Fishing Figures

In the mid-nineteenth century, the French Ministry of the Navy ordered all fishermen to register with local authorities. Drifter boats and sardine luggers were henceforth required to sport a clearly visible number and initial letter on their bows and sails, in order to help the gendarmes identify them. Boat numbers followed a consistent ‘Didot’ style until the mid-1880s before they began to shift. Blackletter initials occasionally popped up on hulls, as did ornamental squares or diamonds. Rounded letters opened up to the point of illegibility, ending in assertive ball terminals and spectacular bifurcations (or ‘barbs’) appeared at the feet of numerals with vertical stems. According to some old seadogs, the alphabet à barbes was invented to make the figures ‘favourable for fishing’ and to bring good fortune. But other witnesses rejected this superstitious idea. Far from being incompatible, these viewpoints provide insights into the varied perspectives of seafarers. Written by Yoann De Roeck and edited by Alice Savoie and Jérôme Knebusch in the Poem Pamphlet series.

English texts
28 pages, 12×20 cm
Offset print on uncoated paper
Glossy UV varnish
Saddle stitch binding

Choose your edition
No edition selected yet
Add to cart Checkout