The Book is the Weapon Part II



Five years ago I wrote an essay about one of my favorite books, Uwe Wandrey’s Kampfreime,  which in 1968 was designed and published as a weapon for self-defense following the death of Benne Ohnesorg in the ’68 protests. In the years since I’ve not been able to find any more references to books designed as weapons, until a few months ago I opened a package from Berlin and to discover a second book that is a weapon – this one also German.

50 Gramm zensierter Most in der Tüte appears to be an artists’ book by Künstlergruppe AV`88, consisting of a shredded xerox copy of Johan Most’s Revolutionäre Kriegswissenschaften” (1875) – the famed German anarchists rare instruction manual for the manufacture of bombs. According to the printed title sheet, the shredded book has been censured in advance by the group, which also notes that smoking the material within could be dangerous for health of the state. Presumably, the strips are to be used as tinder, metaphorically or physically.

Most’s work has become largely obscured these days, and I admire the inventive way that it references a work published more than 100 years earlier. I don’t know much about other works by the group, if there are any, and welcome any information.

Neither OCLC nor KVK locate any holdings.

Künstlergruppe AV’88. 50 Gramm zensierter Most in der Tüte. Ein Projekt der Künstlergruppe AV`88. [Frankfurt]: Verlag Edition AV 88, [1988]. Sealed plastic bag filled with xeroxed and shredded strips from Johann Most’s book “Revolutionäre Kriegswissenschaften”, with printed red title sheet sealed within.


Telepathy, Power, and Lonko Kilapan in Roberto Bolaño’s 2666



The first and only edition of this obscure and strange work concerning telepathy and the proposed Araucanian heritage of Bernardo O’Higgins. The book plays a significant part in the unfolding of Roberto Bolaño’s novel 2666, where the character Amalfitano, who had been given it as a joke, reads it. In his reading Amalfitano – with reference to Julio Cortazar’s concept of the active reader – begins to suspect that Lonko Kilapan may be a pseudonym for an unnamed Chilean politician, or perhaps even Pinochet. Moreover, Amalfitano decides that telepathy may have been what allowed the Mapuche to resist the Spaniards, and concludes that he himself may be a telepath – a conclusion which reassures him in the face of the voices that have been following him in the previous pages of the novel, and will play an important role in the narrative.

On first reading 2666 we were certain that this book must be fictitious, but it is the second book which plays a pivotal role in the novel which actually does exist – see the previous DL post on Rafael Dieste’s Testamento Geometrico.  To the best of our knowledge, there’s not yet been a study of this strange sort of intertextuality in the novel or Bolaño’s work. Here’s hoping somebody takes up the challenge.

Kilapan, Lonko. O’Higgins es Araucano: 17 Pruebas, Tomadas de la Historia Secreta de la Araucania. Santiago de Chile: Editorial Universitaria, 191978. First edition. 8vo, 61 pp, perfect bound in wraps. Inscribed by the author at the first blank. With the rubberstamp of the Instituto O’Higginiano de Chile at the first blank and index page, and with the business card of Sergio E. Lopez Rubio laid in, with a holograph message at verso.

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Chris Marker’s Petite Planète Series: Germany


Chris Marker’s Petite Planète series, which he founded for Editions Seuil and which he directed for the first 19 books, have received a lot attention lately, with articles and exhibitions drawing attention to them. The attention is well-deserved. It is hard to think of a more profound déternoument of a by-then moribund literary format, the travel guide. With their inventive layout, playful irony, and mixture of found images with original photography – by Marker himself, as well as friends such as Agnes Varda – they rank among the most interesting publications of the 20th century. The anecdotes are well-known – the fictional guide to Mars in the Resnais and Marker documentary Toute le Mémoire du Monde, the influence on William Klein’s Life is Good and Good For You in New York – but what is less known is that English translations of some of the volumes exist, published by Vista Books in London in 50’s and early 60’s. The English editions largely preserve the format and layout of the French originals, giving the English readers a chance to enjoy them. In the coming days we’ll be profiling several of these, beginning with one of the best – Joseph Rovan’s Germany, which was originally published by Editions Seuil as the 7th book in the Petite Planète series. Marker also contributes 11 of his own photographs to the book.




This was likely an important volume for Marker in the series, as it was written by his close friend Joseph Rovan, who was Marker’s employer at the Centre national de documentation de la culture populaire, and was also involved with Travail et Culture and Esprit, the magazine in which Marker published his first stories, poems and travelogues.




