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James Landau wrote:
  _Dr. Moggle's Alphabet Challenge_ was a book by John Magel published in 1985. It told as a poem a story about being taken through the alphabet in a dream state by an elf named Trapisset, being the chosen one on a quest to find all the words. On each left page was the story continued, told in rhyme, and on each right page were full-page pictures, containing objects and organisms beginning with a letter of the alphabet, with the idea being to identify all 1,000 words illustrated throughout the book. The book was at the center of a big contest at the time, and amidst all its spiritual themes about "the quest", it announced that there were two words in the book that were both illustrated, and spelled out by name in the pictures. The big prize would be given to the entrant who wrote in and identified both words, and if more than one had figured it out, to the one who explained the most eloquently in an essay just what "the significance" of those two words were. For all the hype, I never did hear what became of the contest, or who their much-anticipated winner was.

  That sounds very familiar (but not quite the same, certainly not the title).....Back around that same time I got an Alphabet-challenge book, but I dont recall any poems/elf/story line, nothing of a quest....Just 26 extremely intricate, amusing and sometimes lovely paintings (N in particular, the theme was night) chock full of things, all beginning with the given letter....I seem to recall ít came with a sort-of answer booklet that listed all the items but tons of non-items too, so you couldn't be sure.  Again, there was a contest involved, and again, I don't know who won, as I didn't enter.   I started doing it, but got depressed and stopped when I didn't get as far as I thought I should.  You needed a f**ing magnifying glass to find the amonite..  Flags of modern nations, especially, defeated me, as many of my sources were too old.......And it was full of ship's terminology too-- I can't tell a mizzenmast from a mainsail, nor a sloop from a schooner (i.e., there was only one boat in the S painting....which is it???)  

  I forget, James-- are you US or overseas?  If the latter, perhaps yours is just a UK version/title of the same thing?
  Unfortunately the book is packed away. If I should happen to find it, I'll scan a page or 2 to my website, but don't hold your breath(s).   I do recall the the author/painter had done another called "The Weather Book" which turned up on the remainder table at Borders just around then. He was, IIRC, a Brit.  This may jog some memories; it certainly did mine, for which thanx!