Johanna Drucker’s From A to Z (Chased Press, 1977)


Project Statement: The premise of this book was to take the type in 48 drawers of type, make a text that made sense, and use all of the elements in the fonts once and only once. The book was to be a pseudo-bibliography, and an expose of the peculiar character and activities of all the people I had met during the time I worked as a staff typesetter at the West Coast Print Center. The project succeeded, and all of the type was used (with the exception of a few numbers and some punctuation). Composing the work was akin to doing an elaborate scrabble game. Every letter in the book corresponds to a character. Each letter of the alphabet is consistently used. Each character has a page with a poem and commentary, and a strange colophon on the verso made up of the sorts. Throughout the book a narrative recounts character A’s versions of the events that unfold in the “non-relationship” she is having with a certain Z on whom she has a crush. The marginal notes are all specific references to imagined conversations, excerpts from letters, diaries, reviews, and all are numbered. The specific circumstances of their production are explained in the footnotes at the end of the book, pages set in an insane, manic night in which all the sorts in the cases were used up in the setting of these crazed, paragon-dense, cryptic but legible passages. Every element in the book relates to every other element, and the whole is a tightly woven, hermetically perfect set of interlocking references. A world, literary, social, gossipy, narrative, and mercilessly and wickedly drawn. All characters were real, but their identities were changed in gender and age so that they were barely recognizable, with the exception of a few whose poetic styles were unmistakable. I was certain the book would provoke furious response, and I left town just as I put it into the hands of the poets who had served as its inspiration. I needn’t have worried. Few recognized themselves, fewer cared. The book remains the virtuosic triumph of that early period, unlike anything else and unlikely ever to be imitated or replicated. Letterpress printers who saw me during the time this was being produced thought it was a crazed project.


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