Humanity – In Production

June 9, 2016 § Leave a comment

While driven by a passion for The Art of the Book, each of our titles in the soon to be complete 21st Editions Master Collection takes diligence, patience and intense focus. Humanity, our 57th collaboration involving 10 artisans, is no exception.

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Here is what is involved in the making of Humanity: Conceptualizing and developing the content; designing the book; contact printing the platinum prints one at a time; selecting the paper; making or preparing the text paper to size; making and printing the letterpress plates; folding each signature to prepare for sewing; silk-screening the fabric for the box covers; cutting the separate pieces that will make up the box; constructing and lining the box; designing, printing, trimming and attaching the paste and flyleaf papers for each book; preparing the cloth for adhering to the cover boards and stamping them; trimming and tipping in nine platinum prints; making the folder for the three free-standing, signed platinum prints; attaching the finished cover boards to the sewn book block; marrying all fifty sets; and finally numbering each book before shipping to institutions and collectors at the end of the year.

Please call Pam or Steven (508 398 3000) regarding copies of Humanity that may still be available.

HUMANITY & The Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam

March 22, 2016 § Leave a comment

McCurry’s work presented in platinum for the first time.

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Although Steve McCurry is best known as a color photographer, we have printed these images in platinum. There are two reasons for doing this. The first is to highlight the degree to which McCurry’s work needs to be appreciated not only in the tradition of documentary, but also as a fine-art photographer. Critics typically refer to him as a documentarian. And yet the subtle tonal ranges and luminescence of these prints, coupled with the artistry of their compositions, reveals that they are at least as much “pictorial” as documentary. They explode the lingering and largely false dichotomy between fine-art and documentary photography.

…these platinum prints showcase new forms of McCurry’s humanity, as compelling as their color counterparts. One might say that in different ways, each format highlights connections: between photographer, subject, and viewer; and/or among the people in the images. In both formats, it is as though McCurry penetrates beneath the surface into the heart and spirit, giving us a unique intimacy with his subjects. In doing so, he enlists his subjects as evangelists as few artists have done, bringing people together from around the world.

– from the introduction by John Stauffer

Announcing: Steve McCurry’s HUMANITY

February 11, 2016 § Leave a comment

Twelve signed platinum prints, of which three are loose, illustrating Edward Fitzgerald’s complete first (1859) edition of The Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam. This is the first time that Steve McCurry’s work has been presented in platinum.

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“Steve McCurry is one of the best-known artists of the twentieth and twenty-first centuries, and one of the most influential. His images have helped connect us to parts of the world we have never been to, humanizing our perceptions of people throughout the world.

But there is one image of McCurry’s that almost everyone knows, even if they don’t know who made it. We are referring, of course, to Sharbat Gula, Afghan Girl (1984). It is not too much to say that Afghan Girl has changed the world, “searing the heart” of viewers, owing to its power to inform our perception of humanity. For over thirty years, it has enabled millions of people to connect with another person across wide gulfs of cultural difference. It is this sense of connectedness, achieved through photography, that is McCurry’s great and rare gift to humanity.”

– from the introduction by John Stauffer

About the Contributors #15

October 1, 2015 § Leave a comment

Over the years John Wood created many unexpected pairings. The resulting titles were interesting new interpretations of contemporary and classic text and photography.

Examples include Flor Garduno illustrating The Sonnets of Shakespeare, Brigitte Carnochan’s flowers and nudes with Raul Peschiera’s The Shining Path, and Imogen Cunningham paired with William Morris.

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John Wood, from The Sonnets of Shakespeare

…The reason the sonnets were immediately seen as applicable to a women is because of their universality. They are about Love and its power. An artist’s intention is historically interesting to note, but it is by no means the sole meaning of a work of art. Art always speaks to us in ways its creators did not envision; that is its power; that is why it lasts. And it is only in the context of the narrative of the entire sequence that particular poems, with few exceptions, can be identified as having been written for the young man. No one reads sonnet sequences for their plots, since lyric poems do not really tell stories, and few people read them from start to finish. One picks and chooses and reads randomly for pleasure. And so these universal poems are finally monuments to the universal power of love and the finest such monuments in the English language.

