Wednesday, 13 September 2023

Marilyn boxed in (5/5)

 *** I originally wrote this review on US Amazon in May 2003. If you are interested in buying this expensive box and contents I think it's worth checking with the seller that the box has the three books. Taschen published a 610-page version of De Dienes Marilyn diary in 2015, it has the same cover photo as the large book in this box (ISBN 978-3836559331)

I've got copy 4066 of this sumptuous (and reassuringly expensive?) package and I thought this review should really detail what you'll get for your money.

ONE: An oversized Kodak color film box, nineteen inches high by sixteen wide and three deep, this is a big facsimile of the box that De Dienes kept some of his Marilyn prints in. The package weighs twelve pounds and will hardly fit any bookcase. The inside has recesses for the two books and one booklet. Black silk tape allows for easy access to the contents

TWO: A large (just over fifteen by twelve inches) beautifully designed and printed, 240-page book of Marilyn photos printed on thick paper. Although the printing screen is not the highest (150i) the photos leap off the page, especially the full-page color ones. Many of these photos seem to be very private shots of Marilyn that De Dienes took during her career (a few show her with other people, a hairdresser and a bookseller). Several at the back of the book show Marilyn's face montaged into clouds or surrounded by celestial bodies. Between the photos, printed in silver ink and in a large typewriter font, there are excepts from De Dienes's memoirs. Also printed in silver are smaller photos with his hand-written captions.

THREE: A booklet with twenty-four, one to a page, magazine covers featuring De Dienes photos of Marilyn. Seventeen of them are European titles. Predictably, great photos are weakened by logos, cover lines and generally poor cropping. I thought this booklet was rather disappointing in its production.

FOUR: The 568 page facsimile of De Dienes manuscript and composite book. I think this is the most fascinating item in the box because of the production problems. The original pages were typed on one side of a sheet of ordinary paper and this facsimile is on similar weight stock so that the back of each page has some text showing through, as the original. (There is a production problem here though, the paper rightly has text show-through but the photos do as well, on the original paper only the white back of the photo would have been visible.) Although the manuscript was in black and white it has been printed in four colors to create the aged paper look and the few handwritten numbers in green and red that De Dienes wrote on the photos. You can see all of his corrections and deletions to the manuscript and read the comments he wrote about the various contact prints of Marilyn and other printed ephemera he stuck on back of each page.

The original composite section has ninety-seven pages (it becomes 194 pages in this facsimile) of cut-out contact prints which De Dienes stuck on the typewriter paper, again they are reproduced in four-color black because of the occasional handwritten colored numbers, even the image of the punched file holes on each page is slightly reproduced. Hundreds of these contacts show how he photographed Marilyn and you can see how dozens of shots were taken of which only one or two were probably published. Most of these images have never been seen before and certainly never in the form that they are presented here.

Overall I think the Marilyn Box is an amazing production package. A world-famous visual icon is presented in a unique way.


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