May 24, 2023

Dinosaurs at Work

         Allow me to introduce you to two recent small blocks featuring a new theme for me: dinosaurs.  Like lots of people, I’ve always been interested in dinosaurs, but for a couple of reasons they hadn’t heretofore been subjects of my block prints.  One reason is that I could hardly take my own photographs of them, so I’d have to use other artists’ versions as reference, which I usually try to avoid.  (Of course I have to refer to other artists’ work with mythical creatures, but with those I’m also free to change as much as I want to make them my own.  With dinosaurs, on the other hand, I need to stick to reality at least as much as we currently know it - which is shown only by other artists’ work.)  The second reason I haven’t done dinosaurs before is that I didn’t have any idea that would in any way bring something new or contribute something that hadn’t been done before - and probably much better - by someone else.  So, what changed?
        Parasaurolophus is the dinosaur known for having a large hollow crest on its head.  Scientists aren’t entirely sure what these crests might have been for or how they were part of the parasaurolophus lifestyle, but a current leading theory is that they were resonating tubes to give the parasaurolophus a wonderful booming call of some sort.  Parasaurolophus is also the dinosaur that was my son P’s favorite back when he had a more active interest in dinosaurs, and therefore I have a particular sentimental fondness for it myself.  And one day the idea came to me of a parasaurolophus singing… in a smoky nightclub… perhaps in the 1940s… Parasaurolophus Sings the Blues.
        Not too long after, I got the idea of a great blue heron riding a bicycle.  (I can’t break it down any further or tell you where that idea came from.)  But I was also playing around with ideas for a more “serious” realistic great blue heron design, so I was considering other bike-riding options, and that led me again to dinosaurs.  So there in my brain was something like perhaps an oviraptor or deinonychus riding a bicycle… but once again that vintage vibe seemed like even more fun… a dandy dinosaur riding a velocipede from around 1868…  Of course once I thought of velocipede, it had to be a velociraptor.  Contrary to their portrayal in “Jurassic Park,” velociraptors are actually a bit small to ride a human-sized bicycle, but the wordplay was irresistible: Velociraptor Rides a Velocipede.
        These are both small pieces, not quite minis, but definitely “just for fun”-sized.  Will there be more in the series?  I don’t currently have another idea, but I wouldn’t rule it out if something tickles my fancy.  What’s your favorite dinosaur?  And what do you think its favorite hobby might be?
        For more dinosaurian fun, check out these prior posts:

            Words of the Month - Dinosaurs

            Dinosaur Fantasy Books

            A winged theropod

            A robot-ish T. rex

            Where the dinosaurs might live in my neighborhood

[Pictures: Parasaurolophus Sings the Blues, rubber block print by AEGN, 2023;

Velociraptor Rides a Velocipede, rubber block print by AEGN, 2023.]

May 19, 2023

Where My Books Go

         Today’s poem is not exactly fantasy in its own right, but it certainly evokes magic.  It was used as a preface by William Butler Yeats to Irish Fairy Tales, published in 1892.

Where My Books Go

All the words that I gather,
   And all the words that I write,
Must spread out their wings untiring,
   And never rest in their flight,
Till they come where your sad, sad heart is,
  And sing to you in the night,
Beyond where the waters are moving,
   Storm-darken’d or starry bright.

        The first line is often quoted as “All the words that I utter,” and I do actually like that version better.  But I am unable to track down where that version comes from and whether it’s actually Yeats’s edit, or a misquotation.  (If anyone can actually tell me where the “utter” version originated, I’d be happy to hear it.)
        This poem, as I said, is magical, and it describes the magic of books: to cross oceans, to pierce darkness, to fly from heart to heart, and to bring comfort.  At any rate, that’s certainly my wish for my own books!  Unlike most of Yeats’s poetry, this one is very simple: no allusions to mythological figures, no allegories for the politics of the day, no deeply layered meanings…  Just a vision of the power of story.  Though simple, however, it is not simplistic, because the beauty of the images gives this short poem intensity.
        William Butler Yeats (Ireland, 1865-1939) is hardly an obscure poet, and given his love of mythology and Irish folktales, it’s no wonder that he’s appeared in this blog before.  You can revisit The Stolen Child and The Song of Wandering Angus.  But really, if any poem or book has ever come where your heart is, you can attest to the truth of this poem.  Whether your heart was sad before the words flew to it, or simply became more full of joy after, you know where books can go.  And any time I hear from a reader that any of my words (or pictures) have done that for them, it reminds me exactly why I keep doing this.

