The White Alphabet and Alphabeta Concertina

Ronald King.
The White Alphabet.
Guildford, Surrey: Circle Press, 1984. (BRA2086)

Signed by the artist below the colophon. Numbered 63 in an edition of one hundred twenty.

Ronald King.
Alphabeta Concertina.
Guildford, Surrey: Circle Press, 1983, 1984, and 2007. (BRF0281).

Edition of five hundred copies.

As simple a concept as The White Alphabet follows, the integrity of design and precision of execution allow its appreciation as a bibliographic marvel. Sturdy beechwood boards inlaid with sycamore blazes, the front featuring base-to-base triangles for A and M, and the rear with diagonal slashes for N and Z, press the concertina-folded sheets like stacked linen napkins. Nearly inkless the only printing having been reserved for the colophon, the front board is pulled back to reveal a blind debossed title page, “RONALD KING   THE WHITE ALPHABET   CIRCLE PRESS 1984.” Then arise opening after opening of cleverly cut and folded letters projecting off the surface. Each letter bears a Bauhaus elegance which the reader is tempted to animate by manipulating the page span. The final opening reveals the “M.” The rest, one concludes, is lost; the book is closed until the idea dawns and the rear board opens right to left. The alphabet is found to continue N through Z.

Construction consists of two lengths of heavy Barcham Green handmade paper folded together after debossing and die cutting. The cut letter forms were then reverse folded out of the page gutters. More intricate letterforms, H, U, V, X, and Y, required additional folds.

A separate issue from Circle Press, Alphabeta Concertina is not merely a smaller version of The White Alphabet. In addition to the red-printed cover and title page, the double sheet of The White Alphabet has been replaced by a folded sheet with the crease along the zig-zag top edge. Debossed squares were eliminated in the smaller version, and, not insignificantly, some of the letterforms have been redesigned. In its edition of five hundred, Alphabeta Concertina is intended for wider distribution than was The White Alphabet.

Printer and book designer Ronald King (b. 1932) established Circle Press in 1967 as the collaboration of artists that the name implies. From its beginnings in Guildford, southwest of London, and its move to Notting Hill in 1988, the Circle Press involved over one hundred artists and writers in over one hundred projects by the time King retired in 2009. It became known for intriguing departures from traditional book form. Circle artists Karen Bleitz, Victoria Bean, and Sam Winston continue the collaborative endeavor as ARC.


The White Alphabet. (BRA2086)


Alphabeta Concertina (BRF0281)

The White Alphabet and Alphabeta Concertina