While browsing around in abebooks last week, I learned of a ‘rare and beautiful printed Mannerist alphabet, designed and engraved by a certain Italian I. Paulini,’ I hoped I might find this alphabet on-line, but the most I was able to turn up in any one place were its first three letters, by way of some pages devoted to La Letter et le Signe at the Bibliothèque National de France. These are reproduced below. I also found the letter ‘R’ from this alphabet via one of Luc Devroye’s brief mentions of Paulini, but have since misplaced it, and haven’t yet found my way back to it.
Paulini’s alphabet is undated, and it is not known where it was printed, or by whom. Nor is anything known about Paulini himself. It comprises the twenty letters A-I, L-T, V and Z. ‘ Each letter is a fantastic composite of human figures, botanical and marine specimens, landscapes or cityscapes, with a frame of arabesques, grotesques, putti, antique statuary, and the like. No two frames are identical. Each letter encapsulates a mythological episode from the Methamorphoses of Ovid. For example: the A for Actaeon, B for Bacchus, C for Cadmus, etc. The Ovidian episode is illustrated behind each letter, and printed captions identify the figures: for example “Ateone mutato in Cervo da Diana:” Actaeon being metamorphosed into a deer by the nude bathing Diana, etc.’
There is also a reference to Paulini in an article by Fritz Franz Vogel (co-author of a number of alphabet-related works, a couple of which I have mentioned here before). In the article, Vogel lists numerous figurative alphabets, including some others I have previously noted (including those by de’ Grassi, de Bry, Braccelli and Mitelli) but also several more I have not yet seen; so I will be on the lookout for alphabets by Giacomo Franco, Richard Daniel, Lucas Kilian, ‘Herculanus,’ John Seddon, and others.
I have been distracted these past weeks by an irksome work project, hence the even less frequent posting here than ever. Alas, this vexation is likely to continue for at least a few more weeks to come…Posted by misteraitch at April 15, 2006 11:15 AM