Ambrose Bierce’s "The Devil's Dictionary". A Typographic Interpretation by Astrid Stavro

Originally published in a weekly paper in 1881, the entries in The Devil’s Dictionary were first compiled and reproduced in book form in 1906 under the title The Cynic’s Word Book. In 1911 it was retitled and given the name it is now known for. The Devil’s Dictionary is a satirical reference book by Ambrose Bierce, the American writer whose sarcastic wit earned him the nickname “Bitter Bierce”, which reinterprets, satirizes, and parodies terms in the English language.

The book includes 1000 terms ordered alphabetically, although in an updated version published in 1967, 851 more entries were added. Some of these terms are explained as follows:
— CAT, n. A soft, indestructible automaton provided by nature to be kicked when things go wrong in the domestic circle.
— EMANCIPATION, n. A bondman’s change from the tyranny of another to the despotism of himself.
— MARRIAGE, n. A household consisting of a master, a mistress, and two slaves, making in all, two.

Astrid Stavro’s response to the assignment in Alan Kitching’s Gridlock course at The Royal College of Art (London) in 2004 was this typographic interpretation of Bierce’s most famous satirical work. Stavro broke the grid and typographically interpreted each and every definition in the dictionary creating beautiful layouts in which text creates shapes, is scattered around, hand proofread or blown up making every single page look completely different from the others. Stavro’s remediation of Bierce’s The Devil’s Dictionary was handcrafted, printed on candlelight paper, and perfect bound in leather.


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