bibliophile editions (1961-1972)

author: Rastko Ćirić


In his pedantic records, my father Miloš Ćirić numbers sixteen author's BOOKS he made. Within that number only seven are bibliophile, hand printed in an edition. The rest are hand-made books made at most in two copies. Herewith I will mention his bibliophile editions only:

1) First book: THE MONUMENTS, woodcuts, edition ten, 1961.

2) Second book: TURTLES, linocuts and offset prints, edition ten, 1961.

3) Third book: THE NAMES, woodcuts and linocuts, edition ten, 1961.

4) Fourth book: NINE TRIPTYCH (text by M. P. Surep), linocuts, edition 36, 1962.

5) Fifth book: THE WHITE TERROR, woodcuts and linocuts, edition ten, 1963. (9 graphic prints: »Spies«, »Jailer Flegar«, »Roll Call«, »Road Sign«, »Aspiration«, »Torture«, »Resistance«, »Solitary Cell« i »Black Light«)

6) Sixth book: THE METROPOLITAN FLAMING BIRD (text by M. P. Surep), edition 20, 1965. (8 graphic prints: »The Metropolitan Flaming Bird«, »Flaming Bird«, »Crossroad«, (two prints with no name), »Traffic policeman«, »Paper Bird«, »A Wood of Houses«)

7) Fourteenth book: STAMPS (10 graphic prints after the text by Dušan Radović from the book “The Black Day"), edition 12 on pack-paper, 1972. (»The Terrible Messages«, »Grandfathers and Grandchildren«, »Reading Radović«, »Never Reaching the End«, »People«, »Cemeteries«, »Prayers«, »The Great School Lecture«, »Freedom« i »Don't Give Up, People!«)


In the year 1961, the first three bibliophile editions were printed. I was six, and I remember the way how these graphic prints were made. My father used to bring some square hardwood plates from a carpenter, I think it was the cherry wood. I even remember the carpenter, as my father took me with him to see his workshop. He was older man and my father called him "Master Dragi": his workshop was near the Slavija Square, where Kralja Milutina street met Nemanjina street. So, my father used a carbon paper to copy his drawing to the wood plate and then cut it using a hammer and chisel. The plate he laid down on his desk leaned to the wall, in fact, leaned to a rolled blanket, in order that the banging don't disturb neighbors. Beneath the work-table were metal boxes with black and red printing ink, and in the middle of the room there was a small, big to me then, printing press with a wheel that turns a metal cylinder. It was able to "open its mouth" enough for a thick wood graphic plate. The printing press was an inheritance after the death of the famous graphic artist Branko Šotra (1906-1960), the founder and the first Rector of the Academy of Applied Arts, and the favourite professor of my parents. I watched how to roll printing ink with a graphic roller on a thick glass plate, and my father explained to me that the quality and the thickness of an ink layer can be judged by the rustling heard during the turn of a rubber roller. A lot of prints were painstakingly printed by hand, by rubbing with a bone tool over back of the paper. The prints, folded in half, were hanged to dry from a rope, like laundry, fixed with clothespins. The room looked like something between a gallery and a laundry room. Dry prints were powdered by my father in order to dry faster and then he carried them to be binded by bookbinder Paštrmac, who would bind it into a gray linen with a small golden print of my father's signum in the right upper corner of the front covers. I don't know why all my fathers bibliophile editions were so neutral and unified from the outside.

(illustrations: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11)

Black and heavy zig-zagged figures on the red and black areas, were illustrating the creepy fragments from a war poetry by Desanka Maksimović, Vladimir Nazor, Ivan Goran Kovačić, Milorad Surep, Branko Ćopić and Skender Kulenović. In his book "Graphic Communications 1954-1984", my father noted that these are "the monuments dedicated to the children died in the war, to the mothers who send-off and wait for their husbands and children, to the people who died of hunger and freeze, to the destroyed families and to all who have not their monuments". All the graphic prints from the book exist also as a separate prints, also in edition of ten. As a separate prints they have their own names: "The Squad of Pupils 1 and 2", "The Orthodox Mother", "Eyes in the Hand", "The Flag-Bearers", "The Flag-Bearer", "Old Mothers Waiting", "The Knežopolje's Mother", "Ice sculptures", "The Frozen Sculpture", "The Bombardier", "Ten To One", "Hunger", "The Wounded One", "Marija Bursać", "A Lot of Tears Were Following Us" and "Let Our Roads Not Be Entangled". As a child, I was not able to experience the high expressivity of those scattered and spotted explosive forms. My father had entered the Second World War as a ten year old boy, being separated from his parents, lived in a homes for neglected children and several times avoided certain death. Even fifteen years after the end of the war these impressions were severe enough to find its place in those strong graphics-illustrations. All these horrible impressions were sipped into this first book, so the next one could be in a quite different mood. I believe that in that phase of his work, a certain influence came from the Šotra's graphic prints, considering both the rich decorative "fabric" and the war as a subject. My father's later graphic prints will lose that decorative aspect, and will tend to transform shapes radically into a sign-symbol. The next bibliophile editions already contains the prints with strong aspiration to be as simple as possible.

