In the 19th century, an Italian artist created an architectural alphabet in which letters are depicted as monumental structures. The 1839 “Alfabeto Pittorico” (pictorial alphabet) by Antonio Basoli reimagines classical architecture as a towering typeface, from “S” as a cemetery to “N” as part of a colosseum.
The Bologna-based Basoli often worked in the theater designing sets, but it’s not clear what purpose he envisioned for the letters other than a whimsical mash-up of architecture and language. [EDIT: As a commenter pointed out, the letters all seem to indicate the structure they’re a part of, such as “H” for “Harem,” “B” for “Babel,” and “C” for crypt.] (No “W” or “J” included, as it’s an Italian alphabet.) But he’s not the only artist to have built an architectural typeface, or the first. In 1773, Johan Steingruber created an alphabet of actual building plans for palaces, and in the 1840s Jean Baptiste de Pian designed a series of lithographs with letters as domestic and more fantastical spaces.
Sadly, none were ever been built. But inspired by The Paris Review‘s spelling of its initials, “TPR,” from Basoli’s alphabet, here’s our blogazine moniker built with an “H” fortress, an “L” topped by burning flames, a sailing “G” sporting a giant rabbit, and more of the whimsical letters:
Find Antonio Basoli’s complete “Alfabeto Pittorico” at Sploid.