alphabets abroad

#36 in an ongoing series of posts celebrating the alphabet.

Today I’m happy to share two fine examples of alphabetica discovered by blogger friends on recent trips abroad.

Mary Lee at A Year of Reading visited Ghent, Belgium, this past summer and encountered this alphabet set on the side of a building. Isn’t it lovely? So glad she snapped a pic. She says she thought of me when she saw it. Sigh. I hope she also thought of me when she ate Belgian chocolate (LOVE that stuff) and french fries (in a paper cone)! ☺

Melodye Shore at Joyful Noise, whose essay is included in the highly acclaimed anthology, Dear Bully (HarperTeen, 2011), traveled to Europe earlier this Fall and was very fortunate to see “La Grande Nomade” while touring the French Riviera. The Man of Letters, an amazingly cool sculpture by Spanish artist and sculptor Jaume Plensa, overlooks Port Vauban in Antibes.


Here’s a bit more about this remarkable installation, which consists of a stainless steel alphabet latticework:

“On the terrace, facing the sea at the corner of the ring wall, is this monumental sculpture eight metres high of a squatting figure. It used the formal vocabularly developed by the artist over the last few years, based on letters. With this vocabulary,  Plensa is suggesting that, beyond its simple mission of communicating a meaning, spoken or written language can also be seen as a kind of envelope covering the matter and energy that constitute us. “Like bricks,” he says, “letters have a potential for construction. They enable us to construct thought.”


Visitors are invited to step inside, and travel within it. More from the artist:

I always imagined that our skin is permanently tattooed with text – our life, our experiences – tattooed, but with invisible ink. And then suddenly, somebody is able to decipher these tattoos; that person becoming a lover, a friend. That is probably why I work with sculptures like this, this human form composed solely of letters, like cells. It’s almost biological.

*Swoon* Apparently, there are other Plensa Men of Letters around — one in Des Moines, Iowa, and a grouping of them in Wakefield, England. I think every city should have one!

*drifts off in alphabet reverie*

Thanks so much, Mary Lee and Melodye!

♥ Don’t forget — if you have any notable alphabetical encounters, whether a piece of art, a song, video, abc book, fashion accessory, etc., please let me know so I can add it to my collection!

♥ More alphabetica here.

Certified authentic alphabetica. Made by hand with love and inspiration from foreign lands.


Copyright © 2011 Jama Rattigan of Jama’s Alphabet Soup. All rights reserved.

11 thoughts on “alphabets abroad

  1. Oh my, the Man of Letters installation is, in the truest sense of the word, awesome. I have this strange phobia of large, towering things like that. I’d love it, but it’d take me a while to look up at him. Amazing. Beautiful.


  2. Awesome post, Jama–love that you’ve gone international! 🙂

    Someone snapped a picture of my husband and me, tucked into the left arm of Piensa’s sculpture. Oh, the glory of looking out over the Mediterranean sea, with all those letters as backdrop! 🙂


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