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. 

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.

A Supernatural Drama About Book Dealers?



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. 


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.”


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


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.


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.

The Plankton Society and the Situationist International


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.


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.


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.

Chris Marker & An Alternate History of Our Times


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

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.


Chris Marker



Chris Marker



Chris Marker



Chris Marker



Chris Marker



Chris Marker



Chris Marker



Chris Marker



Chris Marker

“Nulla est verae creationi Patria.” Mass and Individual Moving and Pioneer, 1981-


Mass and Individual Moving, Detail from the Poster Prospectus for Pioneer, 1981


In 1981 the Belgian-based art group Mass and Individual Moving debuted their newest project at the ICC Antwerp – a large, wooden, solar-powered printing press named Pioneer. Ten poets were invited to contribute poetic slogans, which were printed in high letters on large broadsides. The first slogan printed off of the press was the latin phrase “Nulla est verae creationi Patria”, which ORAS on the Mechano-Art website translates as “genuine creation is stateless.” My Latin is rusty and was never that good to begin with, but I believe that the phrase could also have an additional connotation suggesting that the political homeland cannot be created, or is impossible. The broadside bearing this statement was exhibited at later actions by Pioneer, and it draws attention to the truly radical nature of the project.

While the history of portable printing presses is a long and complex one, such as the use of printing presses on trains following the October Revolution, or the portable printing presses used by armies in the US Civil war, this technological advance usually was used for ideological or state-based means and connected the infrastructure of the state or army. (An exception is the artistic uses which the mimeograph machine was put to in the Mimeograph Revolution, when it was used to create work to respond to the rapid political changes of the 1960’s, such as the Motherfuckers printing broadside retorts to Bill Graham in New York at the very town hall meeting at which he was speaking). The solar power source of Pioneer is so radical in an ecological sense because it doesn’t rely on political infrastructures, making it a stateless work, an aspect reinforced by the peripatetic nature of the project in later years, as it traveled to France, Germany, and finally to Mechra-Ben-Abou, where it was used to print broadsides at the edge of the Sahara.

The impact of the work is reinforced by its size. Instead of subscribing to the trend of miniaturization that is so inextricably linked with portability in our technological age, Pioneer makes a different sort of impact due to the large size and weight (350 kg) of the press, and the oversized banners which it printed – an aspect of the work reinforced by the size of this poster documentation of the work.

Pioneer is still intact, and now rests at the Verbeke Foundation.

Mass and Individual Moving, and its antecedent group, Mass Moving, were one of the most radical art groups of the postwar period, but they are almost completely unknown in the US, and their works seem to be very poorly represented in US museums and libraries. Part of this may be due to the scarcity of printed works which are exant – Mass Moving is famous for having burnt much of their output upon the dissolution of the group.

Pioneer seems even more relevant today then in the decade in which it was created, and it would be amazing to see the monolothic printing press on the move again, or for a contemporary group to create a work that is as revolutionary as Pioneer was.


Mass and Individual Moving, Poster Prospectus for Pioneer, 1981


The Burning Rag: Le Torchon Brule, 1970-1973


Detail from the cover of Le Torchon Brule No. 3


Le Torchon Brule was one of the most important feminist periodicals published in France in the 1970’s, which was an early and indispensable part of the second wave feminist movement in the country in the aftermath of the events of 1968. Iissue zero was published as an insert in the Libertarian newspaper L’Idiote Liberte, complete with dotted lines so the reader could cut and assemble the first issue.


Le Torchon Brule, Issue No. 0

The periodical ended with the sixth number, though there was also a special Mother’s Day supplement, which was issued with no. 5 but is not often seen. 


Le Torchon Brule, Mother’s Day Supplement to No. 5

The title of the periodical, which could be literally translated into English as “the dishcloth burns” is a French euphemism for domestic strife, with the connotation of an ongoing or running battle. Le Torchon Brule was a group project and radical with regards to content and format, with each issue being created by a different group of women.

Claire Duchen’s eloquent appraisal of the periodical is so good it deserves quoting at length:

“The Torchon’s aim was to reflect the MLF’s increased diversity and share opinions and experiences, to break women’s silence, leave an imprint on paper and therefore in history. There was desire to produce polished journalism, but instead to avoid the division between those who can write and those who read and to encourage women to write whether they thought they could or not. Women wrote about themselves, their life histories, their anger and their feelings about the MLF. The texts are often difficult to read, as they lack structure and coherence – thoughts ramble, ideas are repeated, sentences are unfinished. The reader’s expectations are constantly arrested in the process of reading and then suspended; there was no censorship, no editorial policy, no columns on the page, no rubrics; on the page, drawings, pictures, handwriting and typescripts, all in many colours, jostled for space. Articles were written anonymously, both to show that names belonged to fathers and husbands and to avoid the creation of a star system. . . “ Duchen, pp. 11-12.

From a design perspective, Le Torchon Brule is remarkable for the extent to which the lack of a unified graphic design across the numbers seamlessly and successfully became the design itself, always provocative and involving the reader with each line and image – an achievement which has few parallels in the era.


Le Torchon Brule



Le Torchon Brule


Le Torchon Brule

Claire Duchen’s book  Feminism in France: From May ’68 to Mitterrand, from which the above quote is taken, is an indispensable account of the milieu out of which Le Torchon Brule emerged, and has been our companion in reading through the periodical.

