Photographs by Robert Frank. Introduction by Jack Kerouac.
Steidl / The Robert Frank Project, Gottingen, 2008. 180 pp., 83 tritone illustrations, 8¼x7¼".
On May 15, 1958, the first edition of Robert Frank’s The Americans was published
in Paris. Les Américains was part of a series of books which presented foreign
countries through words and pictures. It contained Frank’s 83 photographs in the
same sequence as all subsequent editions, with the image on the right hand
page juxtaposed with texts from American social and political history, gathered
by Alain Bosquet. The following year in the first American edition, the French
texts were removed and an introduction by Jack Kerouac was added. Over the
subsequent 50 years, The Americans has been republished in many editions, in
numerous languages, with a variety of cover designs and even in a range of
sizes. It is the most famous photobook ever published, and it changed the face
of the medium forever.
Robert Frank discussed with his publisher, Gerhard Steidl, the idea of producing a
new version using modern scanning and the finest tritone printing. The starting
point was to bring the original prints to Göttingen, Germany, where Steidl is
based, from New York.
In July, 2007, Frank visited Göttingen. A new format for the book was worked out
and new typography selected. A new cover was designed and Frank personally
chose the book cloth, foil for embossing and the endpaper. Most significantly, in
the process of working out the layout of the photographs on the page, Frank
chose to reproduce un-cropped examples of the photographs when available.
Two images were changed completely from the original 1958 and 1959 editions.
Then, on a sunny day in July of 2007, the presses started rolling and Robert Frank
personally supervised the printing of this latest edition of The Americans.
Read our feature on The Americans.