[Picture: Greenwood Cove, Mendocino Coast, five-color multi-block wood block print by Tom Killion, 2004 (Image from]

May 15, 2023

Aliens Among the Diné

         Diné (Navajo) artist Duhon James works in wood and linoleum block printmaking, using lots of symbols of his home, such as sheep, corn, hogans, and stars.  But to these traditional symbols he adds… space aliens.  I don’t know whether James thinks of his depictions as sci fi or fantasy, exactly, but I do get the idea that he thinks of them as speculative.  His aliens seem to be about connections, the unknown, and maybe a bit of satire.  In the first piece a UFO is beaming up a traditional hogan, while the caption Wóshdę́ę́ says “Come In.”  This leaves a lot of questions: are the aliens welcoming the people?  Is this frightening or awe-inspiring?  What will happen next?  Questions are what speculative fiction is all about.
        The next piece says “Yá’át’ééh,” which means “Greetings,” or “Hi.”  The aliens break with alien tradition by wearing traditional 
Diné hats and hairstyles, emphasizing both the connect
ions with the people and the questions about those connections.  The font of the text is old-fashioned computer font, and I tried to look up the symbol at the bottom to see whether it’s a traditional Diné symbol, but I couldn’t find out what it is.
        The third piece is entitled “Great Seal of the Abduction,” and the seal in question is the Great Seal of the Navajo Nation.  Once again we’re repeating this theme of having all the symbols of a traditional Navajo life being beamed up by a UFO.  I don’t know exactly what messages James is expressing, or what vibes Diné viewers might be getting, but for me these seem to raise questions about how to embrace 
and be embraced by the new, modern, ever-evolving times, without being
 completely uprooted and subsumed.
        For all the potentially serious questions, however, these pieces also definitely have a sense of humor and funky charm that appeals to a lot of people.

[Pictures: Wóshdę́ę́’ linoleum block print by Duhon James;

For What We are Exposed & Encountered to the Star People, linoleum block print by James;

Great Seal of the Abduction, linoleum block print with watercolor by James (Images from First American Art Magazine and Etsy shop DuhonJames).]

