Reading Rebus

The ubiquity of emojis in our digital chat conversations invites interrogation into rebus writing as a predecessor to this form of visual communication and as an interdisciplinary area of study. Developed out of ancient writing systems created by the Egyptian, Chinese and Mayan civilizations, among others, rebuses were used in various ways throughout history—from Leonardo da Vinci’s manuscripts (15–16th centuries) to heraldry (17th century) to Bibles for children (18th century).

Reading Rebus’ visual collection of rebus ephemera focuses predominantly on European and American examples, while leaving open the possibilities to expand its temporal and geographical scope through additional visual artifacts, historical research, and multilingual examples. The project aims to make a core group of historical rebus ephemera from public institutions and special collections accessible in an engaging, collaborative, and interactive format to scholars in diverse fields such as linguistics, history, education, communications, design studies, and visual arts, as well as members of the general public–opening up new possibilities for discovering how we see and interpret visual information.

Reading Rebus is a work in progress! Follow our updates on Instagram and Twitter. For inquiries, please contact us.

Patricia Belen
Project Concept / Designer / Developer

Patricia is a graphic designer who creates identities, printed materials, publications, websites, content management systems and digital solutions for clients in the art, culture and commerce industries. Her research and writing explore the intersection of graphic design history, technology and contemporary practice. Patricia is also a teaching artist-in-residence in graphic design and new media at Fordham University.

Patricia is the creator of Reading Rebus and is the project’s designer/developer. She is responsible for the website design, layout, coding, content planning, content creation and UI/UX – helping to create new ways of exploring historical rebuses.

Bianca F.-C. Calabresi
Project Manager / Editor

Bianca F.-C. Calabresi is an academic scholar and instructor specializing in early modern book history and the cultural production of women across 16th- & 17th-century Europe and the Americas. She received her Ph.D. in Comparative Literature from Columbia, where she currently teaches undergraduates while pursuing an MA in Digital Humanities at CUNY. She writes on red ink as simulated blood, alternative female literacies, and word as image in the global middle period (among other things), and has additional professional experience in curatorial research, museum publishing, and letterpress printing.

🐝☥😱 brings to Reading Rebus her study of textual-visual interfaces, her background as an editor and proofreader, and her bossy-elder-sister vibe, in the roles of Project Manager and Fact-checker/Copy Editor.

Rachel M.L. Dixon
Multilingual Puzzle Researcher / Developer

Rachel’s digital humanities research focuses on ludo-literary theory, digital folklore, sociolinguistics, and cultural preservation. She works professionally as a game designer and software product leader, with notable stints with The New York Times Crosswords and Games team and at Harmonix Music Systems, the studio behind AAA video games Rock BandDance Central, and Fuser. She is also a poet and writer whose work has been published in Gargoyle Magazine, Main Street RagScythe Literary Magazine, and The Moth among others. She is excited to join Reading Rebus as a multilingual puzzle researcher, a project that merges many of her research foci in one delightful place.

Researcher / Analyst

Matt’s academic background is primarily in the humanities, both digital and otherwise, especially in the realms of literary analysis and critical theory. They studied what they refer to as “Applied Narrative” at NYU’s Gallatin School of Individualized Study – essentially, the ways in which narrative and storytelling have been, are, and could be used. Professionally, they have worked near-exclusively as an instructor or educator for children aged 6 to 14, and more rarely, as a researcher and information gatherer. They are incredibly interested in iconography and symbolism, and as a huge fan of Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari, they always have the Deleuzian idea of the rhizome on their mind. They have a track record of connecting elements and concepts together, even when they have no business doing so.

For the Reading Rebus project, Matt’s role primarily covers seeking out rebuses of note and information on rebuses and their interpretation. Their primary contributions to the final product consist of writing in the form of reference tables, interpretation guides, and analyses.

Ostap Kin
Researcher / Institutional Outreach

Ostap Kin is an editor of New York Elegies: Ukrainian Poem on the City (Academic Studies Press, 2019), and the co-translator (with John Hennessy) of Serhiy Zhadan’s A New Orthography (Lost Horse Press, 2020) and (with Vitaly Chernetsky) of Yuri Andrukhovych’s Songs for a Dead Rooster (Lost Horse Press, 2018). He holds an M.S. in library and information science from Long Island University and is presently working on an M.A. in digital humanities from the Graduate Center of the City University of New York. Kin works as Archivist/Librarian/Research Center Coordinator at the Zimmerli Art Museum, Rutgers University.

Special Thanks 🙏

Dr. Matthew K. Gold, Dr. Bret Maney, Micki Kaufman, and The Graduate Center, CUNY, MA in Digital Humanities Program.