This flew under my radar until Mickey Fischer pointed it out to me.
Steidl is reprinting The Decisive Moment by Henri Cartier-Bresson.
If you don't collect photographic books, you probably won't recognize immediately just how momentous this is. This is the most famous book by one of the 20th century's most famous photographers, and it has never been reprinted.
Never as in ever. In 62 years. The French edition (Images à la Sauvette) came out in 1952, followed by the edition in English published by Simon and Schuster. It never got a second edition. It never got a second printing. The binding and dust jacket of the original are notoriously fragile—the latter is often missing on less expensive copies for sale—and today you will pay anywhere from $400 to $5,000 for a copy. (They've sold for higher than that, too.)
Of course as photographers we want to experience the book's photographs, not necessarily own an original artifact. I personally almost prefer reprints, because then I'm not responsible for preserving a precious original.
It's also important to acknowledge that I have no idea what the reprint will look like. Steidl's track record is all over the place—I've seen Steidl books that are masterpieces of the bookmaker's art and I've seen Steidl books that are too poor to even keep.
The page from the Fall/Winter 2014 Steidl catalog
The inscrutable phrase from the catalog—"This new publication is a meticulous facsimile of the original"—could also go either way. That word "facsimile" can be very suspicious, meaning that the publisher isn't aiming for an artistically valid reproduction but is merely providing a study copy of an original, warts and all.
Often, in the book world, "facsimiles" are mainly for scholars who don't have easy access to an original. The original repro of The Decisive Moment was gravure, which is probably why the book was never reprinted. "Facsimile" reproductions could mean they're pulling out the stops and giving the printing the Rolls-Royce treatment, or it could mean they're not going to try to match the richness or the look 'n' feel of the original gravures and are essentially giving us a capable digital equivalent of a Xerox copy. Which could be dreadful. I can visualize it.
So which will it be, or where in the middle? The relatively high price is a good sign, I must say.
But the book is available for pre-order and for $91.31 this one's a slam-dunk no-brainer. (Hey, it's Amazon, you can always return it.) Beats paying $1,200 for an original with a dust cover that flakes off in your hands.
I have the original, in as close to Very Fine* condition as 1952 DM originals get, so when I get the reprint, in the Fall, I can compare the two for you.
In any event, if the reprint is good, this is one of a small handful of books that belongs in any photographer's library regardless of your style or interests. If you have any photobooks at all.
(Thanks to Mickey)
*Antiquarian bookseller's term for "near mint."
Original contents copyright 2014 by Michael C. Johnston and/or the bylined author. All Rights Reserved. Links in this post may be to our affiliates; sales through affiliate links may benefit this site.
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Featured Comments from:
Matt Weber: "Mike, I have three copies of the book, and obviously I'm a big fan of HCB's work. The new edition will be of interest to me as I consider the original to be one of the best printed books I own. The gravure plates which are almost 11x14" are better than many original prints I have seen of his floating around auction houses. If Steidl can match the quality, I will be very impressed...."