I spoke of Shakespeare as a great psychologist, but so is Flor Garduno. She understands woman more universally, it appears to me, than any other visual artist. She sees woman in all her dimensions-as Siren, Eve, Medusa,Venus-sees her in the sweep of all her varied powers and attractions. Her work is finally a deeply moving tribute to woman, to all women, because, as I suggested earlier, her Venus is Everywoman.

Shakespeare’s genius, like Garduno’s, comes from his deep understanding of human nature. In play after play we see ourselves strutting about in all the cruelty, jealousy, meanness, bad temper, good humor, compassion, honor, and love we are capable of. He shows us our burden and our glory…

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John Wood, from The Shining Path  

…That is Carnochan’s shining path-beauty in perfect measure. But that is not The Shining Path of Raul Peschiera’s brilliant poem that accompanies these photographs. The shining path he refers to is Sendero Luminoso, a violent Peruvian revolutionary movement of the 1980’s that disrupted the country’s economy and caused perhaps as many as 25,000 deaths before its leader was captured in 1992.

Carnochan photographs and Peschiera poetry might then seem not merely a strange marriage but an impossible yoking of two dissimilar bodies of work having nothing in common. But a perusal of Peschiera’s poem makes it clear that his shining path and Carnochan’s are the same. He writes of the same intoxication with sensuality and beauty that Carnochan photographs. The central figure of his poem is ostensibly Abimael Guzmán, the leader of Sendero Luminoso, and the poem narrates several of Sendero Luminoso’s most violent acts, but The Shining Path is actually a love poem with both Guzmán’s wife, Augusta, and Peru at its center. In the eye of its turbulent violence slumber luxury, calm, and pleasure. And Peschiera invites us into the dream.

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John Wood, from Symbolist

What influence, one might wonder, could William Morris, poet, Utopian Socialist, revolutionary, English Arts and Crafts movement leader, textile and furniture designer, Pre-Raphaelite, a founder of the Society for the Protection of Ancient Buildings, and creator of the Kelmscott Press, have had on the work of the great Modernist American photographer Imogen Cunningham? Hardly any, one might assume. Yet she claimed him as an influence, and his influence was intellectual, social, and visual.

Cunningham, a radical herself, grew up in a radical and progressive household, and so her sensibilities were ripe for the influence of William Morris. Her father was “a humanist” she said. “There’s no question about that. And his…life was much motivated by theosophical beliefs. He never drove it into anybody, or tried to tell people what they ought to think,….”

21st Editions Master Collection at the Bendheim Gallery in Greenwich, CT

May 18, 2015 § Leave a comment

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Greenwich Arts Council
Bendheim Gallery, Greenwich, CT

In 1999, the Wall Street Journal described 21st Editions as following “in Alfred Stieglitz’s footsteps.” Stieglitz’s groundbreaking journal, Camera Work (1903-17) elevated photography to a fine art, an equal of painting and sculpture. 21st Editions (1999-present) picked up where Stieglitz had left off and indeed surpassed it in developing the art of the book.

Now, for the first time, 21st Editions will showcase its Master Collection of Image, Word, and Artisan Bindings.

This unprecedented exhibition features the some of the world’s greatest living art photographers, along with such seminal figures as Imogen Cunningham and Todd Webb, in exquisite books constructed by hand from New England artists.

John Wood, 21st Editions editor from 1998-2014, indelibly shaped this collection of images, poetry and prose. The writers he selected to illuminate and engage the images include the Pulitzer-Prize winning Edward Albee, Robert Olen Butler, Annie Dillard, and Adam Johnson, as well as U.S. Poet Laureate Richard Wilbur and many others. Harvard’s John Stauffer, another contributor, is the newly appointed editor.

In its art, 21st Editions pays homage to William Morris, who founded the Arts and Crafts Movement and Kelmscott Press, widely recognized as the beginning of the fine-press book movement.

Each of the fifty-six 21st Editions productions is a work of art, a performance piece, and in presentation and content a center of conversation and interactive treasure.

