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Fuller, R. Buckminster | Nine Chains to the Moon

  • First edition, first printing of the author’s first book. Presentation copy with a warm and lengthy inscription from the author to fellow architect Robert George Cerny (1908-1985), dated November 22, 1959. Fuller begins, “To Bob Cerny, with whom it has been my privilege and pleasure to work on the emergent....”. Unfortunately, the combination of Fuller’s messy handwriting and unique vocabulary and syntax make it difficult to grasp the full meaning of the inscription, and it’s unclear how the two knew each other.

    Nine Chains to the Moon is a collection of forty-four essays on various topics in the history of science and technology, many of them exploring progressive design and the concept Fuller called “ephemeralization”, or doing more with less, which he believed would create higher living standards despite population growth. The title, a metaphor for co-operation, refers to the notion that if all the humans on Earth stood on each other’s shoulders, they could reach the Moon. The book has been described by one fan as “an outlandish collection of essays in feverish celebration of the technical and design possibilities of the twentieth century” (Taylor, http://www.nous.org.uk/Nine.html, accessed August 4, 2020). Fuller’s elaborate writing style (also in evidence in the inscription in this volume) put off most critics, with the Kirkus reviewer left “puzzled, confused and doubting” by the “vast areas where I cannot follow him, where mathematical and physical abstractions leave me floundering, where meaning is lost -- for me -- in a thicket of verbiage”.

    The recipient of this copy, Bob Cerny, was a modernist architect based in Minneapolis and St. Paul. he graduated from the University of of Minnesota School of Architecture in 1932. “The school’s architectural program, like others across the country, had fallen under the sway of Modernist ideas in the 1930s. The austere Bauhaus strain of Modernism rather than Wright’s more dynamic style prevailed, and once graduates established practices in Minnesota after the war, they filled the state with all manner of Modernist buildings. These homegrown architects—among them Carl Graffunder, Robert Cerny, Jack Liebenberg, and the firm (now HGA) founded by Richard Hammel, Curt Green, and Bruce Abrahamson—rarely achieved national recognition. Even so, their work, usually quite restrained, was of consistently high quality” (Millett, “Minnesota Design”, Metropolis, March 1, 2018). Among Cerny’s most prominent designs was the 1950s Gateway Center in Minneapolis, one of the largest mid-century “urban renewal” projects.

  • Philadelphia & New York: J. B. Lippincott Company, 1938.

    Octavo. Original copper cloth, titles to spine and upper board in black, map free endpapers. Illustrations within the text, folding chart at rear. Cloth rubbed, bumped, and scuffed with some spots and marks particularly to the lower panel, rodent damage to the lower edge and gutter of the rear endpapers and folding chart, and the same along the bottom edges of the final 25 leaves of contents, lighting toning of the contents. A very good copy.