Letter by Letter

An Alphabetical Miscellany

Laurent Pflughaupt

     7 × 8.5 in (17.8 × 21.6 cm)
160 pages
139 1-color color illustrations, 230 b/w illustrations
Publication date: 5/1/2008
Rights: World
ISBN: 9781568987378

Letters are the building blocks of our language, and quite possibly of our consciousness. Written into young minds through constant repetition, letters soon function like water in a fishbowl--essential for life, but too familiar to qualify as objects of serious inquiry. But considered separately from words and sentences, letters express their own mysterious beauty. In order to uncover their secrets, it is necessary to forego the conventional historical approach in favor of an impassioned appreciation of their formal and sensual characteristics.

In Letter by Letter graphic designer and calligrapher Laurent Pflughaupt analyzes each letter of the Roman alphabet in detail, tracing its origin, evolution, and form, as well as discussing its important abbreviations, symbols, and associated meanings. Arranged in alphabetical order, twenty-six entries offer a wealth of facts about each letter, establishing correspondences between letters and elements borrowed from a variety of different fields of study, ranging from traditional paleography, phonetics, and graphic arts to the more arcane areas of musicology, esotericism, and even Eastern philosophy. In addition to a glossary, timelines and images allow us to visualize the letters during the different historical eras, giving the reader an appreciation of their successive metamorphoses. Written as an homage, this lovingly illustrated book takes a broad approach to the modern alphabet, allowing the reader to see letters anew, in a fresh and lively manner guaranteed to inform and enchant anyone interested in typography and language.

Laurent Pflughaupt is a designer, calligrapher, and artist. He received his degree from the l'Ecole municipale superieure des arts et techniques in Paris and teaches design and typography at numerous European universities.

Reader Comments

Buy this book (rating 5 out of 5):
This is a brilliant, scholarly work on the alphabet. It is a significant contribution to the development of language and as such is a book that will find readers beyond the typographic/graphic design milieu. The book offers excellent and precise descriptions of letters, and illuminates them with beautiful illustrations throughout. Letter by Letter offers a thorough introduction to the history of our alphabet before taking each letter in turn to give the most comprehensive description of each letter I have come across. Each letter is given its own timeline --- a very useful devise for showing the development of a letterform.This is a book that can be dipped in and out of and as such will prove useful to designers of type. But it is an academic work and deserves study. Anyone interested in language and letterforms will benefit from studying this book.
- Alex Cameron from London, England (12/15/2009)

Related Titles