(illustrations: 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20)

The second book, TURTLES (1961), illustrates one joke. (Some turtles went to weekend and forgot salt. In waiting for the turtle who went back to get salt very many years pass, and in the end we learn that it did not went at all.) My father noted in a laconic way that story as "a logic of relativity". This unusual book in fact contains 12 pages reproductions from a New Year greetings calendar made for the (now forgotten) Mozaik publishing house. Apart from the cover page, the impressum and printed endpaper (pardon, there is an engraved dedication "To my son Rastko"), the book contains only four large original prints - of the turtles who were repeated in the comic strip-calendar, in different mutual combinations. The minimalistic conception of this book fits the design of the turtles, reduced to a rich sign. My father's aim was to reduce a picture to a symbol of many meanings and layers. The repeating of the same prints in the calendar - the turtle-stamps, but in different relationship, represents a certain manifest of the graphic media defined as the repetition of equal prints, what is the very reason of making a graphic matrix. This is one of the (minimalistic) ideas of this graphic "comic strip". Such reduction and economy in the relationship between the elements, is in peace with the simplicity of the elements by itself.

The impressum says that the calendar has been printed in edition of 1000, but there is no information about the number of copies of the bibliophile edition. My father's records show that the edition was ten, same as the first and third edition. This book represents an unusual combination of hand and industrial printing - the author's graphics and reproductions. The hand prints were made in linocut technique, and I remember these lino-plates with a rope-net from the bottom side, as some small pieces that were letf, were given to me to make my first own graphic prints.

(illustrations: 21, 22, 23, 24, 25, 26, 27, 28, 29)

The third book, THE NAMES (made also in 1961), I like the most and consider it as my father's masterpiece. It is not nice to say, but I have to admit that I am regretting that he did not dedicate this book to me instead of "Turtles". It is confusing to me why, in his book "Graphic Communications 1954-1984", where he had reproduced chronologically his bibliophile editions, my father completely took out this book! Is it possible that he didn't like it, for he did reproduced the remaining three? This time the subject was the Serbian history: "The Names" is consisted of ten, in chronological order, lino and woodcut portraits of the personalities from the Serbian Middle Age, radically geometrized and reduced, almost to a sign. The names are: STEVAN (1114-1200), RASTKO/SAVA (1174-1235), UROŠ (1243-1280), DRAGUTIN (1276-1316), MILUTIN (1282-1321), DUŠAN (1314-1355), MILOŠ (+1389), LAZAR (1329-1389), VUKAŠIN (1350-1371) I MARKO (1340-1395). Those portraits, most probably because of their brutal simplicity, contain an peculiar monumentality - it seems that each face tends to be some sort of building or fortress. The reason for this book, as its title confirms, probably are our family names. Some would notice that among the NAMES there is my father's name MILOŠ, my name RASTKO (St. Sava), and also the name of father's older brother DUŠAN. My father was proud that he had gave the names from the Serbian history to his sons Rastko and Vukan, in the time when it was not officially accepted. His unfulfilled wish was to visit, in company of his sons, the Serbian monastery Hilandar (in Greece), which he had visited a few times. TWO very stylized self-portraits on the first page of the book, the black and red one, probably symbolize the family aspect of reading this book. It is not easy to tell which prints are woodcuts and which are linocuts, in this edition. At the first sight, I could only claim with certainty only that the portrait of Dragutin was linocut. But, in my father's records everything was clearly noted: linocuts, beside Dragutin are also Rastko, Uroš, Milutin, Miloš and Vukašin. Therefore, there are 6 linocuts and 4 woodcuts. I presume that Dragutin was the first linocut made after a woodcut, and later he made efforts to minimize the difference between those two materials, in order to keep the style unity of the book.

(illustrations: 30, 31, 32, 33, 34)

The fourth book NINE TRIPTYCH, from 1962, was edited together by the poet Milorad Panić Surep and my father. The "triptych" are short three-part verses, 4-5 lines each, which describe and comment the Serbian landscapes, from North going to South. In my father's book "Graphic Communications..." this book was reproduced in whole, but unfortunately in a contrasted black and white, so the absence of red colour, not even suggested by a gray tone, was a great loss for its presentation.

