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“We support the liberation struggles of the oppressed masses of the world,” reads a Statement of Purpose in the first volume of Black Politics: A Journal of Liberation, issued in March 1968. “We are part of the Black liberation movement and believe that freedom, justice, and equality must be attained by those means that the oppressed think necessary,” the statement continues after disavowing the Vietnam War. Four rare original volumes of the modestly printed publication, released in Berkley, California between 1968-1969, stand out amidst the overwhelming heap of exhibits at Printed Matter’s NY Art Book Fair at MoMa PS1 in Long Island City, New York.
These rare finds, along with other archival gems, belong to the Brooklyn-based shop Fournier Fine & Rare, a one-man operation founded by book collector and hunter of rarities Arthur Fournier. Next to Black Politics, visitors can find a copy of Social Justice in Mexico (1935), a report on the Second International Student Congress in New Mexico. On a table nearby, a black-and-white portrait of William S. Burroughs, photographed by Tina Freeman, captures the Beat Generation writer during the Nova Convention in New York’s East Village in 1978. The photo was used as an event poster for the convention, in which artists and writers like Laurie Anderson, John Cage, Allen Ginsberg, Philip Glass, Timothy Leary, Patti Smith, Terry Southern, Anne Waldman, and Frank Zappa paid tribute to Burroughs’s work. “That’s where Burroughs met the punks,” Fournier told Hyperallergic at the booth, “and of course, they buddied over heroin.”
Fournier travels the world in search of rare and lost books for a living. He started his collection a decade ago after leaving an unsatisfying day job with a publisher. Since then, he has been selling his discoveries to libraries, institutions, and private collectors. “When I started looking around, I found that a lot of these books are not in libraries,” he said about his collection. “Some of these publications suffer from lack of exposure because their makers were better at being visionaries than marketers.”
There’s more in Fournier’s cabinet of rarities. Two copies from a limited edition of just 1,000 copies of artist Chris Burden’s catalogue raisonné (1971-73 and 1974-77) are worth a look. And finally, he holds La Danse Macabre (Dance of Death) (1927), a beautiful book by Pierre Mac Orlan that describes “moral hazards and ways to die in the modern city.” The book’s letterpress texts are paired with 20 morbid but alluring watercolors by famed Art Deco painter Yan Bernard Dyl. It is one of only 325 copies.
“It’s a passion project,” Fournier said before turning his attention to the collectors at his booth.