Flames Descending Into Darkness: Richard-Paul Lohse and Rosa Luxemburg

This dust jacket, designed by Richard Paul Lohse, is probably my favorite example of book design from the 1930’s – a remarkable example of storytelling through form.

It was created for the first German translation of a work which had originally appeared in Dutch two years prior. The poet and socialist Roland-Holst was a close friend of Luxemburg. Following the ascent of the Nazi party, it was almost impossible to publish books with a socialist or pacifist attitude in Germany, and many such German language books were published in Switzerland, as with this title. Jean-Christophe Verlag was a publishing house closely allied with the Buchergilde Gutenberg, famous for publishing B. Traven. (See here for an earlier post on the flight of that press from Germany).

 

 

This shift allowed the Swiss designer Richard Paul Lohse to work on a variety of socialist books, including this title, which features one of the most striking and enduring dust jackets of the 1930’s. The front is graced with a photograph of Luxemburg; the rear panel reproduces a letter from Luxemburg to the author. The two panels are linked by a photomontage of marching socialists which begins on the back panel and marches downward to disappear into darkness on the spine, but not before coloring the word “Rosa” rose – a striking link between meaning and form. The procession ascends again at the front panel to burst into stark relief against Luxemburg’s blouse, the flags seeming to burst into flames.

 

We’re grateful for Felix Wiedler’s excellent book design blog, where we first learned about this work.

Roland-Holst, Henriette [Lohse, Richard Paul]. Rosa Luxemburg: Ihre Leben und Wirken. Zurich: Jean-Christophe Verlag, 1937. First edition. 8vo, 223 pp, bound in dove grey cloth printed in blue; illustrated dust jacket. Inquire. 

Four Placards From the Protests Against Jail Expansion in Chinatown, NYC

 

In the fall of 1982, New York City was under court order to close the Men’s House of Detention on Riker’s Island, one of several jails on Riker’s. At the same time, the city government sought to c lose the Spofford Juvenile Detention Center in the Bronx. In order to house all these new prisoners, the administration of Mayor Ed Koch proposed a new jail in downtown Manhattan, next to the older “Tombs.” Though the New York Times Editorial Board and other New York liberals supported the plan, the community came out strongly against the proposed expansion.

 

 

Citizens’ Coalition for Lower Manhattan formed to organize against the new jail, planning demonstrations, producing bilingual protest signs like those in the collection, and writing to the New York Times editors to make sure their voices were heard. These signs were even captured in a photograph published in the New York Times about the mobilization.

 

 

As the city debated the expansion, Mayor Koch responded to Chinatown protestors with his infamous retort, “you don’t vote, you don’t count”, a moment often cited as impetus for the beginning of more Chinese-American representation in NYC politics, including the creation of the Chinese American Voters Alliance and the eventual candidateship of John Liu for mayor.

The nine-story North Tower was finally built, but not before 12,000 people took to the streets in protest, one of the largest demonstrations in the history of Lower Manhattan.

Exceedingly rare artifacts for a pivotal and watershed moment in Asian-American political participation in New York, now in the news again with the current protests against further jail expansion downtown.

[Chinatown] Citizens’ Coalition for Lower Manhattan. Four Sandwich Board Placards.

NY: [1982]. Four placards, each 17 1/2 x 22 1/2″, each printed in black on various colors of paper card stock, each with a cord handle attached to holes punched at the upper margin. 

The Strongest Woman in the World

A photograph of Miss Dorian Berth, of the early 20th century equilibrist duo Ansel & Dorian. While Ansel would go on to have a longer career with other performers in the theatrical and vaudeville arts, we can find very little biographical information on this remarkable woman. If you know more about her work, please get in touch.

Boycotting Campbell’s, Then & Now

The Cambell Soup Company controversy this week prompted us to dig into the flatfiles and find this brilliant 1984 poster by the FLOC, featuring a détourned Campbell’s soup can. The poster was created by the FLOC in 1984 for use during Jesse Jackson’s 1984 Democratic Convention speech. At one point in his speech Jackson denounced the labor practices of Campbell’s Soup in Ohio, and farmers – orchestrated by Baldemar Velasquez and the FLOC – raised this poster in support of the boycott.

Cambell’s Soup had been the subject of a many years of action by the FLOC, in the face of opposition from the AFL-CIO. The FLOC had conducted a 560 mile protest march to the company’s Toledo headquarters in the year previous. After two more years of economic pressures Campbell’s would finally accede and agree to the nation’s first three way bargaining agreement.