During the exhibition, founder and publisher Steve Albahari will offer for sale one of only ten complete sets of 21st Editions, comprising 56 books, 539 bound prints, and 244 loose prints, each one signed by the artists.

Three Outstanding Projects for 2015

March 5, 2015 § Leave a comment

Goerge Tice

George Tice  THE JANUS TURN  Adam Johnson

This book unites the work of two American masters one might think were radically dissimilar. “However, in truth they share a similar emotionally ominous vision.” (John Wood)

George Tice has been photographing since 1953. His career has been primarily focused on the fine print and the photography book, so it is more than fitting that he now has a 21st Editions title. Tice’s trees are paired here with a short story by Adam Johnson, one of the great literary figures of our era. Johnson won the 2013 Pulitzer Prize for fiction.

12 bound, plus 2 loose platinum prints, each signed by Tice. 13×15 inches. Handmade.

 

Todd Webb

TODD WEBB: NEW YORK, 1946

A remarkable story told through Todd Webb’s journal entries and with an introduction by 21st Editions new editor, John Stauffer. Webb’s association with Alfred Stieglitz was an intimate one, as his was with Berenice Abbott, Beaumont Newhall, Harry and Eleanor Callahan (housemates), Georgia O’Keeffe, and others. 1946 was an auspicious year that saw the deaths of Stieglitz, Gertrude Stein, Joseph Stella, Arthur Dove, and Moholy-Nagy. Todd Webb: New York, 1946 is a rare look into New York and the life of Webb and those in his circle that have defined the standard for a great photograph, then and now.

15 bound and 3 loose Estate platinum prints, plus 2 vintage silver prints that were printed and signed by Todd Webb. 13.5×13.5 inches. Handmade.

 

MIchael Murray

Michael Murray  WORLDS APART

“The elemental to the engineered, an epic narrative told through a magically real photographic perspective that is timeless, original, and epiphanic.” (Gideon Bosker)

“Murray’s genius resides in the brilliance of his eye, in its weaving of the world’s disparate parts together into a cohesive and wondrous whole.” (John Wood)

“With Worlds Apart, Murray takes his place alongside some of the great visionaries of photography, who have also been inspired by the concepts of utopia and dystopia… Photography often functions as a powerful telescope, through which artists construct their visions of a new world, according the critic and curator Yasufumi Nakamori. Much like his visionary predecessors, Murray’s utopian vision depends upon his revolutionary aesthetic. His art creates his utopia.” (John Stauffer, Harvard University)

15 bound and 16 loose pigment ink prints, plus two images printed on anodized aluminum, presented as an A-frame sculpture, all 33 printed and signed by the artist. 15.5 x 15.5 inches. Handmade.

from OLD CITY LIFE

August 14, 2014 § Leave a comment

OLD CITY LIFE (August 2014)

“…’The objective of what we do is to exemplify through form the very essence of (an artist’s) work, but in Love, Graham Nash it became more about the essence of the man, his vision, his music. In this case, the man and the artist are virtually inseparable. He is relentless in his pursuit of the bigger picture,’ says Steven Albahari, publisher, 21st Editions, The Art of the Book.

If you’ve never heard of Love, Graham Nash, 21st Editions or Steven Albahari, stop reading right now and visit the website. (www.21steditions.com.) Seriously. it’s that important. Because until you see the quality, scope and creativity of The Art of the Book collections, it will be almost impossible to grasp the artistic contribution Nash has made through his collaboration with Albahari and his 21st Editions publishing partner, acclaimed poet John Wood. (Google him too if you need to – you’ll be glad you did.) Defined as ‘interactive performance art’ by Albahari, Nash’s artistic ‘neighbors’ at 21st Editions include Sally Mann, Joel-Peter Witkin, Imogen Cunningham and Herman Leonard (the collection Listen: Herman Leonard and His World of Jazz was honored with the 2010 Lucie Award).

