This essay centers on a rare and unknown version of the revolutionary sound poem, the Ursonate, which the German avant-garde artist Kurt Schwitters composed between 1922 and 1932. Schwitters took the poem's first line from the opening of a poster poem by the Dadaist Raoul Hausmann and, over a ten-year period, expanded it and developed different notations. He published his complete phonetic score, with typography by the German graphic designer Jan Tschichold, in the 1932 issue of his innovative magazine, Merz. The essay considers the intriguing implications of the unknown version of Schwitters' sound poem—recently discovered in the Getty Research Institute's collections and referred to here as the 'Getty booklet'—for the evolving form, design, and performance concept of the Ursonate. The only existing bibliographic citation of the booklet (Hans Bolliger in Werner Schmalenbach, 1967) attributes it to a W. Jöhl and a group of students working in Zurich in 1953. Since Schwitters' visual and poetic work fell into a state of neglect during his exile years and following his death in 1948, the 1953 publication date marks a very early recognition of Schwitters as the inventor of a new form of verbo-vocal poetry. A comparison between the sewn, handmade, coloured-paper design of the booklet and the pure black-onwhite, sans-serif of the original Merz publication suggests that Jöhl and students recognized central aspects underlying Schwitters' conception of the Ursonate, such as his interest in variable formats and in a host of performed interpretations.
Journal of Design History is a leading journal in its field. It plays an active role in the development of design history (including the history of the crafts and applied arts), as well as contributing to the broader field of studies of visual and material culture. The journal includes a regular book reviews section and lists books received, and from time to time publishes special issues.
Oxford University Press is a department of the University of Oxford. It furthers the University's objective of excellence in research, scholarship, and education by publishing worldwide. OUP is the world's largest university press with the widest global presence. It currently publishes more than 6,000 new publications a year, has offices in around fifty countries, and employs more than 5,500 people worldwide. It has become familiar to millions through a diverse publishing program that includes scholarly works in all academic disciplines, bibles, music, school and college textbooks, business books, dictionaries and reference books, and academic journals.