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19  |   T I M E O
Book project for the Rainer Verlag (unpublished), 1990
Design for a book to be printed in two- or three-color offset
100 pages, 15 x 10 cm.


TIMEO, the fourth volume I designed, in 1990, for the Rainer Verlag’s kleine Reihe, was unfortunately not to see the light of day, as the publishers decamped to Hungary, folding their tents and slipping away as soon as the countries of the Eastern Bloc had been opened up to Westerners. (To this day, decades later, the Verlag’s printing presses stand still, having yet to be reassembled.)

On the projected cover and title page, “TIMEO” was to be typeset with a colon between TIME and O—TIME : O, that is, or “time = zero,” if you will—similar to the way in which I had set the title WALDEN with a “vestigial” closing semicolon [ WALDEN ; ], as a throwback to the original typesetting of Thoreau’s title. And, just as  WALDEN  and my other little books begin with a completely black page, so too does the design for TIMEO. It begins, in fact, with six leaves of unprinted black paper. In the seventh, however, a tiny hole has been punched, as a disturbance in the homogeneity of this “nothingness” of black paper: the spark that flared into the Big Bang, the beginning of Time and Space. This ur-singularity provides a center point for the following pages, from which concentric, silver circles radiate. There are nine of these, of course—the by now well-known ones that mark the points of contiguity between Platonic solids when they are contained one within the other.

A second section of the book fills the next sixty pages and contains three different views of each Platonic solid—dodecahedron, icosahedron, tetrahedron, octahedron, and cube—drawn in relation to those nine circles, with each view rendered alternately as a perspective line-drawing  (to be printed in silver) and as a solid body (to be printed in “shades” of black on black). The book’s last image—and the only one in its third and final section—is printed on white paper and congruent with the last drawing in the second section, which was a black-on-black frontal representation of the cube as a square . Ergo, the book’s conclusion is a solid black square printed on a white background.

Such a perfect black square occurs nowhere in Nature’s realm apparent to the naked eye . It is an ideal figure, enclosed by equal sides, and given shape by four right angles—those ciphers of, at once, the most human and most artificial. Fashioned by neither god nor beast, this simple, perfect quadrangular form represents an apotheosis of the spiritual and a module of the written word per se.

This, in turn, allows me to conclude that the highest aesthetic must be that of legibility and idealized writing: the masterfully designed and printed page, that is, harmonious in its dimensions, appropriate in its choice of materials, and consummate in composition and execution. Modest enough to recognize and accept its subordination to the spirit of a text—and desiring to serve, clarify, and transport that text by virtue of its own transparency and reserve—such an un-self-interested aesthetic strives to make the sum and substance of text and subtext legible, in much the same way as the printing process expunges traces of the writing hand that once moved across the page. The printed word’s “unselfish” sense of form permits a glimpse of the author’s hand at a suitable remove ; it creates a proper distance to his subjectivity, and is capable of linking Time and Timelessness.


Is that not the be-all and end-all of a work of art ?