Small folio (9 1/8 x 6 3/8 in.; 232 x 162 mm). Roman and Greek type, woodcut title border of arabesques and a Greek meander, Tory's "broken pot" device below title with two other versions on leaves I1v and O8v, privilege with French royal arms on title verso, one large (14-line) whiteleaf initial "L" decorated with tools of the graphic arts, numerous small initials, 114 woodcut designs (including one repeat) incorporating allegorical figures, roman letters on the model of the human body, and letter diagrams, those on leaves F5v-F6r signed with the cross of Lorraine, that on B3v signed thus and dated 1526, the human body cut on 14v after Jean Perréal, 13 full-page woodcuts of alphabets and one full-page of ciphers; washed, margins cut close touching only the quire marks at leaves O2-5, light marginal soiling with a few spots, mended tear in upper outer corner of leaves I5-6, narrow mends in fore-margin of leaves M2-4, N1-2, 06, three lines on leaf D5 underlined in ink. 19th-century blind-tooled calf in a renaissance panel design with blind-stamped floral ornaments in the frame, four double- and two single-raised bands on spine, red edges; corners and spine ends a little rubbed, few light scatches to covers.
The work is arranged in three sections dealing with language, the origin of Roman letters, and the construction of those letters. In the tradition of Pacioli's Divina Proportione (1509) and Dürer's Underweysung (1525), Tory underlines the equivalence of these letters in the human body. The last section deals with Hebrew, Greek and other exotic letter-forms including utopian and artificial letters, decorated initials, and monograms.
The book has long been admired for its delightful illustrations and ornament; it used to be thought that Tory himself was responsible of the illustrations, but recent research suggests that Jean Perréal and the Dutchman Godefroy, painters and limners at the court of François I, played a role in the design. The work is Tory's attempt to develop in France a true "art of the book" combining concept and form, the author asserting that moral perfection required perfection in thought and language, and language begins in letters.