Wednesday, December 27, 2023

Ian Hamilton Finlay | The Boy's Alphabet Book

Ian Hamilton Finlay
The Boy's Alphabet Book
Toronto, Canada: Coach House Press, 1976
60 pp., 19.7 x 20.3 cm,, softcover
Edition of 1000 copies

According to materials in the archives at the University of Iowa, this title took over five years to produce. Ian Hamilton Finlay sent three letters in 1971, seeking help in publishing the book. He wrote to Michael Harvey, Udo Breger, and bp Nichol. 

Nichol replies in June 1973 that Coach House Press may be interested in publishing the book, and follows up a month later indicating that things are moving forward. He acknowledges receipt of the manuscript and photographs (Dave Paterson) in November 1974. It would be another two years before the slim volume was produced. 

The title was advertised as "one of the lengthiest works to date by the internationally renowned poet Ian Hamilton Finlay. The extended form of the traditional primer allows full range for the demonstration of Finlay's abilities as craftsman, toymaker and word-shaper.”

The work consists of an A-Z of pictures of Finlay's model boats, airplanes, weapons and kites, accompanied by texts by the legendary artist and poet. The texts range from the poetic to the merely descriptive. 

The book features photographs from Dave Paterson and was edited for the press by bp Nichol. This copy was initially owned by artist Greg Curnoe and is now in the collection of Bill Clarke. 

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