Abecedarian Ignorance

The thought of doing some sort of project with the dictionary had been in my head since at least 2006, when I read The Autobiography of Malcolm X, and when I received a condensed but complete copy of the Oxford English Dictionary for Christmas. The preponderant tome had nine pages reproduced on each side of the thin sheets, and came with a bulbous magnifying lens to aid reading. Initial explorations yielded etymological treats, quizzical, comical words of yore, and a flyby of the white guys of English literature. But, since I wasn’t in prison, the dictionary went up on the shelf. I mean, did I actually think I would read an entire reference book straight through hahaha ha ha?

The idea lay dormant until 2013. I was a month away from dropping out of a part time (post bac) stint in art school when I put this ‘dictionary comic’ notion in action. I got down the big book and the fish-eye lens and started looking through ‘A’. Luckily, the titular word was near the beginning. What I wanted to create was an alphabetical book of interesting words: an abecedary, n. Moreso, the related adjective ‘abecedarian’ described how I felt at the time about my artistic ability: novice, inexperienced and requiring instruction. The Abecedary could be a project where I indulged amateur word-sleuthing and worked toward professional illustration. The Montaigne quotation produced in me a strong visual, (this would later prove to be the most productive way of selecting words,) and I doodled the above cartoon in one frantic sitting. It was, iirc, very late at night.

Time passed. Over a whole year in fact. Obviously I returned to the Abecedary, and picked up at ‘B’, which you can see...

*maybe **online


abecedary A. adj. 1. Of or according to the alphabet; alphabetic; marked with the alphabet; arranged in alphabetical order. 2. Engaged with or needing to learn the alphabet; illiterate.

There is a kind of Abecedarie ignorance preceding science: another doctorall following science.
— Michel de Montaigne, 'The essayes, or morall, politike, and millitarie discourses of Lord Michaell de Montaigne' (transl. John Florio), 1603