Whatever most of us think we know about Graham Nash, many of us don’t know about his talent for capturing a moment – or, in this case, an entire era – through an image. He became obsessed with taking pictures at a very early age and learned about photography from his father, who went to jail because of a misunderstanding over a $30 camera. Nash explains, ‘That was very traumatic for me. I was a young boy and my father’s main joy in his life was this camera that he’d bought from a friend. The police came to our door, my father wouldn’t reveal his friend’s name and, long story short, he ended up in jail.’

Nash went on to collect multiple honors for his own work, has curated the work of others and established Nash Editions, recognized by the Smithsonian Institution for its role in the invention of digital fine art printing. Both his first IRIS 3047 printer and his 1969 portrait of David Crosby are in the permanent collection of the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History.

With all these accolades, why take on a project of this magnitude? Four years in the making, one in production and Nash involved almost every step of the way. Simple. ‘The one thing I’ve always demanded from the universe is quality. I want the best, always. When Steven showed me some of the books he had produced, I wanted to do one with him.’

Photographer and St. Augustine-resident Kenneth Barrett, Jr., has seen the 21st Editions Love, Graham Nash collection and considers it to be ‘a piece of living history. We are viewing an era through the eyes of Graham Nash and the people with whom he interacted. Nash always had his camera with him and was on the forefront of the digital printing era. What he’s done here is put together a fabulous look at life through his lens. And he saw it all. As an insider, he was allowed to wander around behind the scenes where you and I or other photographers and journalists wouldn’t have that kind of access.’

And what is the bigger picture? Nash doesn’t hesitate. ‘The bigger picture here is that as dire as the world seems, as crazy as it seems, as violent as it seems, there are many, many wonderful things done in this world every day. Hope is better than depression, love is better than hatred and peace is better than war.’ Where do we start? Again, at least for Graham Nash, it’s simple. ‘If you don’t like violence, don’t beat people up. If you’re looking for beauty, appreciate beauty wherever you might find it. Be what you want to see.’ And which photo in the Love, Graham Nash collection best represents that bigger picture for the photographer himself ? I suggest my favorite; a simple shot of Nash’s wife Susan nursing their now-32-year-old daughter Nile. It took a minute, but he agreed. ‘Yes, I think that does represent the essence of what I believe. Our children, even though they are 25% of our population, are actually 100% of our future and if we don’t teach them a better way of dealing with our fellow human beings, we’re in dire straits here.’

Which goes to show that, if we pay attention to our troubadours and trailblazers, we might discover that life really does imitate art; that if we wait long enough, most things will come full circle and that those words, written by a young Graham Nash over forty years ago, still hold very true today. Teach your children well. Feed them on your dreams. And know they love you…”

Susan Johnson
OldCityLife

#15/16: Imogen Cunningham and Rondal Partridge

June 12, 2014 § 2 Comments

I had met Joshua Partridge and his father Rondal (Imogen Cunningham’s grandson and son), years ago at Photo San Francisco. Not only did we meet Joshua and Rondal there, but also Ruth Bernhard who was being escorted by her close friend, Michael Kenna. It seemed to be a star-filled show and it was, indeed, when photography was still a film-based medium for the most part.

In 2010, I received a call from Joshua Partridge. Joshua explained to me that he wanted very much to contribute to Imogen’s legacy, something he hadn’t yet done, before he closed his lab to then contemplate the idea of retiring to a monastery and living as a monk. He suggested that we do a project on Imogen Cunningham. Intrigued, I flew out to Berkeley, California to meet Joshua, his brother Aaron, and his sister Meg, Director of the Imogen Cunningham Trust. That was the beginning of the the trilogy of books we embarked on with the Imogen Cunningham Trust.

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The first title in 2012, Imogen Cunningham Platinum and Palladium, must have been a great surprise to many because not only did it include ten platinum Imogen Cunningham Trust prints and three large palladium prints printed by Joshua of three iconic images, as well as a thirty year-old print printed by Rondal from her glass plates, but also, a vintage print printed by Imogen herself. Its success was immediate.

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The next year, 2013, Imogen Cunningham: Symbolist, followed also to great success with a collection of ten platinum Trust prints of her early symbolist work plus three wonderfully colorful free-standing gum-over-platinum prints.

