Sep 302017

We have a had a run of interesting, unusual fine press and/or artists books land recently, but this stood out and I thought I’d throw up a quick overview:

Julie Rafalski, Tahu Deans and David Henningham re-enacted Cold War psychic drawing experiments in a Leipzig building that had formerly housed an East German supercomputer. They also reconstructed the computer as a set to be reconfigured and photographed.

These pictures, films, drawings and transcripts make up the content of this book. Operating like the distinct CMYK dots that merge optically to form a full-colour picture, the artists have worked together to take the viewer through corridor spaces, doctored photographs, and a psychic spying apparatus redolent of the building itself. Not every page is accessible without the use of a knife.

And because gilding the lily is always a good thing…

The books are editioned using a vector-based system so that each book is assigned a non-hierarchical relationship to the others.

Sep 252017

We have just received three copies(!) of Jamie Murphy’s simply brilliant edition of J. Swift’s Modest Proposal. We will soon(ish) have three(!!!) copies of the deluxe edition, too. I have trouble reducing to words just how much I adore this work, but if you will bear with the simulacra of various images, I will try to convey the exquisite power and delicacy in execution embodied in this work. As you likely know,  A Modest Proposal For preventing the Children of Poor People From being a Burthen to Their Parents or Country, and For making them Beneficial to the Publick, more commonly known by its short-title, is Swift’s 1729 satirical pamphlet suggesting the impoverished Irish might ease their economic troubles by selling their children as food for rich gentlemen and ladies. It was a hastily printed pamphlet, modest in execution. The Salvage Press’ edition is not…it is rich in dark leather and marbled paper and monumental in size: imperial folio.

Jamie approaches the work from both a modern-situational aspect, but also from a profoundly personal one, with not one but two children with a rare genetic condition. “I had heard of A Modest Proposal years before but hadn’t read it until this period. The text seemed relevant and current – are the Irish not still in a shocking financial condition? Are we not still being plundered by absentee landlords? Are our children not about to incur the fallout from a previous generation’s mistakes? I started to think about reprinting the text. My daughter Olivia was born in 2016, presenting signs of the same genetic condition as my son. I knew they would have to be involved, and in one way this project was designed to mark their births.”

Jamie approached David O’Kane to illustrate the work, as he felt David’s preferred technique, scratching an image directly onto lithography stones, would create a rather haunting effect. Jamie’s suggesting that David use images of his children for inspiration, while challenging, nevertheless helped shape and shadow the remarkable power of the images.

David notes, “Swift’s voice was critical of those in power but also of the exploited masses and their deference to that power. In this sense it is still critically relevant today. The baby in the deanery dining table image appears to be eating her own hand, while simultaneously pointing an accusatory hand toward the viewer. The empty chairs await the hungry landlords. The question raised by the image is whether we want to pull up a seat at this horrific meal or find another way of setting out the table?”

Jamie asked Jessica Traynor to write nine new poems, each responding to the original text. Like the others, her contribution also integrated current events. As Jessica recalls, “So much history unfolded around me as I worked on the poems – the migrant crisis bled into Brexit, bled into the Citizens’ Assembly, bled into the Trump presidency, and I wrote poems in response to all of these events. But it would be impossible to write about the Ireland of the 21st century without writing about direct provision [the system of dealing with asylum seekers].”

The result is that rare Aristotelian work, with the whole being so much more than the sum of its parts. It is wry, and soul-draining, and funny, and touching, and brilliant, and challenging, and so much more…all once. You can return to it over and over and find something new in the image, prose, poetry, and/or design that you missed before. It is, simply, brilliant.

Jamie commissioned a wonderful video that explores the creation of the work and The Irish Times wrote this wonderful article on the work, rich with additional information and well worth a read. Enjoy both. We hope to have a standard at the Boston ABAA book fair, though there are fewer than 10 copies remaining. A complete description can be found here. I will almost certainly have one of the Deluxe editions, however, as they are a fair bit more dear…but that is for another time [teaser: 5 unique back-painted bindings, each reflecting a major theme]. Finally, that Jamie is barely 30 bodes well for the future. He has produced some remarkable work (see, e.g. Albert, Ernest & the Titanic)…but this hints of things to come. I, for one, cannot wait.

A Modest Proposal from ror conaty on Vimeo.