May 10, 2023

Twelve Views of Cherry Blossoms

         This is one of my favorite times of year, when we take our evening walks and it’s still light, and the scents of dozens of various flowering trees and shrubs waft across us.  When I started to look at block prints to celebrate this, it immediately became clear that I would have to focus in a bit - and even so you can see I’ve crowded this post full!  So today I’m looking at some of the different ways Japanese printmakers have portrayed cherry blossoms.  This first grouping includes different views of distant trees with large clouds of blossoms.  The first two are by Hiroshige and in both the areas of blossoms are inked with shaded pink to accentuate the edges of the trees.  In the first there is a scattering of darker pink spots for added detail and texture, while the second actually has myriad blossoms carved out, with their outlines printed in light pink.  The carving of all that detail must have been quite a job!  The third piece in this group is by Toshi Yoshida, and the clouds of pink cherry bloom are given black outlines, and no texture.
        In my second pairing both have the petals of the blossoms carved out and left white.  The difference in approach between the two is that in the first the white carving shows up against the background of the scene, while in the second it is providing detail within a pink cloud.  That makes the flowers look a little sparser on the first, each flower individually carved against the blue of mountainside and sky.  Although the second also has individually carved flowers, they read as if there are many more flowers than just those that are carved.  The pink areas remind me of a textile pattern.
        If we really want to focus on individual flowers, here are a couple of pieces that feature single branches of a flowering cherry tree.  Although they were made about a century apart, they both use black outlines to give precision to the edges of the petals and the lines of the stamens.  In the second one, however, Kiyu has also employed a completely different technique for part of the branch: a grey silhouette.  It’s quite detailed in its contours, but includes no details of color, texture, or outline.
        Next I have two pieces that include a whole cloud of blossoms, but (unlike the pieces in the first grouping) seem to depict each individual flower.  The first is a large print that actually served as a travel poster, advertising the famous cherry trees of the Juho-ji Temple.  It was printed with only three colors (pink, blue, and black), indicating that it was a fairly low-cost production, but the amount of work it took to carve out the black outlines of each flower is astonishing!  I’ll also point out that this piece shows a cherry blossom viewing party, which is an extremely popular subject for Japanese prints, but is usually of far less interest to me than the scenery.  In this case, however, I really enjoy it (probably because even though there are lots of people, they’re still dwarfed by the tree).  The second is about 200 years later, and uses a much simpler technique.  It looks like it involves three blocks: the background inked with a gradation, the branches, and the blossoms, carved as a silhouette and inked with variegated pink.
        That one is actually the most recent of today's pieces, but still looks relatively traditional.  For my final grouping I’ve selected a few depictions of cherry blossoms with a more “modern” look.  One in black and white includes the cherry petals as both positive and negative: carved white within the cloud of the tree, and carved black as they scatter down on the person below.  The charming bird flies over a single blossom and bud, which are simple white shapes against the dark blue background, given just a little detail by simple pink and red shapes representing petal edges and stamens.  Then the final piece is just an enormous mass of pink.  I can’t tell exactly how many blocks are involved, or how many different colors of layered ink, but it’s fairly complex.  The carving is somewhat rough and abstract in shape, but the way the layers build up to give depth and detail is quite amazing.
        I hope you’ve enjoyed this hanami, “flower viewing.”  My own favorite flowering tree is the hawthorn in my back yard, and if it rains at the wrong time all the petals get knocked off before I’ve enjoyed them, which certainly underscores the transient beauty of blossoms.  In these woodblock prints, however, we get to capture and preserve some of that beauty.  No, it isn’t the same as seeing them (and smelling them) in person, but we artists still keep trying!

[Pictures: Yamato hasedera, woodblock print by Hiroshige, 1859 (Image from Library of Congress);

Yoshitsune’s Cherry Tree and the Shrine of Noriyori, woodblock print by Hiroshige, 1855 (Image from MFA Boston);

Sankei-en, woodblock print by Toshi Yoshida, 1935 (Image from Honolulu Museum of Art);

Cherry Blossoms at Tachibo Village, woodblock print by Tokuriki Tomikichiro, 1950s (Image from MFA Boston);

Niwa no hanami, woodblock print by Eishi, between 1788-91 (Image from Library of Congress);

Cherry Blossoms, woodblock print by Kawarazaki Shodo, c. 1950s (Image from Panteek);

Cherry Blossoms in Moonlight, woodblock print by Ichikawa Kiyu, mid 1800’s (Image from MFA Boston);

Cherry-blossom Viewing Party at Juho-ji Temple, woodblock print by Miki Tangetsu, c 1804-18 (Image from MFA Boston);

Hanging Cherry Tree, woodblock print by Namiki Hajime, 2007 (Image from;

The Best Blooming Time, woodblock print by Kozaki Kan, c. 1980’s (Image from;

A Bird Flying Over A Cherry Tree Blossom, woodblock print by Azechi Umetaro, 20th century  (Image from;

The Fragrant Red Cherry, woodblock print by Hao Boyi, 1995 (Image from]

