Wednesday, February 5, 2014

A Mid-19th C Landscape Alphabet

Experimentation with letterform design is hardly a 21st century novelty. Letters have long been a form of expression and connotation for us, just as words themselves form meaning. These 26 rustic examples of representational letterforms, were published in the book, The Landscape Alphabet, nearly 200 years ago. Many of the illustrated letters are signed, L.E.M. Jones, but little else is known of him. His stone lithographs are a bit sensationalized, as most things were in that era, but they are further evidence of our long devotion to the alphabet and desire to manipulate letterforms. The entire landscape alphabet was printed and published by Charles Joseph Hullmandel (1789-1850), a remarkable painter and printer in his own right, and one of the most prominent figures in the development of lithography in 19th century England. He helped to popularize romantic landscape painting after developing a method of reproducing gradations in tone—lending a soft watercolor effect to his lithographic prints—and was also instrumental in the technical development of color printing. After meeting Alois Senefelder, the inventor of stone lithography, in 1817, Hullmandel began his own press a year later in London. In 1824, he published his first edition of The Art of Drawing on Stone, a complete and comprehensive manual to the success and failures of lithographic printing. He later partnered with Joseph Fowell Walton in 1843, and continued to print under the firm name of Hullmandel & Walton until his death in 1850.

I am grateful to the good people at the British Museum for displaying the entire 26 letters of this landscape alphabet on their online gallery. Below are a few of my own favorite leading characters. One puzzle still remains in my mind, and that is just who was this L.E.M. Jones character who worked in near total obscurity? Was this perhaps a pen name for Hullmandel, or was he so fascinated by the studied hand of Mr. Jones and his landscape alphabets, he chose to publish his elegant work? 

Update: For more information regarding L.E.M. Jones and The Landscape Alphabet, please read my updated post, Letterforensics 101.


  1. Thanks for introducing me to these -- I love them.
    I went to the British Museum site to look at the rest of them.

  2. These are absolutely stunning! Thanks so much for sharing!


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