Sep 042017

Embroidered silk postcard [SS Arabic]

We’ve a wonderful collection around the golden age of ocean travel as told through menus, programs, and postcards. Built over a period of 3 decades, it covers the period from approximately 1880 to around 1930.

Highlights of the collection and important aspects include:



  • Original dining menus featuring culinary specialities of the period
  • Passenger lists serving as registers for historical documentation
  • Examples of design and style for advertising of the 19th and early 20th century
  • Documents featuring the description of innovations in transportation of the 19th and early 20th century [image gallery below]

    Embroidered silk postcard [RMS Lusitania]

Archive Encompassing the Golden Age of the Great Ocean Liners. [circa 1880-1930]. Approximately 850 items of ephemera from the golden age of ocean liner travel; including a cloth ticket wallet, numerous menus and passenger list cards from a wide variety of ships and routes, a souvenir handkerchief, deck plans, agent’s timetables etc. All in very good or better condition, minor edgewear to some of the more fragile pieces, essentially forty years or more of historical material, spanning the closing years of the 19th century and two world wars. Very Good to Near Fine.

The history of ocean liners is the history of western prosperity, the lure of emigration and the race for technology to catch up with both. The roots of passenger liners are based in 1818, when the Black Ball shipping line of New York started offering a regularly scheduled passenger service across the Atlantic and realised very swiftly that ticket prices could be increased in accordance with the level of comfort they were capable of offering. Previously buying a transatlantic ticket had relegated the hardy traveller to the same status as whatever other cargo the ship was carrying, indeed often slightly lower status; livestock and produce needed to be carefully nursed through the often perilous journeys, passengers were largely expected to fend for themselves.

The proliferation of steamships after the 1830’s, larger, faster creatures altogether; sometimes able to make the enormous journey in a little over two weeks, led to new and creative methods of utilising space and maximising profit. History changed on July 4th, 1840 when the very first ship to bear the legendary Cunard name, “The Britannia” left Liverpool on a ground (or perhaps sea) breaking 14 day journey to New York. It was for the times the very height of luxury, it travelled with a live Jersey cow on board, and chickens, to provide the passengers with fresh milk and eggs.

The advent of the tourist based pleasure cruise didn’t really take off until the 1860’s and the first cruise voyage to originate in America carried none other than Mark Twain, who characteristically immortalised the experience in “The Innocents Abroad.” By the 1880’s, a decade before the earliest items in this collection, the ocean cruise industry was in full swing; doctors regularly advised sea air and ocean voyages for the improved health of their patients, and the allure of foreign continents was proving irresistible to many as companies started offering “steerage” tickets as a very rough and ready way for the huddled masses to make their way to new opportunity.

The final years of the 19th century saw the advent of the first super liners, Germany initially led the field in creating enormous, painfully luxurious vessels that were effectively the floating luxury hotels we have come to expect today. Able to forge through any weather without hardly spilling a first class passengers cocktail, they became the preferred mode of travel for the super rich; reaching their zenith with the Cunard Line’s floating masterpieces “The Mauritania” and “The Lusitania”, the ships that required their passengers to dress for dinner and offered the romance of fine dining rooms where dinner suited elegance and mouth watering menus were accompanied by string quartets, whilst immaculately turned out stewards glided around supplying every need.

This particular collection contains representative ephemera from the largest and most luxurious lines of the period, and some of their flagship vessels, the one notable exception being, of course, The RMS Titanic, firstly because it should be remembered, Hollywood notwithstanding, that it failed, through little fault of its own, to do what transatlantic liners are supposed to do and secondly because all Titanic material is by definition mementos mori and therefore exists rather beyond its socio-industrial context…drifting more into the sargasso of legend. In the manner of such things however, the phantom of the Titanic is unavoidable and present here are pieces of material related to ships who in any number of ways were influenced and overshadowed by their relationship to the largest and most evocative maritime disaster of the time.