“What influence, one might wonder, could William Morris…have had on the work of the great Modernist American photographer Imogen Cunningham? Hardly any, one might assume. Yet she claimed him as an influence, and his influence was intellectual, social, and visual.”  -John Wood

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During a trip to Berkeley and while planning the next two titles with the Imogen Cunningham Trust, the first stop was Rondal Partridge’s home. I had a rare and thorough tour of Rondal’s personality, home and archive. I was so awestruck at his raw talent and that he spent his entire life as a working photographer, that I proposed at our 21st Editions summit in Saxton’s River (the home of 21st Editions co-founder John Wood) a project with Ron. In fact, what I did was lay out some one hundred photographs to our team without disclosing the artist, and it was a unanimous hands-down yes by all even before knowing who made them! At that moment The Symmetry of Endeavor was born.

After the experience of seeing Ron’s work John Wood wrote in his Introduction, “Rondal Partridge is one of the greatest and most visually exciting photographers of the twentieth century. His vision is thoroughly and completely his own, and that his name is not yet enshrined in the pantheon of the other greats is a tragic accident of photographic history, an omission which likely has more to do with his mother’s great fame than with a serious consideration of his art.”

Interesting to note and unusual, indeed, is the fact that Ron was such a prolific and unrelenting artist, that he would generally only print one or just a few prints of any one negative. He was always creatively driven to find the next image, something new, something not seen, something eclectic. As a result platinum prints printed by Ron are rare, while the number of subjects and variations on subjects are plentiful. Ron was kind enough to donate one vintage print of his own to each of the portfolios of twelve platinum prints created for The Symmetry of Endeavor. Today, Ron is in his 96th year and still in Berkeley, California.

#14/16: California Artists and Creative Design

June 10, 2014 § Leave a comment

Following our work with many well know artists, we thought it important to turn our focus to three new, very promising, and up-and-coming (at that time) California based artists, Mitch Dobrowner, Charles Grogg, and Ben Nixon.

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The Prophecies of William Blake

While all of our titles are challenges unto themselves because the 21st Editions mandate is to start from scratch on all of our designs and never to repeat ourselves, Mitch Dobrowner’s The Prophecies of William Blake was a real test for us. Accommodating 11×17 inch platinum prints, the largest we have ever produced for a book, was just one of the many challenges. These are the only platinum prints Mitch has ever had printed of his work and he has stated they are likely the only ones he may ever make. The binding design, too, was something of a bear. It was created with handmade paper that was watercolored and molded and had an inset of palladium. The box was designed to open flat giving full access to the book and the three loose prints. The resulting 16×20 inch book was breathtaking. “Ambitious” might just be an understatement when it comes to this particular accomplishment.

The book was designed to mirror the storm and landscape photographs that Mitch is now so well known for. He travels with storm chasers to capture the very real and ever-changing landscapes. He was featured in National Geographic, won the Sony World Photographer Award, and Google even created a short film on his work.

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prints for Cracked: The Art of Charles Grogg

Charles Grogg was selected by John Wood as the winner of the 2010 Clarence John Laughlin award. Charles had come to our attention before but it wasn’t until we actually saw his platinum prints on Japanese Gampi Torinoko paper that we saw how wonderful a match his work was with the 21st Editions aesthetic. Charles agreed to both print and construct the platinum prints for The Art of Charles Grogg, something that only he could do, given the solar exposure, many hand-sewn elements and “Reconstructions.” Additionally, John Wood (the only two-time Iowa Poetry Prize winner) agreed to write a poem for each and every image, so we knew this was going to be something special. His brilliant poetry was also read and recorded on an accompanying compact disc. Listening to John read, you will find him powerfully lyrical and convincing, drawing you into a world unknown and palpable. We knew this would be unlike anything we had ever done or will ever do again. And, it was. Each 20×22 inch book has a handmade lacquered eggshell cover panel. The Art of Charles Grogg, which particularly takes on the feel of interactive performance art, was in totality, the art of John Wood, Amy Borezo, Crissy Welzen, Pam Clark, Michael and Winifred Bixler, and Charles Grogg.

