--> next image
Words drawn into visual images have a near universal distribution among cultures that practice writing. In Apollinaires Calligrammes (circa 1914), the mode was revived -- & re-shaped, smashed open with the claim, e.g. in his "horse calligram": "You will find here a new representation of the universe. The most poetic and the most modern."
The masora "calligrams" occur here & there in traditional annotated copies of the Hebrew Bible. Writes Berjouhi Bowler in The Word As Image: "In some Hebrew manuscripts the massorah, which is the critical emendation found [as marginalia] on certain pages of the Bible, ceases to be the usual three lines, in miniscule letters, surrounding the biblical text. Unexpectedly the massorah is shaped into patterns which generally have no particular relevance to the biblical passage or to the emendations and alternative readings [that make up their text]. The strange intrusions can appear either as a full page decoration or in corners of the page. There is no apparent reason for their appearance."
Drawn typically as marginalia, the calligrams reproduced here are examples as well of minute (micrographic) writing & are shown at many times their size.
Images and commentary from Jerome Rothenberg, Exiled in the Word (a.k.a. A Big Jewish Book).All images in this section from Exiled in the Word (a.k.a. A Big Jewish Book), Edited by Jerome Rothenberg with Harris Lenowitz and with Charles Doria, Anchor Press / Doubleday, 1978.
--> next image