May 23, 2014

ABC de Puerto Rico

        My computer up and died last Saturday, and I had to find other things to do with myself until I got it back yesterday.  I had some serious withdrawal, but luckily there was gardening to be done, and reading, and carving on the block I began at Dedham Open Studios… so it isn’t as if I had nothing to do - I just couldn’t do all the things I wanted to.  But during that time another block printed alphabet book arrived through interlibrary loan: ABC de Puerto Rico, with woodcuts by Antonio Martorell.
        There’s something pretty funny about an alphabet book in another language, because the pictures don’t match up.  After all, for me J is not for crab!  Actually, it turns out that J isn’t really for crab in Spanish, either.  However, the juey is the great land crab of Puerto Rico (and that’s its English name, too).  Many of the words in this book turned out to be quite specific to Puerto Rico - which makes sense, of course, since it’s meant to be a Puerto Rican alphabet.  At any rate, I particularly like the letters that work in English, too, although I’ve chosen my favorite images rather than my favorite words.
        My favorite of all is the island - just what a tropical paradise ought to look like, and I enjoy the way the word is incorporated into the the picture.  Actually, this entire book is as much about design and typography as it is about wood block prints.
        I had to include the hammock - another fun use of the letter in the picture, and one that works equally well in English - and of course the juey.  My final example is R for rolita, which is apparently a Puerto Rican dove.  I really like the tower, but I was very tempted to crop off the child on the side, whom I don’t particularly like.  In the end I reminded myself that I should be representing the artwork accurately, and restrained my censoring impulses.  Full disclosure, 
however: despite the integrated design of each page, I have eliminated all the extra words, which included Spanish poems as well as lists of other random words that begin with the same letter.  After all, I wanted this to be about the pictures.

[Pictures: Isla;
Rolita, wood block prints by Antonio Martorell from Abc de Puerto Rico, 1968.]

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