J. J. Grandville’s Asemic Text


This illustration appears in Tim Parks' NYRB blog post "Reading It Wrong" (accessed 10 May 2013), and the author credits it to "Grandville," presumably to the eminent 19th century French illustrator, caricaturist, and political cartoonist "J. J. Grandville" (the pseudonym of Jean Ignace Isidore Gérard Grandville).

Grandville produced illustrations for many famous texts including Don Quixote, Gulliver's Travels, and Robinson Crusoe, but I've been unable to fully source this particular illustration, which shows an 18th century man -- perhaps Lemuel Gulliver or Jonathan Swift -- thumbing through asemic manuscript pages.

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  • Anonymouse

    That is indeed a J.J. Grandville illustration for Gulliver's Travels, showing Gulliver reading a book in Brobdingnag, the land of giants. Author Jonathan Swift invented a few words of the Brobdingnag conlang ('constructed language'). So to be precise it's not asemic writing but a conscript ('constructed [writing] script'), a scrap of the Brobdingnag writing system apparently invented by Grandville.

    Thanks for the inspiring website! I'm grateful to you for introducing me to the fascinating world of asemic writing, and this page in particular prompted me to finally pick up a copy of Gulliver with Grandville's gorgeous illustrations on eBay.

    Best wishes,