Certainty is a property of some beliefs, arrived at epistemically.  Some philosophers argue that certainty is no different from knowledge but in recent thinking it is common to distinguish the two notions.  Ludwig Wittgenstein, writing a series of notes just prior to his death in 1951, seems to connect certainty not with knowledge but with doubting, or the absence thereof, but to him any notion of certainty is always subject to what he called the “difficulty [ of realizing ] the groundlessness of our believing.”

Highly renowned as a Conceptual artist, Mel Bochner has made many works exploring the relationship of language, thought, and vision. As described in the artist’s statement included in this book, Bochner’s interest in these concerns led him to read Wittgenstein’s On Certainty in the early 1970s. Bochner subsequently created a series of drawings entitled Counting Alternatives: Wittgenstein Illustrations (1971).

This Arion Press edition of Wittgenstein’s last work features prints based on these drawings.  Included are twelve hors texte illustrations by Bochner with additional designs on the pastedowns. Bochner’s illustrations are based on the structure of the square as a symbol of reason with strings of handwritten numbers representing spontaneous thought.

The illustrations were printed in black and red by letterpress from photoengravings. The photoengravings were made by Harms Graphics from planographic prints produced after the artist’s drawings on Mylar.  The main text is printed in two columns – the original German and an English translation by Denis Paul and G. E. M. Anscombe. Also featured are an introduction by Johnsonian Professor of Philosophy at Columbia University Arthur C. Danto and a preface by G. E. M. Anscombe and G. H. von Wright, who also edited the text. The type is Plantin, composed and cast on Monotype machines by M & H Type. The design, typography, presswork, binding were completed under the direction of Arion Press founder Andrew Hoyem.  The book is housed in a matching slipcase with an inset spine label.

As the 34th publication of the Arion Press, On Certainty was published in an edition of 300 numbered copies for sale and 26 lettered copies hors commerce. 30 copies out of the edition were accompanied by an extra suite of the illustrations published as larger format planographic prints on T. H. Saunders mouldmade paper.

This copy is numbered 84. It is signed by Mel Bochner at the artist’s statement.


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