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Saturday, December 7th, 2002


Century: Mini Format

by Bruce Bernard

A review by Georgie Lewis

In 1999 there was much media fuss and celebration over the end of the twentieth century, as well as the end of a millennium. One of the most arresting books to emerge at this time was the thirteen pound volume simply titled Century, a stunning collection of over 1,000 photographs. Each photograph is accompanied by a one-line annotation, and the collection is arranged chronologically, like a visual, international timeline. At the end of each of the six chapters there is additional information on every photograph and its context. The subject matter is expansive and thought-provoking, covering both famous and unknown people and events.

In June of 2002, Phaidon compiled the "mini" version of Century — this time just under 2.5 pounds! It contains all of the original photos and text, with added material for the years 1999 to 2001. When the original book came out in 1999 the Kosovo war was still raging and the Columbine massacre had shocked a nation. The original closing photograph was of a staging of Beethoven’s opera Fidelio, described as a "simple story of love and courage conquering hatred and brute force." The final photograph in the new mini book ends on September 11, 2001 with US Chief of Staff Andrew Card whispering into the ear of President Bush that a second plane had crashed into the World Trade Center.

The book was conceived and edited by Bruce Bernard, a picture editor for magazines and art books for over thirty years gifted with an extraordinarily discerning eye. Century won the Illustrated Book of the Year in 1999 and though Bernard was alive to receive the award, he sadly passed away in March of 2000. His introduction reveals a sensitive, intelligent, and sharp-witted man, and it seems fitting at this time when the threat of war looms precariously in the air and race and religious animosity is as rife as ever. To quote Bernard’s introduction:

"I hope that this book, aided strongly by its historical background information, will provide nourishment for thought and stimulus for the imagination, and that it will encourage younger people to despise as well as hate and fear war and violence and any kind of exploitation or persecution of man or woman by woman or man."

Century is a beautiful, eternally fascinating book. To peruse its pages is to feel connected to the entire range of humanity, in all our glory and vainglory.

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