COOLCRAZYBEAUTIFUL: aUI: The Language of Space

yvette-thumbA Pick of the Week from

Special Collections of the UM Libraries

By Yvette Yurubi


Seeking to bridge the gaps of communication between ourselves and worlds beyond, John W. Weilgart created what is described as not a “concocted language” but a “rediscovery of the basic categories of human thought and expression.” In his book, aUI: The Language of Space (1968), Weilgart sought to reduce language to its most primitive and intuitive form to create a universal understanding of it that can bypass cultural divide and prejudices. The book also claims that his language of space, known as aUI (and pronounced a-OO-ee), is capable of simplifying our thought process to a bare state where one can only express what they truly mean without hiding behind metaphors and connotations.


In The Language of Space Weilgart sought to reduce language to its most primitive and intuitive form. (Click to view full page.)

In addressing the origin of this language, Weilgart himself once explained that it came from a green elf-like humanoid from outer space who decided to teach it to him so he’d be able to transcend barriers and speak with all intelligent beings. In order to educate humanity as a whole and prepare them for their eventual contact with the unknown, he wanted to pass along the language to as many people as possible to inspire and encourage them to engage in civil  negotiations with extraterrestrials rather than approach them aggressively.

In keeping with his noble intentions, each page is outlined with detailed drawings and descriptions of the origins of each symbol, all of which illustrate what he indicates is simple and intrinsic logic. For instance, a single circle serves as the symbol for “space,” and a circle with a dot inside means “inside” while “power” is represented by what appears to be a lightning bolt. These symbols can also be combined in different patterns to form new words and meanings. The book goes on to explain the grammatical structures and pronunciation in further depth to leave readers well-equipped with all of the language’s nuances. So those of you who are interested in communicating with and flattering our future overlords to prevent our eradication as a species should definitely give it a look!


The book contains detailed drawings and descriptions of the origins of each symbol included in the language of the space. (Click to view full page.)

COOLCRAZYBEAUTIFUL is written by Yvette Yurubi and showcases unique items at Special Collections and the University Archives discovered by librarians and staff members while on the job. They gather monthly for “Show and Tell” to present their top finds. You too can experience these items up close, and access other rare and interesting treasures, by visiting Special Collections and the University Archives, located on the 8th floor of the Otto G. Richter Library.

Spectral Collections: The Jackie Gleason Collection


A small sampling of books from the Jackie Gleason Collection.

The first time I opened a book from the Jackie Gleason Collection, a single long, wiry strand of white hair plunged forward from its pages. The book was Confessions of a Spiritualist (1921) by Arthur Conan Doyle, the wizardly creator of Sherlock Holmes. Doyle dabbled in mediums and other worlds, so I figured it was as good a place to start as any, but that wiry white hair jutted out uncomfortably right in my face. It took half a minute for me to decide it was a witch hair.

I assume most people that find a witch hair ignore it. Maybe others have a potion for it? What you do with witch hair is, quite frankly, entirely up to you.  It’s just like any other hair and in fact finding it was just like finding any other hair.

It was probably just any other hair.

But here in the Jackie Gleason Collection you’re allowed to scour the extraterrestrial walls of imagination. Here werewolves prowl next to books containing very official looking military transcripts from the Bermuda Triangle. Hovering above are the misty-brained but painfully recounted memories of Martian abduction by surprisingly elegant green men. Here Abraham Lincoln can speak from the afterlife, but since Abraham Lincoln Returns was written in 1957, Honest Abe has a lot to say about Communism. Plus, there are Nazi UFOs, Atlantis narratives, cryptids, loads of spirit photography, and a particularly handsome first edition of The Book of Thoth, signed and numbered by the Master of Magick Aleister Crowley himself.


Aliens, vampires, magic, and the mafia? There is a great variety of subjects in the Gleason Collection.