May 3, 2023

A to Z 2023 Reflection: &

         My theme this year was Block Printed Alphabet Squared, in which I planned to feature a relief block printed alphabet for each letter.  Alas, I seem utterly incapable of keeping things simple, and I ended up piling in multiple alphabets for each letter.  After all, how could I be so heartless as to turn away all the extra alphabets I discovered?  So I put way more time and effort into the research than I had intended.  On the other hand, I got everything drafted before April, which was lucky, since April turned out to be a very busy month for me.  But next year I’m going to give myself more limits, and this time I really mean it.
        I did manage to do lots of visiting this year - indeed, too many to list them all here - and I enjoyed lots of fun, interesting, and diverse themes.  And, as always, I very much appreciated those who came by and left comments here.  It’s always cool to see how different people gravitate to different styles and subjects of art.  Plus I always hope I can introduce a few people to the joys of relief block prints!
        I shall now continue to follow my tradition of using the Reflections post to squeeze in a few more bits that didn’t fit into the main alphabet.  These are the oddities.  While most people think of an illustrated alphabet as depicting words that begin with each letter, a few of the alphabets I found took a different approach.  
The Infants’ Guide to the Alphabet and first principles of pronunciation, from 1826, uses different strategies for different letters, but for some it’s about the sound of the name of the letter.  C is for Sea, I is for Eye, and U is for Yew.  I’ve also included R and Y because they strike me as neither one thing nor the other, and thus particularly strange choices.  This booklet does have rather pleasing little wood engravings, though.  I especially like the eye.
The Child’s Guide to Spelling and Reading, from 1810, also tries to demonstrate the sounds of the letters, this time mostly with onomatopoeia.  Z for buzzing is excellent (although I’ve heard of a gadfly, but never a gad-bee).  I really like F for the wind and H for the mouth breathing.  R for the dog snarling and I for the mouse squeaking also make sense, but about some of the others… I have questions.  I can kind of make a grunting M sound, but it hardly seems like a noise likely to help a child learn their letters.  Does the frog croak with X because Aristophanes has them say “koax koax” in The Frogs?  And does a hare really squeak W?  These little wood engravings are pretty crude (especially when compared with Bewick from the same time period), but I do like the wind, and the little Gad-bee is actually pretty cute for a fly.
        Another odd choice is W for Wren, in the Pictorial Lesson Book for the Very Young.  How this is supposed to help children learn the alphabet I do not know, and I’m reminded of the tongue-in-cheek alphabets in which A is for aether, G is for gnome, K is for knight, P is for pterodactyl, and so on.  It’s fun if that’s your theme, but a very strange thing to put at the end of an otherwise straightforward alphabet.  To go along with the wren I’ve got a couple of odd birds from An Alphabet of Birds.  In this case there’s nothing wrong with the alphabet - Albatross is at A and Titmouse is at T, just as you’d expect.  It’s the coloring I take issue with, as albatrosses are grey and white, and titmice are grey.  (There are some colorful tits, but more in the blue and yellow range; I don’t believe there are any red ones.)
        Finally, let’s end this year’s A to Z Challenge with the “letter” that often ended English and American alphabets in the early nineteenth century: &.  At the top of this post is an ampersand created out of other little type dingbats by Starshaped Press.  To learn where the word “ampersand” came from, read this prior Words of the Month post.  I’ve also given you a few little alphabet verses in which & plays a character.  In the colored one you need to pronounce it “ampersand” to make the verse scan right, but in the un-illustrated one I think it scans better if you read “etcetera” instead.  Poor & may be considered a letter of the 
alphabet in many of these primers, but it seldom gets an illustration because you can’t exactly say “& is for…”  What, &romeda?  &roid?  &ean Condor?  So instead I’ve just got a little collection of &’s as they appear in some of these alphabets.
        The moral of & is that even if we count it as the last letter of the alphabet, it’s impossible for it to be the end.  They all lived happily ever after… &…

