Black Star

The Ryerson University
Historical Print Collection of the
Black Star Publishing Company

Portfolio Selection and
Chronicle of a New York Photo Agency
by Michael Torosian

Introduction by Peter Higdon


In 2005, Ryerson University was the recipient of an extraordinary gift - the complete black and white print archive of the New York photo agency Black Star. A collection of almost 300,000 photographs chronicling world events and personalities from the First World War to the nineteen-eighties, the archive was, in the words of Collections Curator, Peter Higdon, "the largest gift of cultural property ever made to a Canadian University."

In celebration of this landmark acquisition, Lumiere Press presents highlights of the collection accompanied by the story of the founders of Black Star - Kurt Safranski, Ernest Mayer and Kurt Kornfeld - and their successors Howard and Ben Chapnick - a narrative told against the backdrop of the looming war in Europe, the Great Depression in America and the promise of opportunity in New York.

The Reproductions

Each photograph has been reproduced, uncropped, to preserve its essence as an historical object. To convey the subtle variations of coloration within the palette of "black and white", the 48 photographs selected for the book have been reproduced in 10 micron stochastic four-color offset lithography on Utopia "ivory silk" paper and varnished. Four plates - portraying the founders of Black Star - have been hand-tipped into the book.


The text and display matter have been cast in lead on the Intertype model C4 in Intertype Weiss and Linotype Memphis - both Rudolph Weiss type designs from the 1920s. The lead formes were printed letterpress by hand on the Vandercook Universal III on Hahnemuhle Biblio, an acid-free mouldmade paper. The book measures 7 3/8 x 9 inches; 96 pages.


The edition has been case-bound in oatmeal-colored Asahi Japanese book cloth. The frontispiece image - rendered in a halftone engraving and printed letterpress in gold on black Bugra paper - presents mirror images for the front and back covers. Printed in a numbered edition of 300. Numbers 1 to 150 have been retained for the exclusive use of Ryerson University.


First Prize, Alcuin Society, Limited Edition Book Design.


Out of print.