The period covered by this material (1896-probably the 1940’s in the case of a couple of deckplans) encompasses the successes, failures and tragedies of the largest passenger shipping lines in the world; Cunard, White Star, Norddeutscher Lloyd Bremen, the Hamburg Amerika Line (notwithstanding the blanket ownership of J P Morgan’s “IMM” after the early 1900’s) and a number of others. It was a period of fierce competition in the arenas of sheer size and speed, and the degree of luxury which could be attained. Norddeutscher Lloyd’s “Kaiser Wilhelm der Grosse” was built to rival Cunard’s “Campania” and “Lucania”; White Star’s “Oceanic” was put into play to combat “Kaiser Wilhelm” and so on. It was a period of fierce continental competition; at times the fabled prizes rested with the German lines, at others with the British Cunard liners and eventually the laurels passed to the American lines as more and more US ingenuity and drive was brought to bear on what was essentially the “space race” of the era. The mighty giants of the period; Mauretania, Deutschland, Lusitania, Olympia, Normandie have passed into the mists of ocean going myth, all of them are represented here; in fact, in the case of many of these pieces, this collection will represent their sole representation anywhere. Hardly any of the items in the collection were intended to last longer than the duration of a single voyage and their survival within this archive offers a unique record of the Golden Age of ocean travel. Similarly, outside of the realm of international business rivalry, shadowy political preoccupations began to affect the industry, with the British Admiralty quickly cottoning on to the concept that every ocean liner was a potential warship and subsidised lines like Cunard to build ships like “Lucania” and “Campania” in such a way that would make them swiftly convertible to battle stations in time of war. These two ships alone at that time had the largest triple expansion engines ever built, signifying the summit of achievement in that realm of technology until the inception of the turbine engine.

This archive represents a porthole into a period of unprecedented elegance, prosperity and innovation. Comprising of a tremendous number of items (we believe this to be one of the largest collections of material to come to market for a very long time), spanning a breadth of periods, lines and purposes; from beautifully chromo-lithographed menu cards to deck plans and passenger lists, souvenir programmes, handkerchiefs and fans, ticket wallets and books of postcards; an enormous and attractive collection of postcard ands promotional material spanning not only most of the world but most of the world’s significant shipping lines and a treasure trove of other ephemera and memorabilia.

The collection contains, as an example and in no particular order:

~Hamburg-Amerika Line: “SS Reliance”, illustrated menu card for farewell dinner, September 1928

~Norddeutscher Lloyd Bremen: “Friedrich der Grosse”, illustrated menu card, October 1900

~N.Y.K. Line (Nippon Yusen Kaisha): “SS Kashima Maru”, souvenir passenger list, February 1934

~Norddeutscher Lloyd Bremen: “SS Berlin”, 3 illustrated menu cards from April 1931 Norddeutscher Lloyd Bremen: “SS Bremen” illustrated gatefold menu, June 1937

~United States Lines: “George Washington”, Illustrated Passenger List, New York to Bremen, October 1924

~Nederlandische-Amerikanische: “SS Maasdam”, Illustrated Passenger List, Rotterdam to New York, July 1894

~Hamburg-Amerika Line: “Deutschland” Illustrated Passenger List, July 1901

~Hamburg-Amerika Line: “Moltke”, Illustrated Passenger List, July 1903

~Norddeutscher-Lloyd Bremen: Passenger voyage timetable for sailings to North and South America, The Far East and Australia June 1929

~Red Star Line: “SS Pennland” Decorative souvenir programme for the Grand Concert, July 1927

~Pacific Mail Steamship Co.: “PMSS Manchuria” Illustrated Passenger List, Yokohama to San Francisco May 1912

~Compagnie Generale Transatlantique: “La Lorraine” Illustrated Passenger List, New York to Le Havre, August 1919

~N.S. Gemeinschaft “Kraft Durch Freude” (KdF) promotional brochure advertising National Socialist excursions from Hamburg. 1930’s.

~Hamburg-Amerika Line [HAL]: Calendar of “Pleasure and Relaxation Cruises” October 1905 to June 1906

~American Line: “St. Paul” Illustrated Passenger List, Southampton to New York August 1929

~White Star Line: “SS Majestic”, Illustrated Passenger List, New York to Cherbourg, April 1931

~Hamburg-Sudamerikanische Line: “Monte Sarmiento”, Illustrated Menu/Postcard, July 1927

~Inman Line [I&I Steamship Co.]: “City of Chicago” Illustrated Passenger List, Liverpool to New York, April 1889 (with ink annotations by a passenger).