[Pictures: London Underground, letterpress design from The Well-Traveled Ampersand by Starshaped Press, 2017 (Image from Starshaped Press);
Sea, Eye, Arrow, Yew, Double-Yew, Weigh, wood block prints from The Infants’ Guide to the Alphabet and first principles of pronunciation, 1826 (Image from British Library);
Wind, Mouth, Mouse, Bear, Dog, Hare, Frog, Gad-bee, wood engravings from The Child’s Guide to Spelling and Reading, 1810 (Images from University of Washington);
, wood engraving from Pictorial Lesson Book for the Very Young, 1849 (Image from Toronto Public Library);
Albatross, Titmouse, hand-colored wood engravings from An Alphabet of Birds, c1854-58 (images from University of Florida);
Y, Z, &, letterpress from Uncle Buncle’s A.B.C., 1841 (Image from British Library);
Hand-colored wood block print from The History of A, Apple-Pie, 1858-1865 (Image from University of Washington);
Collection of & from
(First 2) The Princess Royal’s First Step to Learning, 1846 (Image from Toronto Public Library);
The Golden Alphabet of Natural History, 1826 (Image from Toronto Public Library);
The Infants’ Guide to the Alphabet and first principles of pronunciation, 1826 (Image from British Library);
Richardson’s Juvenile Cabinet, 1830 (Image from Toronto Public Library).]

April 29, 2023

Zebras #AtoZChallenge

         Welcome to the April A to Z Blog Challenge!  My theme this year is Relief Printed Alphabet Squared, an alphabet of alphabets illustrated with relief block prints.  Find the master list of participating blogs here.  We may be at the end of the alphabet, but it’s not too late to discover some new blogs.
        So, here we are having made it all the way through the alphabet, only to fail at the final hour!  I do not have a single block-printed alphabet made by a Z artist, or with a Z theme, or featuring even a single Z word anywhere in the title.  What’s a poor abecedarian to do?  Zebras, of course.  Everyone knows that Z is for Zebra, and as one of the myriad alphabets sampled here expresses in its little verse, alphabets really would be lost without the zebra.
        I’ve actually already done a previous post on Z for Zebra, which you can check out for a sampling of Z’s from some of the alphabets mentioned at earlier points in this A to Z (plus a bonus zebra that isn’t part of an alphabet).  Then there are all the zebras from their various alphabets that have already appeared in this year’s blog challenge at B, L, R, and W.  But even with all that, we’ve barely begun to explore the rich herd of zebras provided by illustrated 
alphabets.  I start with the zebra from The Good Child’s ABC which was introduced back at G.  There may be nothing surprising or remarkable about this one, but I think it’s a good, solid Z, with a well-executed wood engraving for a zebra with plenty of spirit.
        Next I threw together a whole herd of little illustrations.  They span 200 years of illustrated alphabets, and range from fine wood engravings to rough wood block prints to smooth linoleum block prints.  Illustrations 6 and 9 reveal the baffling (and annoying) habit of nineteenth century painters to slosh some color across every zebra, even though the whole essence of zebras is black and white.  Illustrations 3 and 7 make the zebra into the shape of its Z.  Illustration 5 depicts a mechanical zebra toy rather than a real zebra.  Illustration 8 comes from an untitled alphabet book of 1820, that hasn’t had a previous appearance in the A to Z Challenge.
        My next group includes zebras with some different personalities.  The zebra by Laforge (whose alphabet was introduced at L) is carrying a friendly baby through a bright yellow plain.  Lottie Pencheon’s zebra (alphabet introduced at P) shows off her signature simplification.  And the last set of zebras, showing a madly galloping band (and also showing that gratuitous yellow paint!), comes from another alphabet that hasn’t previously been featured in this A to Z Challenge.  It’s Papa’s Present of Pretty Pictures for Pretty Little People of 1844.  (How could I not have featured that one at P?  Well, P was already full!)
        The final grouping includes a delightful fuzzy zebra by Alan James Robinson, whose alphabets were introduced at R.  The others all have a certain oddity.  The first is by Walter Inglis Anderson, introduced at A.  You’ll notice that the Z is backwards, which implies that he drew his designs directly onto the linoleum and got a little confused!  The second, from Aunt
Lely’s Picture Alphabet
introduced at L, makes me wonder why the zebra stands in a graveyard.  Is it because it has reached the End?  And the third, by Lynn Hatzius, introduced at S, is just altogether odd!  It’s meant to be making the semaphore sign for Z, but the wrong arms are going in the wrong directions.  It should be the the left arm (our right) going straight out to the side, while the right arm (our left) crosses the body at a diagonal.
        I guess the first moral of Z is that it’s very easy to get directions mixed up when carving and printing relief block prints!
        And also, the journey of 26 letters usually ends with zebras.
        So, which of all these wonderful zebras is your favorite?  (And feel free to include those in other posts, too.  Personally, I’d probably choose the zebra by Jacques Hnizdovsky.)  Why does it appeal to you?  Which I guess means that I’m asking you what you’d put in your personals ad when you’re looking for a zebra!