The square illustrations, called "vignettes" in the impressum, strangely enough, do not follow Surep's text in an expected way, although there is some descriptive aspect in them. One would expect some images containing at least a landscape or an ethnographic detail. Instead, the symbols present are quite general, without any trace of the national characteristics: figures of men and animals were fragmented into flat elements, and the nature was presented by radically stylized details. Such a treatment is usually applied in designing coat of arms and I think that this book lead the author to such a way of thinking. For each Serbian district described in the poem, he offered an illustration in the spirit of the heraldic symbolism.


The alphabet used always is cyrillic (the only word in latin alphabet is "Arches", the name of the paper used, in the impressum of the fourth book). Miloš Ćirić belonged to the generation which first started to promote cyrillic as a national alphabet, after the World War Two. From that period, well known is the cyrillic alphabet designed by Radomir Stević Ras, his colleague from the academy and inseparable friend. In the year 1962, shortly after making of those bibliophile editions, my father has designed for the Grafički Kolektiv Gallery the letter type of the similar style to the one used in this book. The letter types used in my fathers woodcuts and linocuts were adjusted for cutting in a graphic matrix and that fact had mostly defined their shapes. That letters were always in different heights, what made the distance between two of the letters more unified, and their stressed rhythm in harmony with the expressive pictures that follow the text. In the first three books the difference of the letters may be noted in details only: in the fourth one, if one looks carefully, there is a difference in shapes of the letters. The curves were now replaced by sharp cuts, so the circle of the letter "O" was transformed into a rhombus. A small paradox could be noted, that in the woodcuts, on which cutting of curves is much harder, curves exist, and in the fourth book, made in linocut only, all the edges were straight. I suspect that my father, being experienced by the third book, where he was forced to find a balance between the woodcut and linocut cutting, minimizing the differences, came to the conclusion that curved letters fit more to the aesthetics of the industrial typography than the hand printing, so he wished to design a letter type which is more appropriate to the media.


If one wants to understand graphic prints of Miloš Ćirić, they should be compared with his works in other disciplines he dealt with, especially with his work in the field of graphic design. The treatment he used to design a trade mark, surely was present in conceiving his graphic prints. That procedure, in its first phase, understood quite rational approach at the problem, more exactly the task, no matter if that task was given by other person, or the artist ordered it to himself. The aim was to get a CLEAR and from a graphic point of view CLEAN, or better say CLEARED OUT form, the form that will as directly as possible exert influence on a spectator. Today, the similar procedure is practiced in marketing agencies, but in free arts, such disciplined approach to an art creation rarely is found. Therefore, the artist gives an accurately defined problem to himself which should be parted and each segment analyzed. He searches for simple forms able to as fast as possible represent the given segment, and then looks for the ways to synthesize these particular forms into a logical, firm and wholeness unity. The result is such, that, from the artistic point of view, a paradox can be noticed: in an illusory rational way, in fact the quite personal way, an artist creates a symbol which is an archetype form, and just as a result of its ambiguousness, it is typically the subconscious category. Thinking generally, the danger in such a creative procedure, is to overdo in simplifying, so in order to avoid that, during the creative process, shapes should be judged constantly - to be reduced and not being impoverished. In creating a trade mark there is a border over which its form can be banally geometrized and transformed into a common scheme. In "free" graphic arts, that border should be moved backwards compared to the creating of trade marks, otherwise there will be no difference between such a graphic print and a trade mark, and that will be a misunderstanding within those art disciplines. There are painters who tends to simplify their forms in great extend. But, some of them have just a limited repertoire of already defined and radically stylized SCHEMES that are only arranged and combined in different ways in their paintings. Speaking of Miloš Ćirić, his simple forms are unique and are originated out of his specific and characteristic stream of thought.


There is an interesting story of the personal sign of Miloš Ćirić. Its basis is formed by the specific shape of cyrillic letter DŽ (Like J in the word John), derived from a simple line that can be written over his surname in cyrillic. After that graphical discovery, he started to sign himself shortly as "J", and his colleagues from the academy accepted that, so he got probably the shortest nickname in history, made of one letter only. In the further development, the letter was mirrored and downward "printed" in negative, tending to look like a graphic print scheme. In the upper letter was put an image of the sun, which was later simplified into a dot. The sign in a whole made a very stylized human figure.



