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In the Land of Punctuation by Christian…

In the Land of Punctuation

by Christian Morgenstern

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A wonderful example of how good design can not only overcome but make use of constraints: The text in this book comprises only fifteen couplets, the illustrations are composed only with punctuation marks, and the only colours in it are black, white, and red.

Morgenstern's poem, whose German original is included, tells of an alliance between the stops (periods) and the commas made in order to rid their land of those presumptuous semi-colons (think about it). The question marks sneak away before the semi-colons are routed but return before the attack upon the commas conducted by the blade-like dashes, who by beheading the commas leave the ground strewn with more dead semi-colons (again, think about it). A funeral is conducted and 'Then through their comma-form free nation/They all march home: dash dot dash dot'.

If that sounds slightly twee, it isn't. And even if it had been, the illustrations would have wiped away any impression of cutesiness: A line of black question marks near the top of a page returning home over a jumble of red semi-colon corpses that fills the rest of the page is actually disquieting, as are the ranks of dashes beginning to penetrate those of commas.

Every page of this book is attractive and every illustration displays an intelligent interpretation of the text and a clever use of those punctuation marks--not only armies and the dead they leave behind but trees, skyscrapers, a cemetery, and perhaps most impressively a train made with ?!-:[ and the like.

I've only just discovered Tara Books, the publisher of this, and anyone interested in illustration or design would do well to have a look at their site, where there are quite a few appealing books that one mightn't otherwise have ever heard of.
2 vote bluepiano | Nov 4, 2013 |
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