April 11, 2005

De’ Grassi’s Alphabet

As a follow-up to my entry on ‘figurative alphabets,’ I’ve since obtained a copy of a book (Omaggio all’Alfabeto, by Attilio Rossi, Milan, 1990), which contains a complete set of reproductions of the painted alphabet of Giovannino de’ Grassi (d. 1398). The detail images below link to some large JPEGS scanned from this volume, which, between them, spell out twenty-four stylised letters: there being no j, and an single letter that’s both u and v.

Detail of sketchbook page painted by de' Grassi including stylised letters A, B, C and D.

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Detail of sketchbook page painted by de' Grassi including stylised letters E, F, and G.

This alphabet occupies a few of the pages in a sketchbook (taccuino) of de’ Grassi’s, which has been in the possession of the Angelo Mai library in Bergamo since about 1845. The codex was restored in 1997, and a facsimile edition of it was published soon afterwards. The present images, alas, pre-date the restoration work, and are decidedly murky in places.

Detail of sketchbook page painted by de' Grassi including stylised letters H, I, K, L, P, Q and R.

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Detail of sketchbook page painted by de' Grassi including stylised letters M, N, O, S, T and U/V.

I’ve only been able to find a few other images from de’ Grassi’s book, besides those in the links above. There are a few more on this Italian page about ‘The International Gothic’ style, and one more b&w image on this page about Valentina Visconti and Isabella of Bavaria.

Detail of sketchbook page painted by de' Grassi including stylised letters X, Y, Z and W?

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Posted by misteraitch at April 11, 2005 01:13 PM
Comments

Thank you so much for posting about de' Grassi. Your posts on de Grassis Alphabet have been some of my favorites of the past year or so. Would you mind divulging where you were able to find a copy of this book? I'd be thrilled to obtain a copy of my own, if at all possible.

Posted by: A. R. on April 12, 2005 11:33 PM

A.R.—I bought Omaggio All’Alfabeto from the Ex Libris Museum Libreria antiquaria by way of abebooks. The book was published by Luigi Maestri Tipografico in an edition of 1,000, so it may not be that easy to find.

Posted by: misteraitch on April 13, 2005 07:56 AM

Thank you!

Posted by: A. R. on April 14, 2005 01:04 AM
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