Text of impressum: "This first book of ten woodcuts cut and printed by the author's hand it was edited in ten numbered copies" 13 folded, printed pages of format 265 x 305 cm, with two identical printed endpapers. Hard covered in grey linen with a small artist's signum in the upper right corner of the front cover page, 23 mm in diameter, and a small roman cipher I in the lower right corner, as a number of the first bibliophile edition. All the cut form matrix in the book were printed in black colour, except for the endpaper, in red. On six pages the red background was printed as a full tone. On the front page is written: "ten woodcuts", but there are in fact 14 of them on two pages each, counting the endpaper, in total 25 graphic prints, not taking into account the small "self-portrait mask" on the first page. Each pair of graphic prints were signed with red artist's signum, 10 mm in diameter, signed by his short initial signature MĆ and numbered 1-1/10 (the first number is the number of the book-edition, second of the print, and the third of the edition). All the text was cut in the same plate as the images. On the third, the frontispiece page, there is an author's signum in negative, 15 mm in diameter, printed in red, and on the fourth, beneath the text of impressum, there is a small signum, 10 mm in negative, the full signature and the same numeration as on the prints.


Text of impressum: "Second book / New Year present by the publishing house MOZAIK, Belgrade / offset printed by the graphic company Panonija, Subotica / edition 1000 copies"

4 folded pages in format  265 x 305 cm, of which three are both-sided hand printed, two endpapers in triple page width and twelve yellowish one page papers with pasted pages of two-coloured offset printed calendar in format 18.5 x 12 cm. The colours are black and red, the text is in two colours. On each page of the calendar, a small author's signum in negative is printed in the last field of the grid with date numbers. Hand printed four turtles on three pages. On one of the signature is written "original size, mć (signum, small red in positive), author's print. On the last page is written: "second binding, mć (the same signum)". I am not sure what does it mean "second binding": are there two or more editions of this book, I don't know. On the first page a self-portrait mask is printed, but unlike in the first book, this one is in negative, and is continued to the next page into a dedication: "to my son rastko", also in negative (cut in the same plate).


Text of impressum: "This third book of ten woodcuts and linocuts cut and printed by author's hand, is published in ten numbered copies". The portraits were alternately printed in black and red colour. The black ones were signed by a 10 mm red stamp , and the red ones by black ones. One page of the endpaper was printed in black, and the other in dark blue colour. On the first page there are two radically stylized self-portraits, the first one black, the other red.


This fourth book is smaller that the previous three, in format 225 x 285 mm. The covers are also gray, with two signums on the right side: the upper one is by M. S. Surep, and lower one by Ćirić. Ten folded, two colour printed sections were not binded, but separately put into covers with one endpaper only. The prints ("medallions") are square, in format 16 x 16 cm and alternately printed in black and red. The text is cut in linoleum as well and printed in two colours. Text of impressum: "This collection of medallions was cut in linoleum and printed on Arches (cut in latinic script) paper in 36 copies, and this one is numbered (the number is printed by a numerator). The signatures by Surep and Ćirić follow.

MILOS ĆIRIĆ (1931, Despotovo – 1999, Belgrade)

Titular professor at the Faculty of Applied Arts, University of Arts, Belgrade, Miloš Ćirić was the founder of the chair of Graphic Communication and taught at the FAA from 1964 until 1997. He was Head of the Graphic Department from 1974 to 1975.

Born in Despotovo, Serbia, in 1931, he graduated in 1954 from the Academy of Applied Arts, Belgrade and took his Masters Degree in 1959, under Professor Mihailo S. Petrov.

The fields of interest were art graphics, graphic identification, lettering, advertisement, book design, graphic animation, graphic-in-space and heraldry. Member of ULUPUDS since 1959; ULUS since 1962.

One-man exhibitions: Belgrade, 1961, 1965, 1968, 1971, 1982, 1986; Zrenjanin, 1964, 1969; Subotica, 1964; Bol, Brač, 1967; Novi Sad, 1967; Skoplje, 1972; Priboj, 1977; Stolac, 1981.
The most important works were: design of the exhibition »Robija – škola revolucionara«, Beograd - S. Mitrovica, 1963;
Lettering project: »Ciricica«, Belgrade , 1970/72; Graphic communication of the VMA, Belgrade, 1976/77; Manuscript dedicated to the Sveti Sava Temple, Belgrade , 1985.
Main publications: »Graphic identification 1961-1981«, SKZ, Belgrade, 1982; »Graphic communications 1954-1984«, Vajat, Belgrade, 1986; »Heraldry 1«, text-book, University of Arts, Belgrade, 1983. (second edition 1988); »Coat-of-Arms of Belgrade, Heraldry 2«, Cicero, Belgrade, 1991;
The most important awards he received were: The Golden Pen of Belgrade, 1964; Large Plaquette of the University of Arts, Belgrade, 1983; Main Award of the Ministry of Culture, 1987; Award for Life Achievement, ULUPUDS, Belgrade, 1998.

In 1999, at the Faculty of Applied Arts, the 'Miloš Ćirić Fund Award', for the best student work in the field of graphic design was founded.