February 27, 2007

A Is For Asinine - What You Think: Bertrand Russell's Good Citizen's Alphabet


In 1953, Gaberbocchus Press, the labor-of-passion publishing company run by Polish emigre artists Stefan and Franciszka Themerson out of their London basement, issued The Good Citizen's Alphabet by Bertrand Russell.

"B is for Bolshevik - Anyone whose opinions I disagree with."

The sardonic but beautiful book consists of Franciszka's illustrations of her correspondence with the famous philosopher, who also provided an introduction:

...This book, small as is its compass, and humble as are its aims, is, we believe and hope, precisely such as in the present perilous conjuncture is needed for the guidance of the first steps of the infant mind. We say this not without the support of empirical evidence. We have tried our alphabet upon many subjects: Some have thought it wise; some, foolish. Some have thought it right-minded; others may have been inclined to think it subversive. But all -- and we say this with the most complete and absolute confidence -- all to whom we have shown this book have ever after had an impeccable knowledge of the alphabet...
In addition to the story behind the book's creation, Design Observer has a slideshow of the whole thing, plus links to Gaberbocchus and Themerson archives.

Athenaeum Books in the Netherlands has The Good Citizen's Alphabet for EUR 9.10 [athenaeum.nl]
Vintage copies are also available at abebooks from $10-160 (!) [abebooks]

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