[Pictures: Zebra, hand-colored wood engraving from The Good Child’s ABC, between 1847-1867 (Image from University of Washington);
Zebra, wood block print from Hoch-Deutsches Lutherisches ABC, 1840 (Image from Goethe Universität);
Zebra, linocut by Caroline Nuttal Smith, c. 2017 (Image from Etsy shop cnuttalsmith);
Zebra, wood block print from Antonio Frasconi from Bestiary, 1965 (Image from FrasconiArt);
Zebra, wood engraving from The American Indestructible Primer, c. 1880 (Image from University of Florida);
Mechanical Zebra Toy, linocut print by Christopher Brown from An Alphabet of London, 2012;
Zebra, hand-colored woodcut from The Infant’s Nursery Alphabet, 1853 (Image from Toronto Public Libraries);
Zebra, linocut by Mark Long (Image from Typography Daily);
Zebra, hand-colored wood engraving from alphabet booklet, c. 1820 (Image from University of California);
Zebra, wood block print by Joseph Crawhall II from Old Aunt Elspa’s ABC, 1884 (Image from Jospeh Crawhall II society);
Zebre, wood block print with pochoir by Lucien Laforge, 1924 (Image from Mille Feuilles de Bretagne);
Zebra, lino cut print by Lottie Pencheon, c. 2011 (Image from Lottie Pencheon);
Zebra, hand-colored wood engraving from Papa’s Present of Pretty Pictures for Pretty Little People, 1844 (Image from Toronto Public Library);
Zebra, linoleum block print by Walter Inglis Anderson from An Alphabet, 1930’s (Image from WalterAndersonArt);
Z, wood engraving from Aunt Lely’s Picture Alphabet, 1855-62 (Image from University of Washington);
Z, linocut by Lynn Hatzius from A Semaphore Alphabet, 2002 (Image from Books on Books);
Zebra, wood engraving by Alan James Robinson from An Odd Bestiary, 1982.]