Rovan spent his youth in Germany, and during the war was imprisoned at Dachua by the Nazi’s for his activities in the Resistance. After the war he spent time in French-occupied Germany engaged in educational activities, part of an effort at postwar reconciliation between the two nations which was a passionate cause for Rovan. Marker sometimes accompanied him on these trips, which he recounted in an essay in Esprit. Rovan’s autobiography, Mémoires d’un Français qui se souvient d’avoir été Allemand, contains some beautiful reminscences of Marker, playing piano one of these German trips, and also sleeping on the table at the DOC offices in the 50’s when he was young and had no place to sleep. Rovan’s book is an amazing work in its own right, and deserves a translation into English. I am very grateful to Catherine Lupton’s excellent study of Chris Marker, Memories of the Future, which is where I first read of the passages about Marker in Rovan’s book.
















Rovan, Joseph [Chris Marker]. Germany. London: Edward Hulton, 1959. First edition thus. 12mo, 192 pp, photographically illustrated wraps. Translated into English by Margaret Crosland.

Books related to Chris Marker available to purchase from Division Leap.

Agnes Varda and la côte d’azur



Lately I’ve been making a systematic effort to read through the volumes of Chris Marker’s Petite Plànete series, and marveling all over again at what a profound détournement of the by-then moribund travel guide format they are. With the exception of William Klein’s Life is Good and Good For You, there seems to have been very little that has been influenced by them, or bears much an affinity with them, at least that I’ve been able to discover. A notable exception is this remarkable travelogue as photobook by Chris Marker’s friend, Agnes Varda.

The inventive layout, sly humor and mixture of Varda’s own photographs with found imagery from advertising and historical ephemera is remarkable. There is even a Giradoux quote in the foreward.

One reason for the obscurity of the title might be the fragility of the binding. Most copies seem to have detached pages. Perhaps someday someone will reissue the book. In the meanwhile, track down a copy to put on that lonely shelf with all of your little planets.






















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The Strange Geometry of Roberto Bolaño, 2666, and Rafael Dieste


Reader’s of 2666 will understand

This is the first and only edition of this obscure and beautiful work on geometric theory, written by the Galician poet Rafael Dieste. The book plays a pivotal in Roberto Bolano’s novel 2666, where the character Amalfitano discovers it in his library in Mexico, despite having no memory of ever purchasing it.

Bolaño takes advantage of this absence of memory as to the book’s origins to include a beautiful reminiscence of bookstores in Barcelona where Amalfitano may have accidentally purchased it – perhaps at Laie, or La Central, Amalfitano thinks, with passing reference to the writers Pere Gimferrer, Rodrigo Rey Rosa, and Jaun Villoro. I like to think this reveals that Bolaño was a haunter of bookstores, and that perhaps this passage is a sort of tribute.

Amalfitano becomes obsessed with the book and it’s appearance, and, in an homage to an obscure Latin American readymade by Marcel Duchamp, hangs the book on a clothesline in his backyard so that the the book can be read by the wind and the strange diagrams within be exposed to the elements.

I suspect that the strange diagrams arranging the names of philosophers, which Amalfitano inscribes into the text of 2666, may have been influenced by the diagrams in Testamento Geometrico.

“And then he looked at Dieste’s book, the Testamento Geometrico, hanging impassively from the line, held there by two clothespins, and he felt the urge to take it down and wipe off the ocher dust that had begun to clung to it here and there, but he didn’t dare. . . “ [p. 196]

This book was not the poet’s only foray into geometry. I’ve also come across a much earlier work published in Buenos Aires in 1956, with the suggstive title ‘Nuevo Tratado de Paralelismo’, pictured below.


Dieste, Rafael. Testamento Geometrico. La Coruña: Ediciones de Castro, 1975. First edition. 8vo, 145 [1] pp. [index], bound in printed French wraps. Text in Spanish.

A near fine copy, which appears to never have been hung from a clothesline.

Dieste, Rafael. Nuevo Tratado del Paralelismo. Buenos Aires: Atlantida, 1956. First edition. 12mo, 186 pp. + index. Bound in illustrated paper over boards. Text in Spanish. Illustrated with diagrams.

An Early Description of a Professional Tattoo Kit from the German Underworld



Near the end of the 19th century a pickpocket was arrested in the German town of Mainz. This was in itself an ordinary occurrence, but in his belongings were discovered a notebook full of drawings, many of them categorized by profession, along with vials of red and black ink and wooden needles, all housed in a spectacle case. The drawings in the album were templates for tattoos, and the man claimed to have purchased this kit from a tattoo artist in the mountains, who specialized in the sale of these kits – perhaps named Joseph Ragozet.




The kit so fascinated judge Fritz Eller that he sent along a description of the kit, along with photographs of the drawings, to the sociologist and criminologist Franz Gross, which is how this early and valuable documentation of a portable tattoo kit in the German underworld came to be published in a periodical devoted to criminal anthropology. Like much of the scarce early modern research into tattoos, it comes from a criminological or medical standpoint. Gross was fascinated enough by the case to contribute a foreward to the article, in which he makes the claim that this may be the first description of such a commercial, portable kit. There must have been earlier descriptions – if you know of any, please get in touch.




