A is van Os (A is for Ox)

Text – Bette Westera
Concept and illustrations – Autobahn

Handling rights: Simplified Chinese (sold), Complex Chinese (available).

Foreign rights sold: English, French, Simplified Chinese

English translation sample available

Publication year: 2018
Published text Language: Dutch
Trimmed Page Size: 240*240mm
Extent: 80 pp
Binding: Hardcover
Total words count: 5,310


Autobahn和Bette Westera 帶你回到我們遙遠的祖先時代,那時當祖先要“寫”東西的時候他們通常用畫畫來表達。緩慢且肯定的是,如果你仔細研究這些畫,你可以從中辨識出我們當下正使用的字母。
然後猜猜他們代表什麼?A並不代表Apple, 而是Ox! 讀了這本書之後你將明白這個是怎麼來的,原因是什麼,任何時候當我們發emoji表情給對方,實際上我們跟5000多年前的祖先正在做一樣的事情。


Anyone who can read knows the 26 letters of our alphabet. But where do those letters come from? How long do they exist? And who designed them?
Autobahn and Bette Westera take you back to the time of our distant ancestors, who made a drawing if they wanted to ‘write’ something.
Slowly but surely, their drawings changed into the first letters. If you look closely, you can recognize our current alphabet.

And guess what? A is not for Apple at all, but for Ox! After reading this book you will understand how this came to be. You will also understand why, whenever we send each other emoji’s, we actually do the same as our distant ancestors over 5000 years ago. An educational and special letter book for all ages!

Table of Content:
A. Back in time
Our letters – p. 9
From drawings to letters – p. 12
With a caravan through the desert – p. 14
How it went on – p. 20

B. All letters in a row
The alphabet from A to Z – p. 24
These weren’t all letters, were they? – p. 62

C. Letters aren’t everything, either
What does this say? – p. 70
The Story Continues – p. 74
Get started yourself – p. 76

About the authors – p. 79

Autobahn is a design studio from Utrecht.
Owners and designers Maarten Dullemeijer and Rob Stolte have presented commercial and self-initiated projects with exhibitions in China, Spain, Belgium, Peru and the Netherlands. Besides working for clients, the two always develop autonomous projects, such as FreshFonts: fonts made of toothpaste (Heldentica), ketchup (Tomatica) and hair gel (Gelvetica), a typography quiz
and a sustainability platform for designers. Their work has been crowned with six European Design Awards.

The initiative for A van Os originated from the ideas of Autobahn: text is image. Text can be both an illustration and an information carrier. The reader can then decide: «Should I read the text or look at the image?» We can not read a text and look at an image at the same time.

Autobahn calls this Pleasant Confusion and thus plays in their designs. When
the son of Stolte started writing letters at the age of four, the decision was made quickly to make a children’s book. Because everyone who learns to write must know where our letters come from. And that A is not at all from Apple, but for Ox!

Bette Westera writes poems, songs, stories and informative books for children.
Doodgewoon (Gottmer, 2014) was awarded the Woutertje Pieterse Prize, the Golden Granger and the Golden Poetry Medal.
Other well-known books by Bette are All hands on deck, Hero on socks, Poor Empire (a reading and listening fairy tale) and Was the earth once flat? Together with guitarist Diederik van Essel, Bette gives musical performances with her books. «Write only about things you understand,» Bette says on her website. «Even for a completely self-made story about pirates or cowboys, you need to know something about pirates or cowboys.»

When Autobahn asked her to write the text for a book about the origins of our alphabet, she put that self-written rule to its heels. I have never done it, so I think I can do it, she decided, entirely in the spirit of Pippi Longstocking. And she started writing about something she knew very little about. Not immediately with success, but fortunately Egyptologist Ben Haring from Leiden University was helping her. She is now a lot wiser!




A is not at all for ‘apple’, but for ‘ox’. Most gymnasians know that. But what about the other eighteen letters that form the basis of our alphabet through Greek and Latin? The D is from ‘door’. The E of ‘Hey, you there!’, The L is a rope to tie the donkey to a post and the M is for ‘water’. Just look, then you’ll see it.

To immediately remove the impression that A is for Ox, from the writer Bette Westera and the graphic agency Autobahn, only exists for prospective scientists: that is not the case. The Autobahn professional lettermakers found an ingenious way to shape the letter evolution from Proto-Sinaitic to Greek and Latin. By dividing each letter into two parts, the one orange and the other colored blue, the development through thousands of years of writing history can easily be traced back.

Once you have seen the little arms of the person who calls ‘Hey you there’, you will always recognize them in the E. And the H is of course a ‘fence’, what could it be otherwise? Westera tells a micro-story of one sentence accompanying each letter. About caravans and deserts, rivers that bring fertile silt, oxen that help to plough the tough clay, pins that help keep a tent upright. Thus each letter represents a case that was of vital importance in ancient times.

There is no big difference, says Westera, between the origin of letters and the pictures people use today to express what they find important during the app. The story of our alphabet has been told and shown more often. But rarely as inspiring as here. ——Pjotr van Lenteren 24 August 2018, 15:00


  • A is van Os has earned Type Directors Club award for typographic excellence and is traveling in exhibitions to Vietnam, Cambodia, Canada, Germany, France, USA, Australia etc.
  • The publication is nominated for ADCN Dutch Creativity Award.
  • The publication is also nominated for European Design Award.

Published by Kris Guo

A foreign rights agent for books on art, design, and children's.

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