by Danielle Aubert. Inventory Press, November 2019. 240 p. ill ISBN 9781941753255 (pbk.), $29.95.

Reviewed March 2020
Ann C. Kearney, Collections Conservator, Alice Hastings Murphy Preservation Department, University Libraries, University at Albany—State University of New York, akearney@albany.edu

aubertA reader of the recently published book The Detroit Printing Co-op: The Politics of the Joy of Printing could reasonably expect that, given the volume’s title and subject matter, it might diverge from the typical structure and format of an art reference volume. This expectation would be correct. If, however, the same reader assumes that such variations would keep the volume from offering valuable information to researchers, the assumption definitely would be incorrect.

The content offered in this book is atypically organized, annotated (it does not include a bibliography) and presented. It does, however, offer undergraduate and graduate students, as well as researchers in many fields (graphic design, cultural history, and politics, to name just a few) an intimate reflection on the co-op’s story, its people, and the printed work it produced. A particularly notable highlight of this publication is the number of photographs and prints—the majority in color—on most pages.

Author Danielle Aubert initially organizes her description of the press chronologically, beginning with the founding of the press in Detroit in 1969. The book’s structure then shifts to encompass recurrent themes supported by the press and includes chapters describing and illustrating various magazines that the press printed, including Black and Red, Radical American, and Gnomon. She notes that while Fredy Perlman (who, along with his partner Lorraine Perlman, headed the co-op) was not trained in design, he frequently experimented with aesthetic issues and printing processes in order to “... provide typesetting and printing without censorship or pressure...a means of subsistence to individuals who refuse to accept the bureaucratic organization of a capitalist enterprise.”

This book would be of interest to libraries serving graphic design departments at art schools, as well as to university libraries whose curricula emphasize the social, cultural and literary history of the twentieth century. It would be most useful to students and researchers who have some academic background and understanding of the political and social movements of the mid-to-late twentieth century.

In her introduction, the author states that she hoped to assemble in one place the publications put together by the Detroit Printing Co-op; Ms. Aubert’s completed project admirably accomplishes this goal. In addition, The Detroit Printing Co-op: The Politics of the Joy of Printing, through its thoughtful organization and graphic design, offers a highly personal response to this press and to the material record it produced.