Eller fortunately goes into some detail on the method of tattooing. The design is first drawn onto the flesh with the drawing as a template and then the long wooden needles, also dipped in ink, puncture the skin. Smaller tattoos could be done in as little time as a quarter of an hour with this method. According to this account, the wooden needles were very painful, and customers often vomited or passed out from the pain, or interrupted the process, often leaving a partial tattoo.




The drawings are strikingly beautiful, direct in line but finely detailed and very expressive. The division according to occupation is especially fascinating from an anthropological standpoint, indicating the sort of workers who might get a tattoo – there are plenty of designs for seamen, of course, but also portrayed are Seiltänzerin (funambulist or tightrope walker), Kufeltänzerin (juggler), Ballspieler (ball player?), zirkusreiterin (circus rider), Räuberhauptmann (Robber chief), Maurer (bricklayer), Bäcker (baker), Barbier (barber), Metzger (butcher), taubenkönigin, Schlosser (locksmith), Kutscher (coachman), etc.  – all the best occupations, though unfortunately we don’t find one for bookseller.





Eller, Fritz. ‘Ein Vorlagebuch für Tätowierungen’ in Archiv für Kriminal-Anthropologie und Kriminalistik 19. Band, 1. u 2. Heft. Leipzig: Verlag von F. C. W. Vogel, 1905. 8vo, 207 pp, rebound at an early date in brown leatherette over marbled boards, titled in gilt at the spine.

Please visit the Tattooing section of our website to view other rare tattoo books at DL.

The Character of the Tattoo in Modern Europe



Rudolf Erhard Riecke (1869-1939) was a dermatologist and the first director of the influential department of skin and venereal diseases at the University of Gottingen. In 1925, as an outgrowth of his research he published Das Tatauierungswesen im Heutigen Europa. The book has never been translated into English, or reprinted, as far as I can tell in any language, which is unfortunate as it is one of the most valuable early studies of the early modern European tattoo.

Riecke compared the symbolism of the modern tattoo, especially with regard to erotic and criminal tattoos, as found  on the bodies of circus performers, seamen, criminals and members of the underworld, and concluded that the motivations and symbolism of the modern European tattoo were distinct from the conclusions of anthropological studies of non-Western cultures at the time.

The latter part of the book is taken up with a generous section of b/w photographic plates reproducing 94 photographs of tattoos – certainly one of the most important published photographic records we have of its kind. A number of the tattoos are erotic, and there is one excellent photograph of a full penis tattoo (fig. 80).


The Tattoo Historian website has a great post on the mystery posed by an excised example of this plate in a library copy of the book.




Riecke, Erhard. Das Tatauierungswesen im Heutigen Europa. Jena: Gustav Fischer, 1925. 4to, 40 pp. + 24 photographic plates, reproducing 94 photographs.

 Contact us if you’d like to be informed about the availability of this title from Division Leap, or to be notified about future examples we might find in our travels.

What Would Happen If I Were to Stand Up?



I first encountered the art of James Francis Horrabin in his illustrations for his friend H. G. Well’s The Outline of History, the work for which he is best known. Luckily, that led me to Horrabin’s own work, such as the fascinating The Plebs Atlas (1926) – which along with his other works on mapping, represent one of the most sustained pre-WWII efforts at a radical, socialist cartography.

Before yesterday’s mail, however, I’d never seen his striking cover illustration for the Plebs League pamphlet Do Your Own Thinking, which shows that Horrabin also had an eye for mapping more abstract social spaces as well. A muscular worker – The Man Underneath – kneels on one knee beneath a table on which dance a line of pudgy men and women in evening wear. Our worker casts a grave and thoughtful eye towards the reader, and states, rather than asks, “I’m just thinking what would happen if I were to stand up!”




[Horrabin, J. F.]. Do Your Own Thinking. London: Plebs League, nd [c. 1920’s]. First edition. Small 8vo, 14 pp, saddle-stapled illustrated wraps. Inquire.


Guido Boggiani and the Indelible Marking of the Skin



In 1895, the Ethnologist Guido Boggiani read a paper at the Secondo Congresso Geografico Italiano concerning the designs on the skin of two Peruvian mummies in an Italian museum. A pamphlet of the talk was published, entitled Tatuaggio o Pittura? In which Boggiani made the claim that these pictures on the skin were paintings rather then tattoos, as earlier writers such as Joest had asserted. Boggiani made the claim that the indelible quality of the images was achieved by the use of a dye extracted from the plant Genipa Oblongifolia, also known as Genipapo, which had a corrosive effect on the skin, which caused a more lasting effect then other dyes. It was also thought to ward off spirits.



