Thursday, March 11, 2010

In Boksburg: The original 1982 edition

In the early 1980s a man named Paul Alberts had a plan to create the first serious photographic book publishing company and gallery in Cape Town. The gallery would assemble an archive of South African photography out of the book prints used from each project - the name he chose was The Gallery Press.

Alberts' approach to distribution was through a series of mail campaigns to gather orders directly instead of being subjected to the heavy discounts demanded by bookstores or other distributors. The entire venture with The Gallery Press failed after releasing just one book, David Goldblatt's In Boksburg. It nearly bankrupted Alberts.

After doing our study of Boksburg in the Errata series I was notified by Thomas Alberts, the son of the publisher Paul, that a couple boxes of the original book had been found in storage complete with dustjackets. He is making a few of those books, freshly signed by David Goldblatt, available for sale.

These copies have been in a sealed box since 1982 when they were manufactured so they are nearly perfect. The dustjacket is the original black jacket seen in Parr / Badger's Photobook: A History.

Interesting note about those jackets is that not enough were made for the entire print run of the book. Alberts had run out of money by then so many books were left sitting in boxes without jackets. When not enough orders were coming in for the books with the black jacket, they decided to breathe life back into the project by redesigning it to feature a photograph. Thus the second 'ballerina' grey cover appeared on a majority of the books.

In Boksburg has a long and storied history from its rejection by Optima magazine to print the photographs (with accompanying text by Alan Paton) because they didn't like Goldblatt's viewpoint, to the fact that black and white duotone hadn't been perfected by printers in South Africa and Boksburg was an early test case in getting it right. It is an important book that appeared at a time when photographic books on South Africa, produced in South Africa were in their infancy.

On the lower spine of In Boksburg there is a small number one printed in white. No one could know that this would be the first and only publication that The Gallery Press would release. It was a huge start in retrospect, but maybe at the time it was overestimated the number of people who would want to pay 14 Rand ($3.50) to look at their own values and complacency within Goldblatt's portrait of apartheid.

Click here to inquire about copies of this original edition of In Boksburg which are signed by David Goldblatt and protected in mylar.