April 19, 2023

Ribbans Railway

         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.
        Hugh Ribbans has done no fewer than three alphabets, each made as a single large image.  One is an alphabet of animals, because no one can resist doing those!  I like the way he has arranged them all in the shape of an ark.  R is actually puzzling me, though.  I think it’s meant to be Raccoon, but it looks more like a lemur.  (L, however, is Lionfish, which is one of my favorites, along with T for Tapir.)
        Ribbans’s second alphabet is unlike any other in this challenge: an alphabet of love!  All the letters are arranged to fit into the frame of a bed.  R for Rose is one of the tamer images, as Ribbans has clearly had fun coming up with a wide range of words having to do with both sex and relationships.
        Then our third alphabet by Hugh Ribbans is Major Percy’s Alphabet, which includes things related to Percy Powell-Cotton, a British explorer (1866-1940).  I had to go searching to figure this out as I’d never heard of him, but apparently his museum is a big deal in Kent, and this time the whole alphabet fits into the shape of the building.  You can see that R is for Rhino, apparently one of the many animal species
 Powell-Cotton shot and shipped home.  (Remember, you can click the pictures to see them a little bigger.)
        R is also for Cousin Chatterbox’s Railway Alphabet from 1850 when railways were pretty darn exciting.  In this alphabet R is for the Rail itself.  I really like this book, which has not only attractive hand-colored block prints, but also informative rhyming descriptions for each letter, and some fairly clever word choices.  I wanted to share several additional letters: E for Engine, F for the Fog that makes the trains run late, S for Station, and a dual picture for W (Whistle) and X (X-press Train).  In all these illustrations you can see another clever element in this book: the wires that run 
through every single one, which I take to be the telegraph wires that ran along the tracks.
        Not surprisingly, there have been quite a few alphabets with this theme, and I also want to share The Railway ABC of 1877.  Yes, R is once again for Rails, just as it is in all the other railway alphabets.  But I really like these illustrations, which are multi-color multi-block wood engravings, and I particularly like the visible texture of the carving.  Among my favorites are the monumental Hotel at H, the snowy Obstruction at O, and the tunnel Underground at U.
        Finally, today I have a bonus artist with two more alphabets!  I previously wrote a post about Alan James Robinson and his animal alphabet, and you can see his J, W, F, and O there.  Plus you can see T, X, and Y in other posts, and his Z is still to come.  In his animal alphabet R is another 
Rhino, and I’m also giving you another favorite: A for Armadillo.  However, after that earlier post I discovered that Robinson has also done an entire alphabet of birds, so today I’ve got R for Roadrunner, as well as T for Toucan.  Robinson’s wood engravings are very accurate and detailed, with shading provided through fine lines.  His birds are a little unusual in focussing just on the heads.
        The moral from all our various R’s is something about how universally delightful it is to categorize the world into alphabets.  From the natural world to technology, from people to intangible concepts, everything’s better when alphabetized!  (Of course, this only works when you have an alphabetic writing system, but people without alphabets find other ways to categorize and order their world.)
        Also, when you want to conserve animals, maybe don’t shoot them.  (I’m talking to you, Major Percy.)
        And the question for today is, does anyone have a better idea as to what animal that very first R might be intended to represent?

[Pictures: Ark Alphabet, Love Alphabet, Major Percy’s Alphabet, linocuts by Hugh Ribbans (Images from Ribbans.co.uk);
Rail, Engine, Fog, Station, Whistle/X-press, hand-colored wood block prints from Cousin Chatterbox’s Railway Alphabet, 1850 (Images from University of Washington);
Hotel, Obstruction, Underground, color relief prints by Percy Cruikshank from The Railway ABC, 1877-85, (Images from University of Washington);
Rhinoceros, Armadillo, wood engravings by Alan James Robinson from An Odd Bestiary, 1982;
Roadrunner, Toucan, wood engravings by Alan James Robinson from A Fowl Alphabet, 1982.]


Kristin said...

That love alphabet will have to be revisited to see if I recognize all the words. As usual interesting alphabets!

Jennifer (UnfoldAndBegin) said...

Wow. You've certainly picked an interesting topic. I love the Alphabet images of Ribban's. Some of the blocks have a Zentangle look to them.

Prakash Hegade said...


Ronel Janse van Vuuren said...

I like the unicorn in the first alphabet of animals.

Ronel visiting for R:
My Languishing TBR: R
The Original Riddler: The Sphinx

Melanie Atherton Allen said...

I enjoyed looking at the Ribbans one, and trying to figure out all the Love Alphabet things. I... think? I've got them all worked out. Not absolutely sure about them all, though. And no, I have no idea what the animal is in the first Ribbans one.

Tom said...

maybe a Ringtail cat

Anne E.G. Nydam said...

Yes, I had a guess for all the love ones, so I think I got them. lol

Tom, yes, I bet you're right! You win a trip to Arizona to visit the ringtails, and thanks for redeeming my opinion of Ribbans and his natural history knowledge! (Although I'm embarrassed to have forgotten the ringtail cat myself.)