January 13, 2007

Habert-Dys’s Alphabet

The following images show some of the letters from an alphabet designed by the decorative artist Jules-Auguste Habert-Dys. This alphabet comes from one of a series of booklets published in Paris in the late 1880s by Jules Rouam, under the Librairie de l’art imprint, as part of a Bibliothèque d’éducation artistique.

Detail of the Letter 'A' from Jules-Auguste Habert-Dys's decorative alphabet (1880s).

This Bibliothèque also included a series of inexpensive illustrated books about Les artistes célèbres. Other titles published by Roaum included a multi-part Bibliothèque populaire des écoles de dessin; as well as some larger-format works, including a volume of Fantaisies Décoratives by Habert-Dys, whose cover-price was a substantial 60 fr.

Detail of the Letter 'I' from Jules-Auguste Habert-Dys's decorative alphabet (1880s).

Habert-Dys was born in Fresnes in 1850. After studying with the ceramicist Ulysse Bernard at Blois, he came to Paris in 1873, where he spent four years in the atelier of Jean-Léon Gérôme, thereafter falling under the influence of the graphic artist Félix Bracquemond, who had been one of the first exponents of the new trend for japonisme in France.

Detail of the Letter 'T from Jules-Auguste Habert-Dys's decorative alphabet (1880s).

I acquired this alphabet in a volume which comprises four decorative letter-series published by Rouam: the other three being Johann Theodor de Bry’s 1595 Neiw Kunstliches Alphabet; a mid-19th-Century alphabet by François-Émile Ehrmann, which is adorned with classical figures; and an ornately rococo 18th-century alphabet by Jean-Daniel Preisler.

Detail of the Letter 'C' from Jules-Auguste Habert-Dys's decorative alphabet (1880s).

Previous alphabet-themed entries: Basoli’s Alphabet; Paulini’s ABC; Steingruber’s Alphabet; De’ Grassi’s Alphabet; Hepburn’s Alphabets; Giuseppe Maria Mitelli (including some images from his Alfabeto in Sogno) and Figurative Alphabets. Also, see peacay’s post at Bibliodyssey about Habert-Dys’s Fantaisies Décoratives.

Detail of the Letter 'H' from Jules-Auguste Habert-Dys's decorative alphabet (1880s).


Posted by misteraitch at January 13, 2007 11:42 AM

oh thank you for this! i love his stuff so much, but had never seen his alphabet!

Posted by: lotusgreen on January 13, 2007 05:51 PM

Neat! It is an unusual set, in that he mixes the two main approaches in ornamental initial design, i.e.

  1. sometimes he draws letterforms, and then festoons them with plants, birds, etc. (e.g. “A”)

  2. Sometimes he draws real-life objects whose general shape may remind one of a letterform (e.g. “I”).

Do you think there is any connection between the letter and the image? I could not see any.

Posted by: on January 13, 2007 11:10 PM

it would be difficult to say, because i don't know the words for those things in french! though i don't think poppies begin with an 'a' in any language.

are these online somewhere?

Posted by: lotusgreen on January 14, 2007 07:34 AM

Really nice post!

Lotusgreen, I think "Amapola" is the Spanish word for Poppy ;-)

Posted by: Insignificante on January 15, 2007 12:12 AM

Do all the pictures contain (or suggest) a moon motif?

It's a white poppy--papaver "albus," maybe?

Posted by: marly on January 15, 2007 07:15 AM

If there is any consistent theme for the imagery, alphabetical or otherwise, it wasn’t obvious to me: more of the letters feature flowers than animals or inanimate objects, and I think that the I is the only letter not drawn as such but just suggested by an image. Further to Insignificante’s comment I wonder if there’s a Spanish connection (I=Iglesia)?

Posted by: misteraitch on January 15, 2007 10:03 AM

I think you would like Rudolf the II's "Mira calligraphiae monumenta". There aren't many free images online; some images were published in a small book by Thames and Hudson.

Posted by: Tia O'Connor on January 15, 2007 12:00 PM

>>Lotusgreen, I think "Amapola" is the Spanish word for Poppy ;-)


Posted by: lotusgreen on January 15, 2007 06:46 PM

Even for a French, the links between the letters and the images are mysterious. The only effective connection is the A (Alouette and Anemone). For C, the flowers are obvisouly "Fuchsia" and for H, the animal is a "Salamandre". These are in fact probably mere "fantaisies décoratives".

Posted by: Florizelle on January 17, 2007 02:01 AM

hey-- two things.
1. one of my dearest friends just wrapped up her thesis on the "dramatization of the alphabet in the renaissance" and is obsessed with letters. watch out for her amazing book...

2. i 'tagged' you. (see my blog for more info). wanna play? :)


Posted by: Phoebe on January 24, 2007 07:55 AM

oops- didn't tell you the ABC scholar's name/ it's Erika Boeckeler, for future reference.

Posted by: Phoebe on January 24, 2007 07:56 AM
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