While flipping through the pages of “Webster’s Visual Dictionary of Curiosities”, the illustrated entry for ABRACADABRA caught my eye.
The letters are arranged in quite an aesthetically arresting, and well, magical fashion. Taking the shape of an inverted triangle, the design begins with the full word, dropping a letter from each line.
And of course, there’s a magical history behind the typography.
The first record of the word dates back to the 2nd century, used by the physician to the Roman emperor, Caracalla. The physician prescribed this exact design as an amulet to ward off evil spirits and disease. As the letters disappeared, so did the disease. Because of the magical arrangement, the word was meant to be worn, not spoken. It’s believed that this talisman originated from a Kabbalistic Charm, using the initials of the Hebraic words Ab, Ben and Ruach a Cadesch (‘Father, Son and Holy Ghost’).
This charm was used throughout the middle ages, so if you’re lucky enough, you might come across an original pendant. But until that day, we might have to invest in a set of chasing tools to make you one of your own…