Kingston, NY: Maureen Cummins, 2019. One of 15 copies signed and numbered by the book artist Maureen Cummins. This powerful production was initially realized as a unique object in the spring of 2019, the book was later editioned in the fall of 2019. Throughout the piece, Cummins uses simple typographic means to explore issues of anti-Semitism, denial, and the erasure of cultural memory. Unpublished Manuscript, 1946 came out of the research phase of the Friends, Peace and Sanctuary Project, in which artists were asked to spend two weeks in the Special Collection archives at Swarthmore College. Cummins was immediately drawn to a collection of materials relating to the life of Hans Bergas, a survivor of the Buchenwald concentration camp. Cummins writes: "Following the war he and his family relocated to the United States, to the town of Chester, Pennsylvania. It was there that he met Gertrude Weaver, a German language high school teacher. In response to her request, Bergas began corresponding with Weaver’s students, a process that led to his writing a full-length memoir. Hoping to see the manuscript published, Weaver sent the manuscript to Grace Naismith, a senior editor at Reader’s Digest magazine. In a brief, typewritten response, Naismith thanked Weaver for her submission while unequivocally rejecting it as unsuitable for publication: “…the day has passed,” she wrote, “when people will read any more about Buchenwald or German atrocities…we have been so surfeited with Fascist horror stories, movies, and Nuremberg trial testimonies, that I’m afraid a present sale is most difficult.” In this artist's book, Cummins painstakingly surprints Naismith’s letter, using no more than a few words at a time, over copies of Bergas’s manuscript. In this way, Naismith’s decision to reject the manuscript is given the full weight and consequence it deserves. Reading the texts side by side also highlights the contrast between the editor’s polite, patrician language and the horrific events and experiences described in the memoir: “Death by starvation. Death by illness or execution.”" Both visually and emotionally, the reader/viewer is invited to witness the collision of worlds. Printed on a variety of translucent papers, including vintage onionskin. The memoir was digitally reproduced, while Naismith’s letter was printed letterpress using photoengraved plates. Also included are two documents contained in Bergas’s original manuscript: a map of Buchenwald that he drew for the Chester high school students, and a page of family photographs. Each book is held by a vintage clip board. The book measures 8.5 x 11 inches. In fine condition. 79 pages. ARTISTSB/080321. Fine.
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