anthon Beeke created his alphabet ( see also The erotics of type) in 1969 and it was legendary from the day it appeared. Nothing had ever been done like that before: expressing the alphabet purely in photographs of a playful choreography with frolicking female figures. anthon Beeke designed the alphabet as an answer to the now-famous design, the New Alphabet by wim Crouwel from 1967.
The Naked-Ladies Alphabet by anthon Beeke and the New Alphabet by wim Crouwel were confron tational state ments. The design by Crouwel was a philo sophical study into a letter for the future that had to be readable by the computer that was already beginning to make its mark on society. He was interested in attempting to visualise the expected new technology in letters. It was a visionary alphabet. The letters by Beeke were an expression of the new youth culture that had emerged in the 1960s and reflected “the exciting restlessness that rules the street”.
anthon Beeke’s alphabet immediately attracted attention: as an independent design and as an expression of the 1960s. It was regarded as an expression of liberation from narrow-minded sexual taboos, as a sign that nudity was not dirty and depraved, but had a grand, classic beauty and was above all innocent.
And after that nothing more was done with it. It was not a realistic alphabet. The letters could only be used for an initial or a single word. Outside a small circle of graphic designers and connoisseurs, the alphabet was forgotten. It became a hidden treasure, a legend from the roaring 60s.
It has now been released again and for the first time in colour. The first publication was in black & white. No numerals were created in 1969. It has now been augmented with numerals: again with slim girls’ bodies just as then and also with the powerful torsos of black guys, as an expression of the time in which we now live.
In the design by rené Knip, this re-publication is also a reconstruction, albeit light-hearted, of the confrontation between the two designers in the 1960s while also paying homage to the Kwadraatbladen in which their alphabets were then launched.
Body Type consists of an opulent cassette measuring 30 x 30 x 6 cm and is made up of three parts: the letters from 1969 and the new numerals printed on cards, a booklet with a story about the origins and history of the alphabet and a notepad with printed letters you can tear out and string up to bring this alphabet to life in words and texts.
With a foreword by wim Crouwel and an introduction by willem Ellenbroek.
Publisher: Drukkerij Spinhex & Industrie, Amsterdam. Price 125 euro.
Body Type can be ordered from Nijhoff & Lee Boekhandel: click here