April 28, 2023

Young Youth Year

         Welcome to the April A to Z Blog Challenge!  My theme this year is Relief Printed Alphabet Squared, an alphabet of alphabets illustrated with relief block prints.  Find the master list of participating blogs here.  Whatever you’re interested in, someone’s probably blogging on it, so start reading — you’ve got a lot of catching up to do!
        Today’s first alphabet is the water-themed series of linocuts by Sarah Young.  Her Y is Yabby, which I had to look up.  It’s an Australian crayfish.  I love the wide variety of subjects Young chooses, from tropical to arctic, from modern to 
mythological, from natural to technological, but all related to bodies of water.  I had a tough time picking favorites since I like a lot of these, but I went with H for Harbour and J for Jellyfish.  You can also see her K back in a previous year’s A to Z post, and I expect that some of her pieces with myth
ological beings may  yet show up some time in the future.
        Then there’s Youths’ Battledoor from the mid-nineteenth century.  Battledoor (more often spelled battledore) is another word I didn’t know before encountering it during 2020’s A to Z theme of Nursery Rhymes.  It originally meant a bat or paddle used for various crafts and jobs including laundry, glassworking, and baking (like a pizza peel).  It then came to be applied to a sort of very simple alphabet or primer printed on a paddle so that it was durable and easy for young children to hold when studying.  The 
meaning was then extended further to any short, simple primer, which is how it’s used in the title of this little alphabet booklet.  Its Y is indeed a Youth, and in case you’re wondering what he’s doing, he’s playing with a whipping top.  For additional letters I’ve chosen the delightfully self-referential Book for B, and the handsome Unicorn at U.
        Our Year alphabets are actually a series of four books, each of which includes an entire alphabet of acrostics for one season.  The acrostics are by Steven Schnur and are interesting in including some very different sorts of words from most of the other 
alphabets.  There are verbs, abstract nouns, and even adjectives.  But of course I’m really here for the illustrations, which are linoleum block prints painted with watercolors by Leslie Evans.  (I assume that’s the same artist who did the Vanishing Wildlife alphabet back at V.)  Not surprisingly, my favorites are the ones that give a little more emphasis to the carving, and rely less on the paint.  Because we’ve got four entire alphabets here, I’m only sharing the Y’s for Summer (Yacht) and Winter (Yearn).  That gives me a little more room to share one favorite from each of the four season’s alphabets.  In Spring X is for X-ing, Summer’s D is Daisy, in Autumn B is for Barn, and in Winter A is for Awake.  (For another alphabet with a year theme, also remember Bowen’s Northwoods Alphabet back at N.)
        The moral of Y is that although youth may be wasted on the young, don’t yearn for yesterday.
        Riddle of the day: which letters will give you the best advice?
        So, what’s your favorite month or season of the year?

[Pictures: Yabby, Harbour, Jellyfish, linocuts by Sarah Young, (Images from;
Youth, Book, Unicorn, hand-colored woodcuts from Youth’s Battledoor, 1828-43 (Images from University of Washington);
Yacht, Yearn, hand-colored linoleum block prints by Leslie Evans;
X-ing, Daisy, Barn, Awake, hand-colored linoleum block prints by Leslie Evans from SPRING: An Alphabet Acrostic by Steven Schnur, 1999; SUMMER by Schnur, 2001; AUTUMN by Schnur, 1997; WINTER by Schnur, 2002.]

April 27, 2023

Xylographer MarX

        Welcome to the April A to Z Blog Challenge!  My theme this year is Relief Printed Alphabet Squared, an alphabet of alphabets illustrated with relief block prints.  Find the master list of participating blogs here, and go around and see how many of my fellow bloggers have had to cheat to find an X!
        Xylography is a fancy word from Greek roots for wood block printing.  Therefore most of the alphabets featured this entire month are technically alphabets of xylography, but today I have for you an alphabet in which the X is for Xylographer.  William Nicholson’s alphabet of people includes everyone from a beggar to a countess.  (It was also made in two versions: one in which the Executioner and Toper were replaced with more child-appropriate Earl and Trumpeter.)  At any rate, however, I have for you in addition to the X, a Milkmaid for M, and you can revisit the U which I posted twelve years ago.  (Goodness gracious, I’ve been blogging a while!)
        Today’s other featured alphabet is yet again animals, this time by Enid MarX.  Given that I cheated in counting MarX for X, I guess I shouldn’t really complain that her X is for frog - for the shape of it, not the word, as the little couplet of text that goes with the picture explains.  I don’t really like the colors applied to the frog, but those appear to have been done by a different artist who put together a book of her alphabet posthumously, so I don’t hold it against her.  I’ve given you an extra helping of favorites from this alphabet, including M (Monkey), A (Anteater), and J (Jaguar).  I like Marx’s playful style a lot (even if the frog’s colors are perhaps a little too playful for me).
        Well, that’s about it for X.  If you crave more X-citement you can go read a previous post in which I shared the X strategies of a number of the alphabets that have already shown up in this A to Z Challenge.  (You will already have seen that post if you’ve followed previous links to find more letters from the alphabets in question.)  That post also in
cludes one of my favorite 
morals, which is drawn from the difficulty of finding X’s for alphabets.  So I can’t do better today than to repeat: 
These verses teach a clever child to find