Special Collections holds the legendary library of a man celebrated on the American silver screen who many people don’t know had an obsessive urge for books on the paranormal, the unidentified, and the otherworldly. Throughout his life, Jackie Gleason amassed approximately 1,700 books on a wide range of mystical subjects. While he was beaming over millions of American television sets, on famed shows like The Honeymooners, the other side of Gleason “would spend small fortunes on everything from financing psychic research to buying a sealed box said to contain actual ectoplasm, the spirit matter of life itself,” according to biographer William Henry III. It’s clear that he was searching and privately grasping at something different, something unknown.

The Gleason Collection was donated to Special Collections by the actor’s widow in 1988 following his death. Since then the department’s parapsychology holdings have expanded with even more oddities, such as overlapping books, ephemera, and zines focusing on the supernatural, which are categorized at Special Collections as Gleason-adjacent. Perhaps Gleason would be proud that in his own afterlife, his occult library has strengthened its many tentacles and grown after death. We encourage you to come visit. We’ll spread out the magical tomes any way you think they will help you see. But remember, sometimes tentacles take hold. And some books are dangerous.

Oh, and as for that witch hair, I folded it up in a call slip request form and stuffed it into my notebook. Never know when it may come in handy. It’s a shame Gleason’s famed box of ectoplasm wasn’t included with the Gleason Collection. Then we could really make a witch’s brew.


spectralCollections-adJoin us on October 29, 2014, when we will transform Special Collections into a spectral wonderland as a group of ghosts, goblins, ghouls, and spirit creatures perform readings taken straight from the strange stories hidden within the mysterious and otherworldly texts of the Jackie Gleason Collection. 



Nathaniel Sandler, Book Detective for UM Special Collections

Nathaniel Sandler, Book Detective for UM Special Collections

What is the inspiration for our newsletter banner?

Are you wondering about the background image on The Mosaic banner? It was inspired by a page in one of our favorite artists’ books, Venus:

Venus. Organik. Brooklyn, NY: Organik, 2008.

Booklyn Artists Alliance, the collective group of artists that created this book, describes Venus as a, “one-of-a-kind artist’s book made from Korean mulberry and cellulose paper, acrylic paints, pencil, walnut ink, Japanese black ink, human blood, turmeric and cayenne pigment suspended in Polyvinyl Acrylic, graphite dust painting, and other media. Techniques include body printing, aspiration, xlene graphite transfer, and multiple layering of media. The bark on the covers comes from a Prunus virginianum (chokecherry) that Kurt cut down for firewood in upstate New York.

Cover. Venus. Organik. Brooklyn, NY: Organik, 2008.

The original pages for this book appeared as wall paintings in Organik’s ‘Spice Cave’ at Gallery Andante in Seoul Korea in 2008. Thick layers of impasto turmeric and cayenne pigment suspended in Polyvinyl Acrylic were layered onto the sheets. A few months later the large sheets were returned to Organik’s studio in Brooklyn and they were torn down into page size sheets. Then over the course of a year, after much research on the geography of the planet Venus, (primarily through recent NASA satellite photography) and much consideration over an epic love poem to the planet written by Weber, the collaborators painted collectively on the sheets in weekly and bi-weekly studio meetings.” With all of the spices incorporated into the production of Venus, it’s definitely a book that appeals to all the senses.

Page opening. Venus. Organik. Brooklyn, NY: Organik, 2008.

Our large and varied collection of artists’ books are often showcased in exhibitions and online displays.  More importantly, they play a prominent role in the classes we teach. Artists’ books challenge and reinterpret the ‘book’ and our engagement with that familiar form. Students, faculty, and visitors to Special Collections all respond to artists’ books in ways that reinforce the value of the book as an artifact and an enduring vehicle for words and images. We’re always fascinated to hear how people “read” books beyond the information conveyed within the covers (and sometimes there are no covers in an artists’ book!).  Visit us to see what we’re talking about, and become inspired to create, interpret, or simply read one of these treasures on your own!