"The Parallel Library" was installed in a gallery space at 1080 Queen St. West, Toronto, during the last two weeks of June, 2011.
For those who were unable to visit the exhibition, we offer the following highlights, photographed in situ:
Rombauer, Irma S.:
COOKBOOK FOR BOYS AND GIRLS
Bobbs-Merrill Co., Indianapolis, 1946.
Indelible snapshot of a book in use: This copy of a children's cookbook (by the celebrated author of "The Joy of Cooking") was apparently blackened by a kitchen grease fire while laid open to a recipe for broiled steaks.
CARP: HOW TO CATCH THEM
Herbert Jenkins, London, 1955.
When the activity in question is the leisurely pursuit of a credulous fish, a modest book is both appropriate and sufficient. (Effective baits are stale bread and boiled potatoes.)
FIRE AS AN AGENT IN HUMAN CULTURE
Smithsonian Institution, Washington, 1926.
Now THAT'S scholarship: apparently contains every known fact about our species' use of fire, worldwide and throughout history. Also includes many illustrations of stoves, lamps, fire-making apparatus, etc.
ON THE TRACK OF UNKNOWN ANIMALS
Second Edition. Rupert Hart-Davis, London, 1962.
The foundational text of cryptozoology: an elusive work, almost as hard-to-find as the yetis, sea serpents, and living fossils that fill its pages.
THE BLACK PANTHER PARTY: ITS ORIGIN AND DEVELOPMENT AS REFLECTED IN ITS OFFICIAL WEEKLY NEWSPAPER, "THE BLACK PANTHER BLACK COMMUNITY NEWS SERVICE"
U.S. Government Printing Office, Washington, 1970.
A seemingly well-informed academic told us that much of the violently subversive content attributed to the Panthers in this report was actually created by the FBI.
A NEW POPULAR STAR ATLAS (EPOCH 1950)
Gall and Inglis, Edinburgh, [ca. 1950].
Lie on your back and hold this book open at arms' length. Is that what the night sky looked like before ubiquitous light pollution?
Royce, Hans; Thomas Abeking (design):
GERMANY AT A GLANCE
German-American Trade Promotion Co., Frankfurt, [ca. 1952].
This elaborate production includes an icon-based thumb-tab index to 15 different industries, and the most complicated sequence of transparency overlays we've ever laid eyes on.
Cook, Terry; Jim Williams (phot.):
VANS AND THE TRUCKIN’ LIFE
Harry N. Abrams, New York, 1977.
It’s like they squeezed the 1970s, and extracted a single oily drop of distilled lifestyle essence.
Quadrangle Books, Chicago, 1961.
A romantic summer evening in a country meadow: audiospectrograms, oscillograms, diagrams of stridulatory ridges, etc.
Clay, Alice (ed.):
THE AGONY COLUMN OF “THE TIMES,” 1800-1870
Chatto & Windus, London, 1881.
200 years before text messages, lovers and conspirators used to communicate via newspaper personal ads. Here are over 1700 examples, in various languages and private codes: the raw material of human melodrama, stripped of all context.
CHINESE WOMEN IN THE GREAT LEAP FORWARD
Foreign Languages Press, Peking, 1960.
The folksy Maoist cover design is disarming... but ultimately an ideological paradise based on cooperative industrial productivity might fail to impress certain decadent Western gals.
PUPPETS AND FAIRY TALES
SNTL Publishers of Technical Literature, Prague, 1958.
From deep in the heart of Europe, unadulterated white people’s culture takes the form of puppet animations: hopelessly dorky, yet weirdly beautiful, and inexplicably moving.
Willy, A., et al.:
THE ILLUSTRATED ENCYCLOPEDIA OF SEX
Cadillac Publishing Co., New York, 1949.
The numerous illustrations emphasize the eerie, sci-fi aspect of sexual biology -- probably not the best choice for calming the nerves of bashful or inexperienced readers.