~Norddeutscher Lloyd Bremen [NDLB]: “SS Bremen” Elaborate menu card with silk ties, August 1933

~P&O and British India Steam Navigation Co.: “P&O Cruiser Ranchi”, Illustrated Passenger List, Mediterranean, August 1926

~NDLB: “SS Bremen”, elaborate menu card for Brahms’ birthday dinner August 1933 NDLB: “SS Bremen” illustrated wine menu, April 1929

~H.A.L.: “Kronprinzessen Cecille” Illustrated Passenger List, Hamburg to Mexico 1911

~H.A.L.: “President Grant” Illustrated Passenger List, July 1912

~NDLB: “SS Bremen” Illustrated Kosher menu card for March 1934 (!)

~H.A.L.: “Albert Ballin” Illustrated Passenger List, Hamburg to New York, July 1926

~NDLB: “Kaiser Wilhelm” Illustrated menu card August 1903

~H.A.L.: “Pennsylvania” Illustrated Passenger List, Hamburg to New York November 1905

~Cunard Steamship Company: “RMS Campania” Illustrated Passenger List, New York to Liverpool July 1906 [also listed on timetable; Saxonia, Lucania and Carpathia]

~Cunard Steamship Co.: “RMS Campania” Illustrated Passenger List. Liverpool to New York August 1900

~Cunard Steamship Co.: “RMS Saxonia” Illustrated Passenger List, Boston to Liverpool 1903

~NDLB: Guidebook to Munich, card wraps, English text, given free aboard ship and containing an interesting potted history of the NDLB and its manifold successes.

~NDLB: Cloth ticket/travel document wallet, beige and purple, 1930’s, excellent condition. H.A.L.: A selection of on ship purchased postcards in original paper chemises.

~Royal Mail Steam Packet Co.: “RMSP Aragon” Illustrated Passenger List, Southampton to Buenos Aires, February 1911

~NDLB: “SS Berlin” embroidered souvenir handkerchief depicting the liner at full steam. NDLB: “Grosser Kurfurst” Illustrated menu card, (some loss to upper edges), March 1904.

~Pacific Mail Steamship Co. “SS Manchuria” Illustrated Passenger List, San Francisco-Far East Circuit, March 1912. Heavily annotated by passenger.

~NDLB: “Friedrich der Grosse” Illustrated menu cards, July 4th 1911, July 5th 1911 NDLB: “Kronprinz Wilhelm” Illustrated menu card, July 1903

~NDLB: “Grosser Kurfurst” Illustrated menu card, September 1901

~Cie. Gle. Transatlantique: “La Provence” Illustrated menu card, beautiful art nouveau design, August 1910

~NS Gemeinschaft “Kraft durch Freude”: “Oceana” Illustrated itinerary card with exhortation from the Nazi party “We wish you a happy homecoming, Heil Hitler!” Italian voyage January 1938

~NDLB: Luggage label with string for a stateroom on the “Adolf Vinnen” in the name of Mr. and Mrs. Meyer of New Jersey. Hamburg-New York 1912

~H.A.L.: “SS Graf Waldersee” Illustrated Passenger List. New York to Hamburg July 1902 H.A.L.: “SS Normannia” Illustrated Passenger List, New York to Hamburg September 1894

~Great White Fleet: “SS Heredia” Caribbean Cruise of Gulf Park College leaving New Orleans March 1928, elaborate illustrated menu card.

~Tokyo Kisen Kaisha: Illustrated Information Brochure circa 1917

~H.A.L.: “Albert Ballin” Illustrated and elaborate bell shaped multi leaved menu and concert programme August 1935

~RMS Titanic: 2 commemorative cards (1987 and 1991) sent at sea from the resting place of the great liner; stamped with all vessels present and the sigil of ~Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute with hand written co-ordinates of the wreck site and the details of the Russian Research Vessel “Akademyk Keldysh” which carried the Mir I and Mir II submersibles.

~H.A.L.: “Graf Waldersee” Illustrated menu card, August 1900 H.A.L.: “Pennsylvania” Illustrated menu card, February 1901

~H.A.L.: A group of four further Illustrated menu cards from the “Pennsylvania” during a voyage in January-February 1901

~Cie Gle Transatlantique: Large format photograph of the liner “SS Normandie” under construction noting that the vessel was 1020” feet long. In 1935 the ~“Normandie” was the largest and fastest passenger vessel on the seas. She is still cited as being the most powerful steam turbo-electric powered ship ever built.

