Cyprus: n.p., ca. 1948. Limited first edition. Hardcover. 1/120. Elephant folio. 19x14.5". Unpaginated. 29 single-sided printed leaves. Half tan cloth over illustrated tan paper boards, with black lettering on the front cover. The work is an extremely scarce album containing a total of 26 plates of b/w linocut prints created by postwar Holocaust refugees, who were detained in British internment camps in Cyprus. Printed in a limited run of 120 copies on a specially constructed printing press.
The camps, which were operated from 1946-1949, were set up to house Jews attempting to immigrate to Palestine in violation of the British immigration policies set forth in the White Paper of 1939. Throughout their existence a total over 50,000 people are estimated to have lived at in the camps. The American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee (JDC) was able to provide $2 million in material support to the refugees in the camps, including food, clothing, medical care, and religious materials as well as education, vocational training programs and art classes.
Among these educational programs was the Rutenberg Seminar, named after the Russian-Jewish engineer, businessman and political activist Pinhas Rutenberg. Like its sister institution in Palestine, the Cyprus seminar taught courses in Hebrew, civics, Jewish religious topics, philosophy, history and art. The art program was taught by a number of Israeli artists including Naftali Bezem, a graduate of the Bezalel School of Art and Zeev Ben-Zvi. This album serves as an enduring documentation of that program.
The top of front free endpaper has a dated inscription (1948) to Aryeh Rachum, from Baruch Rubinstein, one of the teachers in the program "on behalf of the instructors of the Seminar". Below there are additional informative notes on the publication, in the same hand. The following two pages contain a linocut rendering of quote from Pinhas Rutenberg, and an additional poetic introduction, using imagery found in the linocut images themselves. The 26 linocut images that follow each measure approx. 7 3/4x 11", and contain evocative and powerful depictions of daily life in the camps, in a slightly abstracted manner. The artwork details the activities and emotional states of the refugees including boredom, confinement, despair, hope, childcare, weddings, personal hygiene, strenuous labor, socializing, as well as recreational and religious activities. Common visual elements include barb-wire fences, guard towers, soldiers and tents.
All linocuts have been signed in Hebrew in pencil underneath by the respective artists who created them, all of whom where members of the art program. The artists include Yitzhak Samushi, Elisheva Heiman, Lea Tirs, Michael Bloch, Chana Stern, F. Rosenberg, Moshe Bernstein (1920-2006, a noted artist), Nachum Bendel, Gotel Gotman, Mantel Berkovitz, Avraham Sher, David Tashamovsky, Baruch Friedman, Peretz Weinreich (1925-2015, who would go on to become a noted cartoonist and caricaturist in Israel), Baruch Rendsburg, Meir Wachtel and others.
The pencil signature under the linocut by Moshe Bernstein ("The Bridge"), shows that it was erased and replaced by an inscription to the same Aryeh Rachum, in blue pen, dated to 1954. The implication is that Bernstein and Rachum (the owner of this copy) encountered each other in the years subsequent to the Cyprus detention. The inscription in Hebrew reads: "A keepsake to Aryeh Rachum, by the painter Moshe Bernstein who was in the Cyprus exile and was one of those who made this book with their own hands".
The final page contains a list of plates. The cover image reproduces the image of plate #12 titled "Be-Sha'ar" (At the gate).
Text in Hebrew.
Binding with some rubbing and minor to light chipping to corners and along edges. Covers with some light smudges and water stains. Front cover with a few small abrasions and small superficial wormholes. Interior with some sporadic minor to light stains and/or smudges in the margins of plates. Light age toning to the edges of pages. Images almost entirely unaffected, still clean and bright. Book block tight. Binding in good, interior in good+ condition overall. Extremely scarce. g to g+. Item #48695
* Only two copies listed on OCLC.
Hebrew title: בגרוש קפריסין.