Laury, Jean Ray, and Joyce Aiken:
THE PANTYHOSE CRAFT BOOK
Taplinger Publishing Co., New York, 1978.
Handicrafts formed from discarded hosiery are soft, colourful, and uniquely macabre -- particularly the boneless, full-sized-human doll called “Sister” by its creator. (“Sister is a good listener and a steady companion.”)
Hodges, Charles Du Bois:
IN SEARCH OF YOUNG BEAUTY
A.S. Barnes & Co., New York, 1968.
The most unsettling thing about this guide to photographing underage models is that the blandly cheerful author seems to have no awareness of how predatory his whole project looks. Creeeepy!
Baker, Geoffrey, and Bruno Funaro:
MOTELS [REINHOLD PROGRESSIVE ARCHITECTURE LIBRARY]
Reinhold Publishing, New York, 1955.
Arguably the single most representative printed document of the American 20th century. Includes marketing and design strategies, blueprints, and hundreds of agonizingly nostalgia-inducing photos.
Runham, N.W., and P.J. Hunter:
Hutchinson University Library, London, 1970.
Who knew that a person could spend 25 years digging through old bookshops, and find only one really substantive book on slugs?
Celestial Arts, Millbrae, CA, 1976.
To California skate-culture, this is like the caves at Lascaux; it predates “Thrasher” magazine by five years, and includes early photos of skateboard tricks that later came to be known as slides, ollies, etc.
...INTERNATIONAL STATISTICAL CLASSIFICATION OF DISEASES, INJURIES, AND CAUSES OF DEATH
World Health Organization, Geneva, 1948.
The list is comprehensive, and your fate is printed here somewhere; just point a finger at a random page. Intracranial haemorrhage? Accidental poisoning by industrial solvents? Therapeutic misadventure?
Johnston, LaVaughn C.:
OPEN MOUTH DOLLS
[Self-published], Downey, CA, 1974.
You think you’re hardened; you think you’ve seen it all. Then, beneath a pile of craft magazines, you discover this.
GÖTZ VON BERLICHINGEN: WIE SAG’ ICH’S NUR?
Karl Josef Sander Verlag, Magdeburg, 1941.
The elegant German expression “Leck mich am Arsch” (literally,“Lick my ass”) was originally attributed to a one-armed 16th-century knight named Götz von Berlichingen.This Nazi-era pamphlet offers translation of the phrase into 44 languages.
[FIGURE SKATING SCRAPBOOK]
[Toronto? ca. 1930].
What makes this scrapbook so poignant? Is it the obsession with costumed girls on skates, or the fact that all the images are tipped-in with linen ring-reinforcers?
Fairbairn, W.E.; “Hary” (illus.):
GET TOUGH! HOW TO WIN IN HAND-TO-HAND FIGHTING
Appleton-Century Co., New York, 1942.
These combat techniques, designed for commandos in desperate situations, are nothing less than savage. But the illustrations, in their childlike simplicity, introduce an uncomfortable sense of ambiguity.
GYMNASTICS AND TUMBLING
U.S. Naval Institute, Annapolis, MD, 1944.
With 862 numbered photos, this handbook wins the Quantity Prize for images of physically fit men in exercise costumes.
STORIES OF INVENTORS AND DISCOVERERS IN SCIENCE AND THE USEFUL ARTS
Harper & Brothers, New York, 1860.
With chapters on flying machines, automata, stereoscopy, and many other Victorian technologies, all of which pale beside an exceptionally uncommon two-page engraving of Charles Babbage’s “Difference Engine.”
1958 DE SOTO... EVERYTHING ABOUT IT SAYS TOMORROW
Chrysler Canada, Windsor, .
In advertising, size does matter. The car itself was over 18 feet long, and the creators of this resource-intensive brochure must be credited for equivalent bravado and breadth of vision.
Hering, Daniel Webster, et al.:
TIME AND ITS MYSTERIES. SERIES II
New York University Press, 1940.
Could this be the finest book-object ever designed? Its earnest grace perfectly matches the grandiose subject matter.