~Nippon Yusen Kaisha: “SS Fushimi Maru” Illustrated menu card, May 1915

~Nippon Yusen Kaisha: “SS Awa Maru” Illustrated menu card, May 1915

~Nippon Yusen Kaisha:”SS Tenyo Maru” Illustrated menu card, September 1916

~NDLB: A selection of decorative menu cards in card chemise for a voyage by the “SS Berlin”

~Various: A selection of folding souvenir deck plans for ships in the Red Star, Cie Gle Transatlantique and United States Lines.

~NDLB: Beautiful illustrated menu card “SS Columbus”, April 1925. At that time the “Columbus” was the flagship of NDLB and was notable for being almost permanently on hire to Thomas Cook and for being the first liner to have its own swimming pool on deck.

~NDLB: “SS Koln” Illustrated Passenger List, November 1902, Bremen-Galveston

~NDLB: “SS Amerika” Illustrated Passenger List, July 1906

~NDLB: “SS Havel” Illustrated Passenger List, New York to Bremen, November 1894

~Cie Gle Transatlantique: “MS Lafayette” Illustrated Passenger List, Le Havre to New York September 1937

~Cie Gle Transatlantique: “MS Ile De France” Illustrated Passenger List, Le havre to new York, September 1937. The Ile de France was the first refrigerated ocean liner and was thus the first vessel to bring fresh French Brie to America.

~Cie Gle Transatlantique: A selection of 6 Illustrated Cruise Itineraries from the “SS Normandie” [1930’s]

~Cunard Line: Notepaper from “Mauretania”, “Queen Mary” and “Queen Elizabeth” Cie Gle Transatlantique: Single sheet not on “Normandie” notepaper

NDLB: “SS Columbus” Illustrated Menu Cards, July 1937 [2]

~Cunard White Star: “RMS Laconia” Illustrated menu card, June 1937. The “Laconia” was, like it’s previous namesake in WW1, sunk by a submarine in World War 2 on September 12th 1942. The aftermath of the sinking, during which over 1600 people died, became known as “The Laconia Incident.” Kapitanleutnant Werner Hartenstein of the U-156 surfaced after the sinking in order to pick up survivors when he became aware that non-combatants were on board, he requested assistance from U Boat High Command in Germany and several U Boats entered the area flying red cross flags and signalling that a rescue operation was under way. The U-Boat convoy, fore-decks laden with survivors, lifeboats in tow and still flying Red Cross flags headed towards a neutral exchange point. Unfortunately, a US B-24 Liberator, despite the resistance of it’s crew and the frantic radio signals of Hartenstein was ordered to attack the U-Boats. The U-Boats were forced to dive and abandon the survivors, some of whom were later picked up by Vichy French naval ships. Admiral Donitz, as a direct result of the Laconia Incident rescinded any previous directions to do with rescuing survivors of enemy ships. Hartenstein and his crew were killed a few months later.

NDLB: “SS Europa” 3rd Class Illustrated menu card June 1931. Very striking. Cunard Line: Atlantic Interlude, cruise brochure 1930’s

~Cunard Line: “RMS Aquitania” card booklet from the 1920’s. Aquitania was the last four-funnel steamer, and noted as being one of the most beautiful ships afloat, and was the longest serving commercial ocean liner at the time of her retirement in 1950

~Cie Gle Transatlantique: “La Provence” fold out cutaway diagram of the liner in card wraps showing many of the joyous luxuries available on board.

~H.A.L.: Brochure for first class travel on the line, 1930’s

~H.A.L. Winter Service Timetable 1896-1897 advertising voyages on the “August Victoria”, “Columbia”, “Normannia” and “Furst Bismarck”

~Raymond Whitcomb Cruises: advertising taking the “Normandie to Rio” 1939

~Tokyo Kisen Kaishu: “SS Kitano Maru” Illustrated menu card, december 1936 (some underlining by passenger)

~T.K.K.: “Kitano Maru” Illustrated menu card for farewell dinner February 1937 autographed by passengers.

~T.K.K.: 2 Blank illustrated menu cards with Kabuki and Samurai designs from the TKK 1930’s design blueprint.

~T.K.K.: “Miyazaki Maru” Illustrated menu card, march 1916. 


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