The Beautiful Alphabet


They’re our earliest interaction with the written word – the letters of the alphabet are the building blocks of language, knowledge and self. And while graphic designers have created many lovely and interesting font sets over the centuries, these two sets of alphabets go one step further.

Basolis-Alphabet-19From 1839, Antonio Basoli’s lithographs of the letters of the alphabet are elaborate and detailed.

In Bologna, in 1839, the decorative artist Antonio Basoli published his Alfabeto Pittorico, ossia raccolta di pensieri pittorici composti di oggetti comincianti dalle singole lettere alfabetiche (‘Pictorial Alphabet, or, a collection of pictorial thoughts composed of objects beginning with the individual letters of the alphabet’). This was an album of twenty-five elaborate lithographs, each one featuring an alphabetical character cast in some fantastic architectural form, in a setting contrived to illustrate any number of figures and objects for which there were Italian words beginning with that same letter. A commentary in Italian and French explained the contents of the plates. Below are details from the lithographs representing the five vowels from this alphabet (plus one other additional image), scanned from a reproduction of the Alfabeto Pittorico issued in 1998 by Ravensburger, with translations of Basoli’s text into German and English, and with additional commentary and notes by Joseph Kiermeier-Debre and Fritz Franz Vogel. []

View the full set at


And for an alphabet with a sense of whimsy, look no further than this set of carved crayons by Diem Chau, with matching animals native to the Pacific Northwest.These are gorgeous, and quite brilliant. With everything from vesper bats to killer whales, these Crayolas are not for colouring with but for admiring with awe.

View the full set at Twisted Sifter.