September 20, 2012  |  Library and Archives
The Tyranny of the Alphabet Book

Mary Mills Lyall and Earl Hargvey Lyall. The Cubies’ ABC (New York: Putnam, 1913. Reprint, 2010)

A is for A show I just Assembled About Artists’ Alphabet books. Each letter of the Alphabet is represented by A book. You’ll be Amazed how many different ways that Artists interpret the ABCs.

B is for the Books, of course. They were fun to Bring together. One of my favorites is by Frédéric Bruly-Bouabré, Une Méthodologie de la nouvelle écriture africaine, “Bété;” L’Alphabet de l’ouest africain (A Methodology of the New African Writing, “Bété,” Alphabet of West Africa) (Paris: One Star Press, 2003). In 1956, Bruly-Bouabré created a writing system for the Bété people of the Ivory Coast. This is a facsimile of a version handwritten in a repurposed datebook.

C is for Century of the Child, the Current MoMA exhibition inspired by a book. There you Can sit at a Child-sized Alvar Aalto table and Clasp another book I really like. It’s called The Cubies’ ABC by Mary Mills Lyall and Earl Hargvey Lyall. (New York: Putnam, 1913. Reprint, 2010). It satirizes the 1913 Armory Show, a Controversial exhibition that took place in New York City. For most American viewers, modern art—especially Cubism—was a new and uncomfortable idea. The Lyalls’ take is forward thinking, recognizing that “F‘s for the Future for which Cubies hanker . . . they give up the past without envy or rancor.”

The exhibition includes other books from the Museum Library and Archives, such as Hurra, wir rechnen weiter! (Hurray! We Keep Counting!) (Berlin: Stuffer, 1932). After the show closes, stop by the Library and we’ll bring it out just for you.

D is for Do come and see both exhibitions: Artists’ Alphabets is on view in the Lewis B. and Dorothy Cullman Education and Research Building (located at 4 west 54 Street) through October 22, and Century of the Child: Growing By Design, 1900–2000 is on view through November 5 in the Museum’s sixth-floor Special Exhibitions Galleries.

For more information about MoMA Library research projects and activities please visit The New York Art Resources Consortium (NYARC) website. NYARC consists of the research libraries of The Brooklyn Museum, The Frick Collection, and The Museum of Modern Art. Visit Arcade, NYARC’s catalog, for your art research needs.