This booklet is illustrated with six drawings which are painstaking reconstructions of the designs found on the mummies, as well as two full page more natural drawings of the limbs of the mummies in a natural posture, as above. In all of these drawings Boggiani’s extreme fascination for this art on the skin is obvious. It is perhaps natural that Boggiani argued for this skin art to be that of painting, because he was first trained as a painter, and a successful one at that. His paintings sold for large sums at an early age.

Boggiani was drawn into ethnology during a votage to exhibit his paintings in Buenos Aires, where he met several expatriate Italians whose accounts of Paraguay led him to embark on a new career as an ethnologist, making return trips to the Americas to collect artifacts.




In the year after this booklet is published, however, Boggiani would return to Asuncion convinced that photography was the best way to capture the indigenous people he chose to study, and the photos he left behind – some of which are now held by the Ethnological Museum of Berlin – are valued as important early work in ethnological photography and the photography of tattoos.




Boggiani’s embrace of the young medium of photography may have led to his death. Though the exact circumstances of his demise are unknown, he was found in a remote area of the Gran Chaco with his skull destroyed and his camera and negatives buried in the ground around him. It was widely believed at the time that these measures were an effort to suppress the threat of photography.

This particular example of the booklet is intriguing as it has a distribution stamp from a bookstore in Asunción, the last city where Boggiani was seen alive. Even at the time this was probably a very academic publication with a limited distribution. It may be irresponsible conjecture, but I wonder if this may have been one of a number of copies Boggiani may have brought to Asunción himself.

Boggiani, Guido. Tatuaggio o Pittura? Studio Intorno ad una Curiosa Usanza Delle Popolazioni Indigene Dell’Antico Peru. Roma: Stabilimento Tipografico G. Civelli, 1895. First edition. Small 4to, 32 [2] pp, printed wraps. Text in Italian. Illustrated with 6 reproductions in the text, and two full page reproductions following the text, all from drawings by Boggiani. Includes bibliographic references. Contemporary bookstore stamp from Libreria y Papeleria Asuncion to cover.

Moderately toned, with some short tears and chipping to margins, and foxing to margins, aforementioned bookstore stamp, but very good. Scarce in the trade. Inquire



David Markson, Women and Vodka



The first edition of this unusual anthology, in which short stories and excerpts from larger works (including a piece by Isaac Babel) are collaged together and commercially packaged into a convenient narrative of female decline. The cover features an illustration by the illustrator Lou Marchetti, who lent his distinctive style to many crime fiction and western pulps of the era.  Mark Merrill was a pseudonym of David Markson, and this is his first published book. The anthology was re-released in 1963 under the less titillating, but perhaps equally convenient title Great Tales of Old Russia.

While the primary motive behind the book may have been financial, as with his other early detective novels, the collage aspect of the book and the excellent selection of Russian works are the beginning of a trajectory that would culminate in Markson’s great, last collage novels.

I never knew Markson well, but when I worked at the Strand in the early aughts I sometimes used to talk to him about books in the evenings when he would come in and make his rounds. This wasn’t unusual; Markson’s well-known affection for the bookstore extended to many of the employees. I remember that he was the first person to mention the works of Isaac Babel to me. I was foolish enough to wait a few years to read Babel, just as I foolishly delayed reading Markson’s own work until after my acquaintance with him . Seeing Babel’s work here reinforces that particular regret of reading a book later then one would like.

The cover art of this book has a resonance to me that goes back even further. My first foray into bookselling was at the age of 9. I specialized in Louis L’amour books, a natural decision because at the time he was my favorite author. I discovered I could buy them at garage sales for 10 cents and sell them for 25 to 50 cents – a significant amount of money in rural Oregon during the decline of the timber industry in the 1980’s. I judged the salability of a western largely on the cover art. Marchetti’s work on the cover of a L’Amour made it eminently saleable. Seeing his work more than a quarter century later, on the cover of a work by somebody who has since become one of the my favorite writers, gives me that particular sense of vertigo one feels when disparate strands of time suddenly elide. This feeling is so often caused by the physical fact of books, and is one of the great pleasures of reading that I don’t think will ever transfer to their electronic counterparts. -Adam Davis


Merrill, Mark, ed. [pseudonym of David Markson]. Women and Vodka. New York: Pyramid Books, 1956. First edition. 12mo, 190 [2] pp, wraps [illustrated by Lou Marchetti].

OCLC locates only five holdings of the first edition.

A square, near fine copy with some light creasing and toning to the wraps. 


More books by David Markson.