8°: 112 pp. with black and white and colour illustrations within text, first pages printed in black and light blue and full page original woodcuts, original illustrated wrappers (Very Good, wrappers with minor wear on the sides and tiny tears on the spine and on the back, minor water-staining in the margins of the last pages).
This unusual, beautifully designed book in Slovenian language, made in the late 1944 by the Catholic church, reports on the missions and missionaries from all over the world, but mostly form China, Asia and North America.
The first pages with a calendar for 1945 are decorated with a simple, but highly decorative wood-cut ornament in black and light blue, impersonating an oriental silk pattern. The woodcuts inside, showcasing oriental scenes and portraits, and an original colour wood-cut, representing Mary with Jesus as an oriental woman, on the cover were made by a young artist Marjan Tršar (1922 - 2010), who subsequently became one of Slovenia’s and Yugoslavia’s most famous artists.
Tršar’s wartime story is complex and more than a little unusual. Upon the Axis invasion of Yugoslavia in April 1941, he joined the Royal Yugoslavian Army. However, he was soon captured and sent to prison in Croatia. He was released shortly thereafter and returned to Ljubljana. There he fell afoul of the Italian occupiers, who sent him to a concentration camp at Gonars, Italy, where he remind until the collapse of the Italian regime in September 1943. In Gonars, he made as series of drawings of the camp that were much admired in Partisan circles. Upon re-gaining his freedom, Tršar decided to support the collaborationist cause. While his motives for switching sides are unclear, it has been speculated that he desperately needed money and wanted to avoid being re-incarcerated. He proceeded to design propaganda illustrations for the Domobranci, of which this poster is by far the most memorable. At the end of the war he was captured by the Partisans and given a death sentence. However, one of the Partisans, remembering the artist from Gonars and recalling his drawings of the camp, successfully appealed for clemency for Tršar. He was soon released and went on to become one of Slovenia’s most famous and long-enduring artists, passing away in 2010, at the age of 88.
The booklet is in a surprisingly good, seemingly unread condition. The survival rate of such book would be very rare, since they were thrown away after the year expired. The Catholic calendars, especially those from WWII and illustrated by an artist, accused of collaborating, were also not treated favourably under the new Tito’s post WWII regime.
This was the last number of the calendar, which was issued from 1917 on. We could find nine examples of this issue in Slovenian libraries (OCLC 442635358) and possible another copy at the University of British Columbia Library (OCLC 604841193).
The ephemeral book is one of the most unusual and until now underappreciated Slovenian – Yugoslav 20th century books we’ve ever seen.