The other day, writing about August Sander, I said, "I never did buy, and have not seen, the 7-volume set. I've heard a few things about it, both good and a little more reserved than that, but I'm too cheap to drop that much money just to find out for myself."
Very shortly thereafter, Yellowstone Traders came on board with an ad for their super-soft buffalo-hair (warmer than sheep's wool) photographer's gloves (you can get them full-finger, fingerless, or one of each—the fingerless one for your shooting hand).
And a little money came over the transom. I decided to interpret that as a sign from God.
So I bought the 7-volume set. For, naturally, the longtime price of $195.
Merely a matter of hours after that, we got a comment from a reader called dovydas that the 7-volume set only cost $122.85. What? I looked, and sure enough. This was...of interest. Since I had just paid $72.15 more than that...or 37% more, as Amazon helpfully calculates for me on the sales page.
So the next morning I called Amazon. After some discussion, the nice lady decided to make a "one-time exception" for me, and credit me back the $72.15.
Whew. (You go, God.)
The "7-volume set" is of course August Sander: People of the 20th Century by Susanne Lange, Director of the Photography Collection/SK Cultural Foundation, in Cologne, Germany, with essays by Gabriele Conrath-Scholl, a scholar on the staff of the Foundation, and made with the cooperation of Gerd Sander, the photographer's grandson and an expert on his grandfather's work. First published in Germany by Schirmer/Mosel, and in the U.S.A. by Abrams, to mark the 125th anniversary of Sander's birth. It's the most complete set of Sander's work extant, with 1400 pages overall and more than 150 never-before-published images.
It just arrived.
(Once again with a camera included for scale.)
I am pleased to report that it is magnificent. If you think about it, Sander's great document of the Weimar years is for most of us a myth—that is, we see a few, or a few dozen, or (in the case of single-volume books) maybe a hundred examples, and we're told of the existence of the project as a whole, but we never really get to see more evidence of its existence. There are lots of things here I've never seen before. This is a feast.
The reproduction quality is very, very good—not exact duplicates of original prints by any means, but plenty good enough to allow you to concentrate on the pictures. The paper is of very high quality. The size of the pictures is perfect—just one photograph per spread, with the title on the facing page. Exceptionally clean. The text is in German, English, and French. The typography and design are elegant, refined and restrained.
Rather touchingly (because nobody's going to remove the dust covers), the sleek cloth bindings are all different colors.
(Okay, and you wonder where Moe's hair stylist got his inspiration.)
This is the sort of thing that warms the cockles of my heart, although I'm not sure that the medical establishment would agree that my heart has cockles. It is very important to the history of photography in the 20th century, very good as bookcraft, and very cheap: if I get my calculator out, the new price comes to $17.55 per volume. I've paid more than $122.85 for one book in the past. Just not often.
For the sake of balance, I'll mention that the slipcase box is not of very high quality. The sort of thing they probably intend for you to throw away, but of course you can't unless you want to cripple the set's resale value, since book collectors are such sticklers for original condition.
At any rate, a strong, nay urgent, buy recommendation, if you have any interest in this work, or think you might have in the future. I realize that for most people's libraries, a one-volume greatest hits will be more appropriate*. And I can see why such a set as this would sell slowly—'tis indeed a lot of Sander, and the cost establishes (or established) a highish bar, even for mavens such as myself. Yet this won't be around forever, and it's the sort of thing that will become unobtanium one day (like the two-volume hardcover set of Kinsey, Photographer that I didn't buy when I could and now will never get to own). It's worth having in any solid library of photography books, and it will always be worth having in any solid library of photography books. The as-of-Thursday price makes it a fire sale—if not a trample-the-security-guards-at-the-door kind of sale—for those interested. (The price is €152 at Amazon Germany and £101 in the U.K. )
Right away, takes its place at the very heart of my own little library. I'm sure I will spend many contented hours with it. Myth no more.
*If that's you, I recommend Schirmer/Mosel's August Sander: Face [of] Our Time (in Deutsch, Antlitz der Zeit) from Schirmer's Visual Library, a near pocket-sized recreation of the book with which Sander introduced his project to the world. Small, but it's only $9.95, and it's a nice little volume and a nice taste of the work.
Send this post to a friend
Note: Links in this post may be to our affiliates; sales through affiliate links may benefit this site. More...
Original contents copyright 2010 by Michael C. Johnston and/or the bylined author. All Rights Reserved.