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Monographs or surveys on the history of photography and notable photographers from the mid-19th Century to the present.

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Nezval, Vitezslav (poetry), ABECEDA, (The Alphabet), Karel Teige (typography), Milca Mayerova (choreography), Karel Paspa (photography), Prague, Czechoslovakia, J. Otto, 1926, first edition (1 of only 2000), 9.5" x 12.25", quarto, softcover. 57 pp. Text in Czech, handcut pages, textured beige stock printed in sienna brown and black. Very Good / original printed wraps, yapped edges.

Minor cover flaws are some light soiling, creasing & edgewear at extremities, a 1/2" tear at top cover edge now with archival repair. Interior clean, occasional light fold marks or edge-wear to page bottoms. Several of quarto-size pages were not originally bound in and others were not properly trimmed leaving rough top edges. Still unusually good condition for this fragile publication. Our image is particularly large. Please open and click a second time to allow scrolling for the most detailed view.

One of the most important and influential books of European modernism. Each letter on verso pages is accompanied by a poem by Nezval for that letter and the recto pages are Illustrated with the 25 b/w “type-foto” montages - Teige's typography and a photo by Papsa of a dance pose interpreted for that letter by Mayerová.

"The 1926 book Alphabet (Abeceda) is a landmark achievement in European modernism. Its frequent reproduction in exhibition catalogues and scholarly articles has made it a key symbol of Devetsil (1920-c.1931), the Czech artists' collective within whose ranks the book was conceived, and its importance is increasingly measured in international terms as well. The book consists of a series of rhymed quatrains by Devetsil poet Vitezslav Nezval, titled and ordered according to the letters of the Latin alphabet. Facing each set of verses is a Constructivist photomontage layout by Karel Teige, a painter turned typographer who was also Devetsil's spokesperson and leading theorist. Teige developed his graphic design around photographs of dancer and choreographer Milada (Milca) Mayerova, a recent affiliate of the group, who had performed a stage version of "Alphabet" to accompany a recitation of the poem at a theatrical evening in Nezval's honor in April 1926... The project to create a new alphabet epitomizes the proselytizing attitude of avant-gardists in various fields in the years after World War I. From Dada poetry to Constructivist architecture and design, from calls to overhaul theater to revolutions in literary theory, a panoply of experiments took the alphabet as their model or target and disclosed the potency of this elementary linguistic structure as a trope for creative renewal and social revolution. With its large print, childlike verses, and an instructional sequence that matches a single letter in text and image on every page spread, Alphabet presents itself as the class reader for that internationally sponsored course in universal reeducation."-Matthew S. Witkovsky, "Staging language: Milĉa Mayerová and the Czech book Alphabet").

"A Modernist landmark of the Czech Avant-Garde and ... one of the first conceptual artists' books"; an "important book which attempted to challenge both conventional artistic hierarchies and class distinctions with an art that could be equally embraced by a professor or a street cleaner" The Photobook, vol. I, pp.94. One of 2000 copies. Fotografia Publica, pp.238; The Open Book, pp.62-63.

The purchaser of this rare avant-garde gem will also receive a translated copy of Nezval's poems and copy of "The Art Bulletin, Vol. 86, No. 1 (Mar., 2004), pp. 114-135", which features as its cover story, a well-illustrated, 22 page, article "Staging Language: Milĉa Mayerová and the Czech book Alphabet" by Matthew S. Witkovsky, the first paragraph of which, we have excerpted above.

To see ALL of the double-page spreads from this book, please visit this Victoria & Albert Museum link: Abeceda Book. We highly recommend this video, an astonishingly accurate and affecting recreation of the original dance performance by Milĉa Mayerová that accompanied Nezval's poetry. It was carefully crafted under the auspices of the The Wolfsonian–FIU for its exhibition "Dreams and Disillusions: Karel Teige and the Czech Avant-Garde (2000–2001)" in collaboration with Dr. Eric Dluhosch and the following Miami-based artists and designers: Professor David Burnett (technical advice), Dr. Jiří Lamberk (narration), Renata by IOR (costume design), Barron Sherer (sound), Trapezoid (digital production), and Elaine Wright (dance/choreography) – and thus lends further dimension to the total intent of the original artists who created this Devetsil masterwork. Link: Recreation of April 14,1926 performance of Abeceda by Osvobozené divadlo (Liberated Theater).

(Our image is very large. Please click once and then again to allow for best view and scrolling.)    [Book ID # 2125]


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