley-like drawings by a neglected Dutch artist.

Forever Butt is a new collection of the best of recent issues of BUTT magazine, still the best print mag for gay men.

Anne Billson’s guide to Brussels, another European city I’d like to visit some day.

• At BibliOdyssey: Schönschreibmeister, a calligraphy master’s album.

Third Ear Band live (and in colour!) on French TV in 1970.

• Mix of the week: Secret Thirteen mix 132 by Spatial.

• The Internet Archive now has an Internet Arcade.

Crazy Cat Lady Clothing

The Pattern Library

Stone Circle (1969) by Third Ear Band | Sacred Stones (1992) by Sheila Chandra | Stoned Circular I (1996) by Coil

Jarek Piotrowski’s Soft Machine

piotrowski1.jpg

Jarek Piotrowski is a Polish-born Canadian artist whose exhibition of hand-cut PVC mats at Galerie8, London, borrows a title and inspiration from William Burroughs’ The Soft Machine. From the usual slab of gallery-speak:

Drawing on the subversive William S. Burroughs novel The Soft Machine (1961), Piotrowski’s work explores themes of the human body under siege, repetitive rituals and institutions of control. Through an immersive installation of paintings, cut-outs, experimental music and live performance, structure and order are broken down and unanswered fundamental questions of human nature confronted.

These creations no doubt look better in situ than in photos. The close-up below makes me think of Brion Gysin’s meshed calligraphy and the slots in his Dreamachines. Piotrowski talked to Dazed Digital about the Burroughs influence:

I don’t necessarily have a favourite part of the book, I like it as a gesture in itself completely rather than a particular part. I think of it more as an entity, but I do particularly like the phrase, ‘two assholes and a mandrake’ – it is a beautiful picture that I find quite intriguing.

Soft Machine runs to March 11th, 2012.

piotrowski2.jpg

Previously on { feuilleton }
Looking for the Wild Boys
Wroblewski covers Burroughs
Mugwump jism
Brion Gysin’s walk, 1966
Burroughs in Paris
William Burroughs interviews
Soft machines
Burroughs: The Movie
William S Burroughs: A Man Within
The Final Academy
William Burroughs book covers
Towers Open Fire

Early woodcut initials

initial1.jpg

More decorated initials, these being from Early Woodcut Initials (1908), a collection by Oscar Jennings of ornamental letters from books of the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries. By way of contrast with yesterday’s examples, not all of these feature the religious or mythological figures one would expect, some show early mathematical and astronomical devices.

initial2.jpg

initial3.jpg

Continue reading “Early woodcut initials”

Paulini’s mythological alphabet

paulini1.jpg

Whoever I. Paulini was, no one seems to know his (or, indeed, her) first name. Even the Metropolitan Museum of Art, NYC, which owns a copy of these plates, doesn’t elaborate. The copies here are scans from a Getty edition of Alphabeto, part of the collection of Getty Institute volumes at the Internet Archive. The book is usually dated 1570 but a note states that “The watermarks … suggest a printing date closer to the end of the 16th century than to 1570, the conjectural date of first publication.”

paulini2.jpg

Paulini gives use twenty engraved plates each showing an ornamented letter of the Roman alphabet with a background depicting a scene from Greek and Roman mythology; each letter is tied to a different character or scene, so here we have G for Ganymede, and N for Narcissus. Mister Aitch at the late, lamented Giornale Nuovo was a great enthusiast for these kinds of alphabets, and for engravings in general. He pursued his own researches into the Paulini mystery back in 2006 when copies of the complete set of letters were difficult to find.

Elsewhere on { feuilleton }
The etching and engraving archive

Previously on { feuilleton }
Joseph Balthazar Silvestre’s Alphabet-album
Johann Theodor de Bry’s Neiw Kunstliches Alphabet
The Book of Ornamental Alphabets
Paul Franck’s calligraphy
Gramato-graphices
John Bickham’s Fables and other short poems
Letters and Lettering
Studies in Pen Art
Flourishes