No. 0: 4to, 24 pages [including covers], offset printed on newsprint with two color cover. Numbers 1-5: Tabloid format, offset printed on newsprint in color. With supplement to No. 5: 4to, [8] pages, folded, unbound sheets offset printed in blue on newsprint.

The Octopus with the Look of Silk: Pedro Leandro Ipuche, Isidore Ducasse, and Borges


Woodcut of Maldoror as an Octopus


After a long search I recently tracked down a copy of one of the most obscure studies of Isidore Ducasse, this obscure and exuberant booklet by the Uruguayan poet Pedro Leandro Ipuche in 1926. Ipuche was a friend of Borges during his ultraist period, and around this time collaborated with him on the little magazine Proa. Readers of the fictions of Borges may remember a character of the same name cited in the story ‘Funes, el Memorioso’.



Ipuche appearing in the Borges story “Funes, His Memory” [trans. Andrew Hurley]

The present pamphlet is dedicated to the Guillot Muñoz brothers, “y por cuyo libro fui al Libro del Furioso Desolado” – presumable a reference to their work Lautréamont et Laforgue, which had been published the year prior. It was through the brothers that Ipuche became one of the small handful of people (the others being Jules Supervielle and Mendez Gabariños) to examine the daguerrotype of Isidore Ducasse given to the Guillot Muñoz brothers by Mrs. Jean-Julien Ducasse, before it was seized by the Montevideo police during a raid and disappeared. According to the account by Enrique Pichon-Rivière, Ipuche thought that in the photograph Ducasse had the air of a young Montevideano, and it was perhaps out of this inference that the present work was conceived.

It was from this photograph that Gabariños based his two etchings of Ducasse upon. to Pichon-Rivière’s account suggests that those who were familiar with the photograph thought that there was little similarity between the etchings and the portrait, and suggests somehow that some sort of madness visited Gabariños as a result.

The book is illustrated with a single plate bearing a striking full page woodcut entitled” “Poulpe au regarde du soie”, a reference to the passage in Maldoror in which the protagonist turns into an octopus in order to consume God. The woodcut is unattributed, and we can’t determine whether it was made specifically for this work or appropriated from an existing source. If you know, please get in touch.


Montevideo, 1926

Ipuche, Pedro Leandro. Isidoro Luciano Ducasse (Conde de Lautréamont). Poeta Uruguayo.

Montevideo: Peña Hnos, 1926.12mo, 16 pp, saddle-stapled wraps. Illustrated with a single woodcut. Previous owner’s signature to the title and dedication pages, and elegant annotations throughout in ink.

Rare. OCLC locates only two holdings, and none in North America.  







The Imprint of the Pilgrimage: John Carswell’s Coptic Tattoo Designs


Earlier this year, thanks to a bookseller in a distant seaport town I tracked down a copy of a book I’d been looking for for many years – one of the 13 original copies of John Carswell’s Coptic Tattoo Designs. I’d first heard of the existence of it while I was a student of religion at Reed College in the 1990’s, in professor Michael Foat’s class on the Coptic Language. While doing background reading for that class I came across a copy of the second, expanded edition of the book. The colophon of that copy had a tantalizing note which stated that the original edition was published privately in Jerusalem by the author in an edition of only 13 copies. I’d been looking for it ever since, and had almost given up on ever seeing a copy before this.


Sometimes discovering a book after such a prolonged search can be anti-climactic, but it wasn’t in this case. What the colophon of the second edition didn’t note was that this first edition is essentially a different work. The second edition is offset printed, and while being a beautiful and historically important work and sought after in its own right, is essentially an academic study. The 1956 edition is a bound collection of 71 original prints made directly from the wooden blocks which the Razzouk family uses as template guides, at least one of which dates back to 1749, and was published in Jerusalem, rather than Beirut.


The book has a remarkable auratic quality like no other book I’ve seen. The paper still bears the indentations of the original blocks, which can be felt by running one’s fingers over the verso of each page. Feeling the imprint of these ancient blocks, it is impossible not to imagine the generations of pilgrims whose skin these blocks touched, many of whom have long since passed on from this world. In many ways books become a stand-in or metaphor for the human body, the terms used to describe books often anthropomorphic – the spine, the crown, the foot. In this book, the each page seems to almost become a reverse extension of the skin of the pilgrims, preserving the very imprint of a tradition that, being mostly inscribed on more mortal skin, would otherwise pass from our memory. 


The second edition is a scarce and coveted work in it’s own right, but this first edition is of near mythological rarity. The first example we’ve seen in ten years of searching. OCLC locates no holdings; KVK locates one holding, at the IAA (Israel Antiquities Authority).


The colophon of the second edition states that this first edition was limited to ten numbered and three lettered copies. This example bears no colophon or imprint information, but the one page forward here matches the brief description of the first edition in Carswell’s foreward to the second edition. It is unknown whether this copy has been rebound without the limitation page, and furthermore, since we’ve been unable to compare this with any other example, we’re unsure whether or not this example is in the original binding or not, though we suspect that this is an early rebind, or perhaps a later binding of sheets from the first printing. We welcome anyone who has seen an example of the first edition to get in touch for comparison.


J. C. [John Carswell]. Coptic Tattoo Designs.

[Jerusalem]: [John Carswell], [1956]. First edition. 4to, offset printed title page and 1 p. introduction, signed “J.C.”, followed by 71 prints from the original woodblocks on 56 leaves. Bound, possibly at a later date in red leatherette, and titled in gilt at the spine.


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.






















Contact us for availability.