An Anecdoted Topography of Chance

By Daniel Spoerri

I believe this is one of the most famous artist’s books of all time. I first heard about it in school but it was expensive and out of print at the time. Now, though, the nicely designed new edition is mine!

The premise: the author maps and describes everyday objects, those that happen to grace his desk. These mappings and descriptions duly lead to multifarious memories and associations. Which themselves expand and evolve over time, accreting layers upon layers…

The preface about the book’s history describes it as “structured like a tree: narratives branch…” There are levels and layers of text, indented and augmented.

The subject matter is mundane on the face of it; but the structure is fantastically creative, interspersed with illustrations, poems, letters, quotations, recipes, and internal references. There are three introductions, each with their own layers and footnotes. Both front and back inside cover depict a literal map of the author’s desk, its objects outlined.

The book is “by” Daniel Spoerri — but he’s had much help from friends: translations, illustrations, and “anecdotations” are a critical part of the book. It’s a fantastic example not just of textual / compositional experimentation, but artistic dialogue — the text itself is basically one big creative conversation.

Additional information:

  • ISBN: 978-1900565738
  • Publisher: Atlas Press

Learn more or purchase:

* Independent online book marketplaces. While these sites are often lighter on data / reviews, and thus not the first place to go to learn about a book, they're a great place to actually purchase!