An urban alphabet

2005-07-11 ABC.jpg

ABC books are a genre of books with an important literary history. The Watkinson Library at Trinity College in Hartford, Connecticut includes on their website a history of ABC books as detailed by the collector’s statement and exhibition checklist from the John O. C. McCrillis Collection, which includes over 350 ABC books dating back to 1808. The history of ABC books is not just literary, however. ABC books have significant personal histories as well. Many, if not most, of us spent part of our childhood paging through one ABC book or another and they hold a place in our memory.

A new ABC book is now on the bookstore shelves ready to be paged through by a whole new generation of children. It’s called ABC NYC: A Book About Seeing New York City. Instead of apples, bananas, and cars, however, the alphabet is linked to photographs of New York City. For example "A" is for "Atlas" and features a photograph of the statue of Atlas holding the globe outside the Rockefeller Center.

I learned about this book at the family reunion I wrote about a few days ago because one of the book’s authors is my husband’s cousin, Pamela Hovland, Yale University prof and designer extraordinaire. Hovland collaborated with Joanne Dugan, well-known New York City photographer to produce this fun and lovely book. In May, ABC NYC: A Book About Seeing New York City reached number one in the ABC book category at Barnes and Noble ( and the number five children's book for ages 4-8 on Congratulations Pamela!