Jorge Luis Borges’s Typographic Manuscripts

This project looks at the transcription of a series of manuscripts by Jorge Luis Borges into typographic texts that function as both research tools in the field of genetic criticism and autonomous aesthetic objects. Genetic criticism focuses of the reconstruction and analysis of the process of making a text; and for the Borges scholars, many of his manuscripts are still terra incognita. Many of Borges’s manuscripts, as is the case in the drafts for “The Aleph,” are particularly interesting because they reveal a branching-out system of possible wordings or sentences; other manuscripts, especially the essays, have a specific system of marginal bibliographic references.

A fundamental aspect of communication design, translation between semiotic systems is a core element of this work. It involves a deeply focused material exploration in the setting of type in relationship to calligraphy that raises questions on the nature of graphic translation, adaptation and reproduction.

Initiated during a 6-month sabbatical in the Spring 2017, and in collaboration with the Borges Centre, the project brings together a series of Borges’s manuscripts, many of them unpublished texts, and through a practice-based research approach develops the standards for the production of their typographic transcriptions. The corpus of transcriptions is being gathered in a series of books co-authored with Borges’s scholar Daniel Balderston at the University of Pittsburgh. Each of the three anticipated volumes (Poems, Essays, Short Stories) includes a selection of manuscripts, their typographic transcriptions and commentary, and a reflective chapter on the process and nature of the typographic translations.

The first of the three volumes, Poemas y Prosas Breves, is available for purchase at Amazon.