The Making of Hockney’s Alphabet

The latest in the Faber Achive’s series of mini-exhibitions at Faber’s offices showcased Hockney’s Alphabet, a collaboration between Sir Stephen Spender and David Hockney to raise money on behalf of the AIDS Crisis Trust. The display was curated by Ron Costley, who was responsible for the book’s design and who oversaw production. For those who didn’t get a chance to see it, here are just a few snapshots accompanied by Ron’s text.

Published in three fine editions by Faber and Faber in 1991 on behalf of the AIDS Crisis Trust, Hockney’s Alphabet was the result of a unique creative and charitable endeavour. In an attempt to raise funds for those living with AIDS, the poet Sir Stephen Spender invited a number of British and American writers to contribute original texts to accompany letters of the alphabet specially drawn for the Trust by David Hockney. The partnership seemed a natural one: Spender and Hockney had begun a friendship when the poet was buying Hockney’s etchings while he was still a student at the Royal College of Art.

Hockney's original headed fax paper

Hockney’s original headed fax paper

Norman Mailer's Letter 'F' (note the double 'F' ...)

Norman Mailer’s Letter ‘F’ (note the double ‘F’ …)

Among the writers who responded to the invitation were Gore Vidal, Iris Murdoch, Norman Mailer, Ian McEwan and a number of Faber authors including Seamus Heaney, William Golding, Ted Hughes and Kazuo Ishiguro.

The Poem 'G' by Seamus Heaney

Seamus Heaney wrote the poem for letter ‘G’

The alphabet created in a variety of media including collage, ink and marker on laser copies was reproduced by offset lithography using up to twelve colours. Hockney’s approval of proofs was obtained at every stage. The resulting anthology was published for the Trust by Faber and Faber and in the US by Random House.

26 letters of the alphabet - plus one extra

26 letters of the alphabet – plus one extra

Letters 'D' and 'H'

Letters ‘D’ and ‘H’

Letters 'W' and 'X'

Letters ‘W’ and ‘X’

Thanks to the Faber Archive. Words by Ron Costley. Photos by Marta Gala.


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