The Artwork of Letters celebrates the “relative absurdity” of the alphabet

Running to a hefty 800 pages, and filled with double-page spreads of giant letterforms, The Art of Letters aims to question and explore the relationship between art, function and form when it comes to type design.

In the foreword, designer and Formist director Mark Gowing says the idea for the book came from discussion around what turns an “abstract form” into part of a wider language system, as well as “the relative absurdity of these timeless and ubiquitous forms”.

The Art of Letters treats each of the glyphs drawn by Kris Sowersby – a largely self-taught type designer who set up Klim Type Foundry in 2005 – as a standalone piece of work, big enough to fill a single page.

“Viewed here without their functional intention of scale, alignment, spacing, style or language, they transform into something else – something other, without their usual meaning, or perhaps just a different meaning,” writes Gowing. “Typography and meaning have been intrinsically entwined for hundreds of years, a relationship that constantly shifts and changes with the course of history.”

“There is a wonderful absurdity in this practice,” Gowing continues. “As such, Sowersby creates elegant forms and details that are sometimes overlooked in favour of reading the words they carve out.

But much like a chair or a teacup, we can find beauty in the infinite variability and artistry of these everyday items by simply abstracting their meaning, and hopefully offering a more intimate understanding of what is often right in front of us.”

As well as a chance to appreciate the carefully designed shapes of individual letterforms, the book itself is quite the work of art with black edged pages and a gold foil-stamped dust jacket. The introduction is, naturally, set in a custom typeface as well – Brotunda, designed by Sowersby and Gowing together, and inspired by the medieval rotunda script.

Art of Letters is published by Formist Editions, priced $90;