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Project Statement

by J. Drucker

Prove Before Laying is in some ways a continuation of earlier projects in which the constraints of letterpress were used generatively (The Word Made Flesh, Through Light and the Alphabet, and even From A to Z or the typesetting choices that structure Against Fiction). The idea of taking utterly new fonts of type, upper and lower case, in all their pristine newness and perfection, as a ground from which language would arise, was seductive. The type was very beautiful, shiny and new, unworn and unblemished -- the very image of potentiality. So the core of this book, the central text block, was generated by making the continual rearrangement, resetting, of the new fonts. The rule was that each successive page had to incorporate the previous page's language and preserve it in some recognizable way while moving ahead with a coherent statement. As the book goes along, the full set of typographic elements is pressed into service, "figuring" the language against the "jealous ground" of the unset type. The red letters, top and bottom, were a statement about language, material, mind, and emergence. These were set in an Emigre font in Quark, output as film, made into polymer, as a way of playing with the full cycle of type to digital to relief printing. But also, this method allowed the type to rise slowly in size, rather than leaping from one letterpress standard (6, 8. 10. 12, 14, 18, 24, 36) to another. The final page was printed by pie-ing the type and printing it, a form that was then used to overprint the paper for the covers of the case-bound portion of the edition.

Prove before Laying: Figuring the Word

Johanna Drucker

title note: The first part of the title is taken from the label placed on newly cast type fonts as they come from the foundry and is a suggestion to "proof" the type before setting it -- to be sure there are no broken letters, bad casting, etc. The subtitle suggests the act of bringing a word into figurative form, through use of a face, but also, as a configured set of letters from the field of alphabetic notation. [J.Drucker]


Johanna Drucker

type: initiating


born: United States
active: United States
citizenship: United States

birth: 1952-05-30

Publication Information

publisher: Druckwerk

production: 1997-00-00
publication: 1997-00-00

publication history: Only one edition was produced, this one, but it had both hard cover, case bound portion of the edition and a spiral bound, cardboard cover portion. [J.Drucker]

Aesthetic Profile


artists' books (LCSH)

themes: The constraints of language as a system, limits of typeface, the technology of writing. [A. Schutte]

themes: The idea of 'figure' as a projection of ground, and of meaning as a temporary configuration within the field of potential constituted by language, in this case, the literal, material language of a typographic font. [J. Drucker]

content form:
experimental text (local)

publication tradition:
artists' book (local)

inspiration: The inspiration for this project was from the label on the new font, and also, from a long- standing interest in trying to create work under certain kinds of constraint, particularly the constraints offered by letterpress technology. [J. Drucker]

related works: Through Light and the Alphabet, The Word Made Flesh, aspects of Against Fiction, and From A to Z, are all works made using the constraints of letterpress in a generative way. The first two are also works that address visual materiality and language. [J. Drucker]

community: other No community immediately present, but the extended network of poets and critics. [J. Drucker]

Exhibition Information

exhibition history: None except within larger exhibitions of my work.

reception history: This piece was shown, read, and republished in part in a conference held in Los Angeles in 2005 on NouLiPo.

Related Documents

manuscript type: mockups

location: artist's archive

note: The box of letters and their rearrangements is in my archive, and production notes and pieces.