The Campbell’s Soup can became an even more conspicuous symbol of America after Warhol’s canny economic strategies regarding their reproduction. This poster is striking for it’s completely different approach to a cultural icon, and perhaps a critique of the economics of the art world is present in this protest of worker’s conditions in the fields of Ohio, not far from where Warhola was born.

Keep on boycotting Campbell’s, and please vote on November 6.

Judo and Yves Klein’s Leap into the Void

Yves Klein throws an opponent into the void.

Yves Klein throws an opponent into the void.

Before the leap into the void, Klein was an accomplished practitioner of Judo. His achievement of a fourth degree blackbelt at the age of 25 was a highly unusual accomplishment for a Westerner at that time.

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Tarpaulin and photomontage aside, it is difficult not to believe that this training was incorporated into his “Leap Into the Void” four years after the publication of this issue of a French popular science magazine featured a 9 page article about Judo with black and white illustrations, some of which feature Klein.

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The cover of the journal is also illustrated with a color photograph of Klein holding his opponent in the void.

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A Supernatural Drama About Book Dealers?

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My problem pile haunts me. Like most book dealers, there are always stacks of things that need to be catalogued, but within that pile there is a special core of material that tends to resist departure. There are things in this stack that have remained there for years, following me from city to city and remaining stubbornly uncatalogued, usually because there is a feeling that they have another story that has to be teased out.

The following poster has been in my problem stack for a few years. It is intriguing enough for the  great typography, or fact of advertising a supernatural drama set in Transylvania more than 60 years before the publication of Bram Stoker’s Dracula, but the real reason it has remained in my problem pile for so long is because it came from Serendipity Books via the trade, and in black marker on the plastic sleeve that holds it is written the injunction “Keep This One,” a phrase that incurs a certain excitement. 

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The reason may have to do with the relationship of the play to the rare book trade. A prominent character named Balthazar Elzevir, played by W. Bennett, is described as an “aged bookseller.”

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Another unnamed character is described as a book-dealer, played by J. Cooper.

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Finally, the opening scene takes place at the “Leipsic Fair”, which I’m tempted to think might be a reference to the longrunning Leipzig book fair.

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I can find no visual record or description of the set, but if the first scene did take place at the Leipzig Fair, it would be fascinating to know how the fair was staged.

The Adelphi Theater Calendar project at UMass notes a contemporary review that condemned Skeleton Lover for “nastiness” and as a “piece of vulgarity.” No word if this was because of the supernatural content or because of the inclusion of booksellers.

This version of the poster was made to advertise the second night’s performance. The Museum of London holds an example advertising the fourth night of the performance.

Sign-Up Sheet for Destruction: DIAS Symposium, 1966

Detail from the Prospectus for the DIAS Symposium. London, 1966

Detail from the Prospectus for the DIAS Symposium. London, 1966

The Destruction in Art Symposium took place from September 9-11, 1966 at the Africa Centre in Covent Garden in connection with a number of happenings throughout the month in London. The Honororary Committee, led by Gustav Metzger, brought a great deal of international attention to various artists and groups then working in obscurity.

This call for entries, issued in advance of the Symposium, is fascinating not only for giving a brief overview of antecedents on this theme, with reference to actions by the Gutai Group, John Latham and the Skoob Towers project, Jean Tingueley, Wolf Vostell, and Millares, but also exemplifying the inclusive nature of the project. The various prospective subjects listed on the form show how extensive the Committee understood this theme to be by that point in the 1960’s. Rather than present the theme as an outlier or exotic subject, the Symposium treated destruction in various guises as being a common vantage point from which a number of seemingly disparate strands of activity had a common zeitgeist.

 

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Metzger, Gustav et al. Call for Submissions for the Destruction in Art Symposium. London: DIAS Honorary Committee, 1966. 7 7.8 x 11 1/8″ invitation, mimeographed from typescript.

This copy with the response form intact.

Folded twice for mailing, with toning and a couple of small stains. Very good.

Inquiries.

The Plankton Society and the Situationist International

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For the last issue of the Internationale Situationniste, the group produced a small number with this ostentatiously drab, fictitious cover instead of the normal metallic covers – to avoid the censors and aid covert distribution in Eastern Europe. Another fictitious cover had been designed for issue no. 10 as well.

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By 1969 the metallic covers had become so closely identified with the journal that there is a strong sense of dissonance opening the drab covers of this edition to find the IS title page. The almost impossibly drab design and tongue-in-cheek tone of the text seem to be a wink at the knowing reader, while simultaneously being persuasive enough to bore even the most diligent censor or border agent into not flipping open the book.

