Neurath’s Elephant

Letter from Otto Neurath to Mr Hunt, 18 September 1943. (Otto and Marie Neurath Isotype Collection, University of Reading; IC 1/4.)

Otto Neurath often signed his letters with a drawing of an elephant, a joking reference to his voluminous physique. The frequent practice he had as a prolific correspondent in drawing this character enabled him to refine it and reveal his gift for caricature. Incidentally, Neurath developed his elephant prior to Disney’s Dumbo.

Occasionally he added a supplementary drawing relevant to the correspondence: here, in a letter to Mr Hunt of the British Ministry of Production Committee, he makes an Isotype-like joke about the inverse proportion of salary to the height of an employee’s seat.

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