Monday, June 7, 2010

Body of Words

I was feeling something like beach fever today and needed a change of scenery, a different outlook not colored by sky, ocean and sand. Easy to change the view if you’re willing to hop in the car and make a short trip to Daytona. Directly opposite the Daytona International Speedway is a Barnes & Noble, an easy drive of about thirty minutes from home and where I aimed my car today.

Nothing special in mind that I specifically wanted to look at, so I set myself off on a good long browse. Now and again you’re likely to find something good on the bargain tables, and I check every one of them, hoping for an unexpected surprise. Lucky me, just such a surprise was waiting for the right pair of eyes to come along.

Alphabets and Scripts: Tattoo Design Directory by Vince Hemingson describes itself as the essential reference for body art. But it is a lot more than that. Tattoos are not normally something I’m drawn to, or interested in reading about, but the text in this 224 page book is fascinating for what it explains about alphabets, scripts, fonts, letter design AND tattoo design. The book is filled with unusual tidbits or facts about the development of letters, their meaning and inference. The forward by Bob Baxter, Editor-in-Chief of Skin & Ink magazine is exceptional, and the Introduction by Hemingson is one of the best I’ve read on any subject. The book is very well written, and as you learn in reading further, very well researched.

My favorite section of the book is a discussion of the Latin Alphabet and it’s symbols. Those pages throw out one after another odd little fact about the making and the meaning of our alphabet. Here is a marvelous explanation of the letter ‘C.’

‘The Phoenicians called it gimel, signifying the camel, the carrier, without which one couldn’t communicate between one oasis and another. To the Greeks it became gamma. The Etruscans had no familiarity with the ‘g’ sound, so they sounded it as ‘k.’ It was the Romans who made use of it as the letter ‘c.’ By adding a serious serif, they had another letter, ‘G.’

Here is another little fact tucked into these pages: ‘An alphabet that has both uppercase and lowercase letters, such as the Latin alphabet, is known as a bicameral alphabet. Not all alphabets have such a feature—Hebrew, for example, does not.’

Some people like a combination of graphic, alphabet, and numbers in a tattoo. Soccer superstar David Beckham’s full sleeve tattoos include all three. Following is what this book has to say about the number 3…

‘Neutrality, mystery and initiation. Two is linear, three is geometric. Three dimensions create the solid contents of life. Aspects of life and spirituality seem to come in threes: the Holy Trinities in many religions; the past, present and future; thought, word and deed; animal, vegetable, mineral; me, myself and I; and, perhaps most importantly, God is omniscient, omnipresent, and omnipotent.’

Interested in celebrity gossip? Madonna, Christine Aguilera, Britney Spears and Mr & Mrs David Beckham all have Hebrew tattoos. Actually, Britney Spears had to have hers lasered off when she discovered that the tattoo artist had misspelled the Hebrew word for God. Angelina Jolie has a Latin tattoo on her abdomen that says, Quod me netrit me destruit, or “What nourishes me also destroys me.” She also has a tattoo of Viking runes on her arm. The nine main cast members of the Lord of the Rings movie trilogy got tattoos in Elvish (a language devised by J.R. Tolkien) as a memento of their time on the picture.

The book has been beautifully published by Chartwell Books, Inc, but initially conceived and produced by Quintet Publishing Limited, London. The book’s overall design is superb. Frankly, I can’t think how they can sell this book as cheaply as they do. I paid $9.98, but the original price is an unbelievable $12.00.

Interest in tattoos is definitely not a prerequisite to enjoying this book.

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About Me

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Oak Hill, Florida, United States
A longtime expat relearning the footwork of life in America