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There would be no further issues of the journal, but the back cover of this edition prints a curious promise:

“Un numéro spécial de notre revue paraîtra en février 1970 wui sera consacré au compte-rendu par l’équipe du Professeur Riseau-Lebel de l’expédition de recherches sur la fosse 74 de Meni-Montang (Indonésie). Nos abonnés recevront automatiquement ce numéro spécial.”

The specificity of this announcement makes it seem as if this is a specific reference to those in the know, but we can find no record of a professor Riseau-Lebel. Perhaps he or she is still in Indonesia.

Debord, Guy, dir. Plankton. The Quarterly Bulletin of the Plankton Society, Vol. XXVII, No. 3 [Cover Title]. International Situationniste No. 12.

Paris: Internationale Situationniste, 1969. 8vo, unpaginated, saddle-stapled in printed wraps. Text in French.

Please contact us for more information about this copy, or to be notified about future acquisitions.

John Cage, 4’33”, and Four Colors of Silence

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Four different examples of the handbill for the first New York City performance of 4’33” in 1954

 

The premiere of John Cage’s composition 4’33” took place in Woodstock, New York, in August 1952. The piece wouldn’t be publicly performed again until April 14, 1954 by David Tudor , at Carl Fischer Hall in New York City. April 14th is Ruination Day, on which a number of historical disasters have occurred, as documented in the Gillian Welch composition of the same name, and it wouldn’t be too much of a stretch to claim that this evening in New York City destroyed the traditional ways in which people perceived music.

This New York performance was likely where many of Cage’s fellow musicians and poets first encountered it, making that evening a landmark event not only in the history of conceptual art, but also a formative event for a certain attitude in the New York arts scene exemplified by the New York School and Fluxus. It is tempting to imagine who may have been in the audience, but, aside from a review the next morning in the New York Times, I’ve had difficulty finding many accounts of it in published records.

Two different handbills for the first night exist, one in a larger format on newsprint which mentions 4’33” explicitly, , and a second, smaller format handbill pictured above. At least four colors exist – light blue, cream, green, and gray, a fact I didn’t realize until I discovered this set of the cards in an apartment on the Upper West Side last month. I’ve never managed to find any ephemera documenting the Woodstock premiere, making this perhaps the first printed ephemera in relation to Cage’s most famous composition. And back in 1954, if you wanted to see David Tudor perform this piece, tickets could be ordered directly from John Cage himself with a SASE and a check for $1.80 made out to David Tudor, sent to Cage’s 12 East 17th Street address, as this card points out.

[Cage, John] David Tudor. Handbill for Two Recitals by David Tudor, including the First New York Performance of 4’33. New York: [1954. 4 x 8 1/4″, offset printed on recto. Inquire

Chris Marker & An Alternate History of Our Times

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Photomontage by Chris Marker

 

L’an 2000 is a strange and beautiful work of time travel, written by the noted sociologist, historian of the Paris Commune, and “prospectiviste” Decouflé. Written in 1975, the book envisages what the year 2000 would be like, 25 years in the past. The vision of 2000 in the book turned out to be an alternate history, at least in this branch of history, and Decouflé’s disappointment with how the year 2000 would deviate from his vision lead to his gradual withdrawal from the public sphere and career as a “prospectiviste”.

This book is notable for in that there is another book nestled within the asserted book, and that book was written by Chris Marker, who at the colophon is credited with the photomontage on the cover – a striking image of a photograph by Marker of a detail from Lucas Cranach the Elder’s painting Adam and Eve, nestled onto the glass visor of a USIS photograph of an astronaut made during the first moon landing. Marker also seems to have been responsible for creating an apocalyptic standalone sequence of 24 appropriated or found images, divided into four sections – Violences, Qui Vivra, Pollution, and Mythologies, with some of the images credited to Archives Marker – a beautiful montage which reads as a film, and which is strongly reminiscent of his use of found imagery in La Jetée and other films.

For those wanting to read more about the book, there is an article at chrismarker.org

We have several copies available for purchase at the DL website. The book was a trade publication, and while it is rarely seen in the US, it is not uncommon in France – readers in France might be able to find cheaper copies in used bookstores there.

[Marker, Chris] André Decouflé. L’an 2000: Une Anti-Histoire de la fin du Monde. Paris: Gallimard, 1975. 12mo, 226 pp, trade paperback.

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Chris Marker

 

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Chris Marker

 

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Chris Marker

 

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Chris Marker

 

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Chris Marker

 

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Chris Marker

 

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Chris Marker

 

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Chris Marker

 

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Chris Marker