Searching for the 27th letter

Inspired by a competition first launched by Ian Fleming in 1947, friend of 26, Phil Cleaver, has teamed up with three other judges to find a letter worthy of joining our trusty A-Z.

Throughout his life Ian Fleming was fascinated by the appearance of things, whether it was the cut of a suit or a typeface. In 1947, while helping his friend Robert Harling at the typograph­ical magazine Alphabet & Image, he conceived the idea of a competition for the best interpretation of a 27th letter of the alphabet.

Though many entries were received, the world paid little attention and the alphabet remained stubbornly at 26. 70 years later The Book Collector, in the person of Ian’s nephews James and Fergus Fleming, has decided to resurrect the competition. Sanskrit has 46 different letters. Is now the moment for English to have 27? Is immortality lying in wait for some clever designer?

The competition will follow Fleming’s rules: the letter must conform to the alphabet as known in English-writing countries and must represent a particular sound or combination of sounds. Entry is free and no professional qualification is needed in order to enter. Entrants simply need to be over sixteen years of age and have an idea as to how written English could be improved.

The judges this time round are Phil Cleaver, designer of The Book Collec­tor and Professor in the Creative Industries at Middlesex University, James Fergusson, Editor of The Book Collector, Fergus Fleming, writer and co-publisher at Queen Anne Press, and Lilian Lindblom-Smith, Head of Graphic Design at Middlesex University. They will present a short-list to the artist Sir Peter Blake, who will make the final decision.

The winner will receive £250 and a trophy designed by Phil Cleaver (who also designed our stunning 26 Awards trophies).

It’s time to get thinking! The competition opened on 15 March 2017 and closes on 25 April. The winner will be announced at the London International Antiquarian Book Fair at Olympia on 2 June.

Find out more on The Book Collector’s website.


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