Posted by Anne Nelson.
Earlier this month I went to the Palace Theater in Albany with some of my coworkers to see a screening of “The Princess Bride.” On the way to the show, we talked about the movie (we’d all seen it before) and how well it stands up to repeated viewings. While the central story is very simple, the film also introduces us to a tremendous number of interesting bit characters and story lines and they all intersect and ultimately wrap up very neatly. Jane Austen and Charles Dickens were both masters of this technique, and that’s (in part, anyway) why their novels are still such satisfying reads today. As for “The Princess Bride,” the story ties up so well at the end that even the cover art for its most recent DVD release reflects the movie’s clever composition.
The image of the two lovers looks at first like it is a simple reflection across the cover’s horizontal axis, but actually it is two similar pictures juxtaposed to give a little nod to the arc of the story. What’s much more interesting than the image, however, is the text of the title. This is a rotational ambigram. Thanks to some inventive calligraphy, the text of the words “The Princess Bride” can be rotated 180 degrees and it will still be legible. This is a pretty neat trick and I’ve noticed a few other items here at The Library that have employed it:
Paul McCartney released an album a few years ago with an ambigram of his own name on the cover.
And in “Angels and Demons,” the follow-up to his best-selling thriller “The DaVinci Code,” author Dan Brown uses ambigrams as a plot device. Of course, the book’s cover is itself a rotational ambigram. Because they are so difficult for artists to devise and draft, it’s quite unusual to see an ambigram on a book jacket or album cover. Their relative rarity, however, makes them fun to watch out for.