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To the Wheatlight of June

To the Wheatlight of June brings together the brilliant minds of Harvard poet Steven Brown and 21st Editions Editor John Wood (introduction) with the work of Ben Nixon who printed silver-gelatin prints of another world. Ben, like Charles Grogg, uses difficult traditional processes. His silver gelatin prints are hand printed from wet-collodian negatives and then toned with tea. Paste papers, another even older tradition, are patterned or textured papers, often made by applying paint with brushes or handmade tools, and are an integral part of 21st Editions productions. In some cases the papers themselves are hand-made. The emphasis on the paste papers in this case extends from the book itself to the ingeniously designed portfolio case that doubles as a display stand. This book and portfolio set broke new ground for us both in presentation and execution.

#13/16: Yamamoto

June 6, 2014 § Leave a comment

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Sunday, November 7, 2011:

John Wood and I left about 8AM for Amtrack in Providence to greet Yamamoto Masao, his wife Reiko, and his manager Seiko Uyeda. We corresponded with Masao and Reiko with the generous help of Seiko as translator, but this was our first meeting. The three appear at once together and seem to recognize something about us. They are instantly delightful.

On the way back to Cape Cod, Seiko shared a story that Masao told on the train coming in from New York to Providence. For some reason, he had had an encounter with a Master of sorts, a man whose Japanese sword–a Stradivarius of swords, a work of art–meant a great deal to him. He insisted that Masao take it home with him to photograph. Masao was nervous when he told him just to send it back via UPS! Upon his next visit with the Master, and to Masao’s surprise, he told him that the sword’s energy revealed that Masao had a difficult time photographing it. He was correct.
 
As soon as we crossed the Bourne Bridge, John suggested that we offer the front seat to Masao so he could photograph while we traveled toward Brewster on the old historic Route 6A. He reluctantly agreed and after a short time said that the road was “too beautiful to photograph” and that what he liked revealing in his work were imperfections.

I wanted to show everyone one of my favorite spots where a small bridge crossed an inlet with a strong tide. As I approached Keveney Lane to the left, I saw “Bridge Closed,” but I turned anyway. It was a cold day and on our way down this short road we passed a hooded young man on the left, walking slow and determined. He turned and nodded as if he expected us. Without having mentioned it to Masao, I was surprised that he later mentioned it to me.

I stopped the car in front of the gravel pile blocking the street and before the bridge, then opened my door to find a decomposing tree trunk hollowed on one side. In the center was a lovely ceramic vase with a partly broken rim at the narrowed top. I thought, imperfection! I looked at Masao and he jumped from the car with his camera like he was greeting an old friend. From the driveway on the other side of the car appeared a man who greeted us. He said that he had just placed the vase in the tree trunk, but at the time wasn’t sure why. Then, without missing a beat, the young hooded man we had passed on the way appeared on foot carrying a Japanese sword and explained he was studying Japanese martial arts and that he had been taking that precise walk for two years.

In those brief and lyrical moments, Masao, Reiko, Seiko, John, and I together were witnesses in unison to our own completely uninterrupted attention. Was this a gift brought by a Master? He would likely not have had intended it, because he was just being Yamamoto Masao.

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The three Prism book and print sets (Yamamoto Masao, Mitch Dobrowner and Jack Spencer) are a hybrid between the finest offset printing by the Studley Press and a Pam Clark and Travis Becker (Twinrocker Paper) designed handmade paper for the cover. With three different sets of prints, 21st Editions has presented a spectrum of printing processes from offset to platinum (Yamamoto) to silver-contact (Dobrowner) to hand-varnished pigment ink (Spencer). These traditional style monographs are presented with the intention of showing a broad range of the artist’s work with from 65-110 images. Scholarly essays by John Wood (Yamamoto), Dafydd Wood (Dobrowner), and Steven Brown (Spencer) reinforce the importance of the marriage of the word and the image as a primary 21st Editions objective.
 

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