April 15, 2023

Orsini Objects

         Welcome to the April A to Z Blog Challenge!  My theme this year is Block Printed Alphabet Squared, an alphabet of alphabets illustrated with relief block prints in all their glorious diversity.  Find the A to Z master list here and check out all the other participating bloggers.
        For O I have for you an alphabet by Sebastien Orsini.  It’s another alphabet of animals, but the selection of creatures gets a little shaken up by the fact that it’s in French.  The O is represented by Oreillard Gris, a particular species of European bat known in English as the grey long-eared bat.  I’m also sharing A for Alligator, which works in English, and L for Libellule, which doesn’t.  The alligator is actually the only one of these three that I’m sharing with you as it appears in Orsini’s book: with two colors, plus black, plus 
a highlight of white.  The grey and white versions of the other two are apparently the original linoleum block prints.  In any case, you can see that Orsini’s style makes incredible use of texture, focussing in on the patterns of scales and wings and plants.  I love how the views are closely cropped rather than just sticking an animal in the middle of a frame as so many others (myself included) tend to do.
        For O we also have The Common Object ABC Book.  Here O is Ox.  The capital letters are themselves part of the illustrations, and I chose H as a second letter to share because I like the way the Horse is really using the H as part of its environment.  I also give you Q because it’s for Quadrille, which is not a word that shows up in very many modern alphabets!  However, despite the fact that you can see in the Theme Reveal post that A is for Apple, I have to say that I quibble with calling any of the three words in today’s post objects.  So let’s try again…
        Alphabet of Objects does a better job of picking things that are actually objects.  O is for Organ (meaning a portable barrel organ).  Also not something you see too often these days.  I give you J for Junk because it’s another somewhat unusual choice, and I like the variety.  I’ve also included A for Anchor along with a section of the page header because here you can see something else rather unusual about this book: the red coloring is actually printed, rather than hand-painted.  Multiple colors couldn’t be printed at the same time, and you can see that the two runs through the press haven’t been perfectly lined up, a common problem.
        The moral of O is that the more ornate you try to be, the more likely you are to make mistakes.  Which you could take as a lesson to “Keep it simple,” or on the other hand you could take it to mean “You can’t make an omelette without breaking eggs.”
        Riddle of the day: which letters are in debt?
        So, do you enjoy a good organ tune?  Or if not, what’s your favorite musical instrument?  (If you want to see mine, here’s a prior post.)

[Pictures: Oreillard, Alligator, Libellule, linoleum block prints by Sebastien G. Orsini from Dans le Mystere des Animaux Sauvages, 2011 (Images from Sebastien Orsini);
Ox, Horse, Quadrille, hand-colored wood block prints from The Common Object ABC Book, c. 1880 (Images from University of Maryland);
Organ, Junk, Anchor, wood block prints from Alphabet of Objects, 1864-70 (Image from University of California).]


Kristin said...

I like Orsini's alphabet too, the texture is amazing and I like the way he fills the print.

kajmeister said...

I think I've seen the Common objects book; it looks old and so am I.
I was trying to look up words in a Mongolian-English dictionary (there was no reverse) and I kept getting tripped up trying to figure out the alphabetizing scheme. It turns out this 1965 dictionary not only used the author's special scheme, but because his typewriter couldn't type certain letters, he chose his own substitutes, using X for Q (a common Mongolian) for example. So dictionaries themselves become historical artifacts! Cool post! Love the theme.

Anne E.G. Nydam said...

Kristin, yeah, and I think the originals of these are reasonably large, too, so there's lots of scope for detail.

kajmeister, you may be old, but if you were learning your alphabet in the 1880s I'm impressed! Yes, all writing systems are essentially artificial constructs and sometimes a system catches on more universally than other times. I'm actually fascinated by the really major affect on writing from the physical logistics of materials used, starting with clay or wood or paper, for example, then from moveable type, then from typewriters, and then from word processors and electronic keyboards.

Ronel Janse van Vuuren said...

Interesting collection.

Ronel visiting for O:
My Languishing TBR: O
Oreads: Nymphs of the Mountains

Melanie Atherton Allen said...

Love the bat, and especially the alligator, in a sea of other alligators. As for your riddle: O owes... but that's all I got. There's IOU, of course.

Mrs Fever said...

The alligator is stunning.

I never EVER want to run into one in real life!

But the block print is beautiful. :)