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"A LANDMARK ACHIEVEMENT IN EUROPEAN MODERNISM"

Nezval's ABECEDA: First editionNEZVAL, Vitezslav; TEIGE, KAREL, design.

ABECEDA [Alphabet]

"In Nezvalís Abeceda, a cycle of rhymes based on the shapes of letters, I tried to create a 'typofoto' of a purely abstract and poetic nature, setting into graphic poetry what Nezval set into verbal poetry in his verse, both being poems evoking the magic signs of the alphabet." -Karel Teige

FIRST EDITION IN ORIGINAL WRAPPERS, one of 2000 copies printed, of one of the most important and influential books of European modernism. Illustrated with 25 black and white photomontages.

"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-ca. 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: Milca Mayerova and the Czech book Alphabet").

"An important 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).


ABECEDA [Alphabet]. Design by Karel Teige. Photographs by Karel Paspa. Prague: J. Otto, 1926. Quarto (298 x 232mm), original printed wrappers. Wrappers lightly soiled, minute archival repairs at head and tail of spine. An exceptionally good copy, particularly rare in this condition. $6000.

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Literature/Modern Firsts

Americana/History/Travel

Art/Illustrated/Children's