Excuse for doing all that he’s inclined.

(For purposes of the challenge we should probably spell it X-cuse!)
        And also, Fall IX times, stand up X times.
        So, in all our various alphabets so far we’ve seen people categorized in many different ways: where they live (B, E, J), what job they do (C, E, F, H, J, K, L, P, Q, T, X), their social class (E, G, H, K, L, Q), their familial relationship (F, M, U, W), their religion (U), their age (I, Y)…  If you were to be memorialized in an alphabet, what word would you choose to represent?

[Pictures: Xylographer, Milkmaid, hand-colored wood block prints by William Nicholson from An Alphabet, 1899 (Images from Wikimedia Commons);
X, Monkey, Anteater, Jaguar, wood block prints by Enid Marx from Marco’s Animal Alphabet, 1979 (Images from the saleroom and Books-on-Books).]

April 25, 2023

West Wonder

        Welcome to the April A to Z Blog Challenge, in which bloggers spend the month working our way through the alphabet in 26 posts.  My theme this year is Block Printed Alphabet Squared, an alphabet of alphabets illustrated with relief block prints.

        We begin today with yet another animal alphabet, by Kathleen West.  This one is hand-colored and done in an Arts and Crafts Mission style which is especially evident in the fonts of the letters and words, as well as the strong outlines and borders and the choice of earthy colors.  W is for Walrus, and I’ve also shared T for Turtle as a favorite.  These have a very appealing blend of accuracy and whimsy.  West’s animals have real character.
        Dame Wonder’s Amusing Picture Alphabet actually has two illustrated alphabets.  The first (which I give you second) is the entire alphabet with very small pictures embellishing the letters.  (One of them already appeared in this A to Z Challenge as a letter icon.  Did you 
 it?)  The larger illustrations throughout the rest of the little book do duty for multiple letters each.  Mostly 4 letters each, but by the time you get to the end of the alphabet they get piled in!  Here W is for Windmill, and you can also see Uncle, Violin, X for the Roman numeral, Yacht, and Zebra.  I think the composition is well done, and I find it quite an attractive little alphabet, especially for what is clearly a fairly low-budget production.
        Today’s bonus is two animal alphabets by Christopher Wormell.  I love his work and have featured him many times before: you can find F, L, N, Y, and Z from his Alphabet of Animals, and C and X from A New Alphabet of Animals.  He made both books with the same format, but a completely different selection of creatures (except for 
X, because as we will all be reminded tomorrow, X’s can be hard to come by).  The two W’s from the two books are Walrus and Woodpecker.  Plus I’ve also got another favorite from each, C for Cobra and T for Toucan.
        The moral of today is that the wonders of animals are inexhaustible.
        And also, the second half of the alphabet is far less privileged than the earlier letters (which is something people with last names such as West and Wormell are well aware of).
        So, what’s something you’ve been wondering about?

[Pictures: Walrus, Turtle, hand-colored block prints by Kathleen West (Images from The Mission Motif);
U through Z, and A through Z, hand colored woodcuts from Dame Wonder’s Amusing Picture Alphabet, 1860’s (Images from University of California);
Walrus, Cobra, linoleum block prints with multiple blocks by Christopher Wormell from An Alphabet of Animals, 1990;
Woodpecker, Toucan, linoleum block prints with multiple blocks by Wormell from A New Alphabet of Animals, 2002.]