Twenty-Six Up

Seventy years after it was originally launched by writer Ian Fleming, a competition to design the 27th letter of the alphabet is being resurrected by two of his nephews.

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It was in 1947, when Ian Fleming was helping his friend Robert Harling at the typographical magazine Alphabet & Image, that Fleming first came up with the idea of holding a competition to design the 27th letter of the alphabet. Seventy years later, his nephews James and Fergus Fleming have decided to resurrect it. The competition is being held in conjunction with The Book Collector, the magazine launched by Ian Fleming in 1952, and now owned by his nephews.

In 1947, Fleming decided that the entries would be judged by him alone, with the winner receiving a book token comprising of a book token for five guineas. Unfortunately, Fleming was actually unable to judge the competition in the end – he was too busy in Jamaica pursuing his future wife. It was however judged in his absence by Robert Harling and was won jointly by Cecil Keeling of Pinner, Middlesex and John Tarr of the Monotype Corporation. Their submissions included letters for ‘-sion’, ‘th’ and ‘st’. The runner-up was the artist, Mr L.R. Clynick, with a ‘sh’.

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The 2017 competition will follow Ian Fleming's original rules – the letter must conform to the alphabet as recognised in English-writing countries and must represent a recognised sound or combination of sounds. Fleming also stipulated that each entry must display merit in the following fields:

  • decorative
  • philological
  • typographical

Entries will be judged by Phil Cleaver, designer of The Book Collector and Professor in the Creative Industries at Middlesex University, James Fergusson, Editor of The Book Collector, Fergus Fleming, writer and co-publisher at Queen Anne Press, and Lilian Lindblom-Smith, Head of Graphic Design at Middlesex University. They will present a short-list to the artist Sir Peter Blake, who will make the final decision.

Full details can be found here. The competition closes on 25 April 2017 and the winner will be announced at the London International Antiquarian Book Fair at Olympia on 2 June.

Fleming fans should look out for The Book Collector's special issue, which is devoted to Ian Fleming, with a regular edition and a special limited edition published by The Queen Anne Press (the publishing house owned by the Fleming family).