Presidential Lecture Series banner
Douglas Hofstadter
Stanford Humanities Center

Image Gallery




Bach-Fuga ambigram Bach-Fuga ambigram

“Bach / Fuga” ambigram (Ambigrammi, p. 20)

...My own personal attitude toward these “inventions” is that I simply found something, and it was something there for anyone to find. Ambigrams are discoveries, not creations. That’s my motto, anyway.

For example, look at the “Bach” / “fuga” ambigram [above] (“fuga,” by the way, is Latin / Italian / Spanish for “fugue,” and of course Bach was a fugue specialist...). It is obviously not my invention that the “c” in “Bach,” when rotated 90°, looks like the “u” in “fuga” — it is a mere observation. Likewise, it’s pretty obvious, once you look at it, that when you rotate a capital “B” 90° counterclockwise, there is a potential capital “A” to be found inside it — and moreover, that “A” was always there. After all, if there hadn’t been an “A” — or at least an “a” — lurking inside that rotated “B,” this ambigram simply would not have worked. And so on.

(For the Love of Line and Pattern, p.28)


ambigram ambigram

“Ambigram” ambigram (Ambigrammi, p. XX;
original color version courtesy of Douglas Hofstadter)




Hofstadter/Gebstadter ambigram

“Douglas R. Hofstadter / Egbert B. Gebstadter” ambigram
(Ambigrammi, p. 90)

“A somewhat forced correspondence between the names of the interlocutors.” (Ambigrammi, p. 90)



Cover Art from Selected Translations of GEB


Le Ton Beau de Marot cover




Metamagical Themas: Questing for the Essence of Mind and Pattern cover
The Mind's I cover



I Am a Strange Loop cover






Metamagical Themas: Questing for the Essence of Mind and Pattern cover


“Musically-Inspired” Art

Whirly Art: opening section of “Oddity #2”
(For the Love of Line and Pattern, front and back covers)


Jazz Scribble

Jazz Scribble
(For the Love of Line and Pattern, p.32)

When my book Le Ton beau de Marot came out in 1997, I gave away a bunch of copies to friends, and for some reason — most probably because I just enjoyed the feel of a particular pen I was using as it glided across the thick sheet at the book’s very front — I started putting little curlicues and squiggles and whatnot below my “John Hancock” [...] They got more and more elaborate and ornate as I signed more and more books, and pretty soon they sort of got out of hand. I mean, such a scribble typically covered most of the page, and certainly tended to overshadow the signature itself. But that was the way it was — it just felt right, and so I continued doing them.

My modus operandi was really rather strange, I have to admit. What I would do, most often, was some kind of extremely rapid oscillation with my hand, a purely motoric action, that my mind could barely guide at all. It could sort of decide a general strategy for where the line might hopefully go, but then it just had to take potluck as to what really happened when my hand went into gear and did its super-rapid, unconscious thing on the paper.

As a result, these squiggles were often pretty God-awful in appearance — not always, but fairly often. To make matters worse, I then would add insult to injury, in most cases, by doing a second such squiggle right on top of, or at least overlapping with, the first one. And then sometimes a third one. The whole thing would look like a really ugly mess. How could I get out of this? After all, I had just defaced a $30 book!

Well, the only possible answer was: Add more stuff, trying to cover up the mess, to somehow “justify” this mess and make it look, well, almost deliberate. And so I developed techniques for doing this....

For the Love of Line and Pattern, p. 31

Celebrities Reading Hofstadter...

Steve Martin reading Hofstadter




Actor, auteur, and author Steve Martin posing with Metamagical Themas for a “Celebrity READ” poster series by the American Library Association, c.1987.








©2006 Stanford University Libraries


Top of Page || Home Page || Stanford University Libraries || Stanford University