Spelling Words

Unique book with three variants

9.75 x 7.25 x 3/8 inches

20 pages


Spelling Words explores the roots of the English word "spell" and its intersection with letter magic. Hand painted manuscript book has two beginnings which meet in the center spread where the book may be turned over and read again from the other direction. Each side of the book begins with dictionary definitions of the word spell, the verb and the noun. Alphabets, magical symbols, and various rules and instructions for spelling fill the other pages.

Calligraphy and handwriting in gouache, Sumi ink, acrylic and iridescent inks, using broad-edged pens, ruling pen, folded pen and brush. Pages painted with paste, acrylic, ink, oil pastel and graphite using brushes, sponges and stencils.

The book is bound in the drum leaf style; black cloth spine; boards covered in hand lettered and painted paper; titles gilded in platinum or gold; painted endsheets.

Bibliography and research notes are handwritten in a separate 14-page booklet, called "Backstory" which also includes the artist's statement, acknowledgments and the colophon; bound in black paper with gilt design on lower right front corner.

The book and booklet are housed together in a cloth covered drop-spine box, with painted cover decoration and gilded title on painted spine label. Box made by Don Drake of Dreaming Mind Bindery, Castro Valley, California.

Variant #1 has color pages with iridescent gold ink highlights, and 23K gold titles.

Variant #2 is entirely in black, white and grey, with platinum gold titles.

Variant #3 has color pages with iridescent gold ink and 23K gold highlights throughout, and 23K gold titles.

A few thoughts on the conception of this book can be found on my blog here.

A thousand years ago, to spell meant simply to tell a story. Bards used alliteration and rhyme to remember the correct order of a story. Later, as stories were written down, spelling began also to mean correctly arranging the letters of a word. In the proper ordering of the letters, the magic of retrieval was possible. Thus was the magic of verbal charms transferred to the writing of letters, making the letters themselves instruments of power, named entities, full of divine nature.

-from the artist's statement

It is often forgotten that dictionaries are artificial repositories put together well after the languages they define. The roots of language are irrational and of a magical nature.
- Jose Luis Borges

Spelling Words #3 title page

Spelling Words #3 alphabet page

Spelling Words #3 magical alphabet pages

Spelling Words #3 end pages

Spelling Words #2 opening page detail

Spelling Words #2 chant/dance pages

Spelling Words #2 center pages

Spelling Words #1 title page

Spelling Words #1 chant/dance pages detail

Spelling Words #1 center spread

Spelling Words #1 in box with booklet

Contact me for price and availbility.