VASSOS, John (illustrator). Ruth VASSOS (author). Ultimo, an imaginative narration of life under the earth with projections… New York, E.P. Dutton & Company, Inc., 1930.
Crown 4to. Publisher's red cloth blocked and lettered in black, white, and gilt to upper board, spine lettered gilt, top edges plain, others untrimmed; pp. , title-page in black and 22 black-and-white plates, including frontispiece, in Modernist style; a very good, bright copy with bruising to spine ends and rubbing to corner tips; internally fresh throughout.
First edition, in primary binding, with loosely inserted sheet in bold letterpress advertising this title; a presentation copy inscribed and signed in ink to the half-title by John Vassos, "Lo! To Margaret Taylor, with much admiration …" and dated New York City, Sept 14 1933.
The text by Ruth Vassos (which has strong resonances to today's political climate, but rather in reverse) considers the fate of mankind as overdeveloped technologies, and a dying sun, induce an ice-age that forces humans to bore down into the earth and construct an ecosystem fuelled by heat from the core of the planet. The volume is cited in bibliographies of female science-fiction and also in the catalogue of subterranean utopias. These visions of an in-earth civilisation are realised in John Vassos's "remarkable drawings…so peculiarly adapted to the projection of the human mind into these limitless realms" (blurb). John Vassos left Greece at a young age after his political cartoons made him an enemy of the government. Although remembered largely for his design work, which included televisions and turnstiles, Vassos maintained his early interest in illustration and worked on a select number of books including titles by Oscar Wilde and others in collaboration with his wife Ruth. The tone of these productions echoes the politics of the artist's early cartoons and the mixed public response to their condemnation of social and economic structures was predicted by their relatively short, and limited, print runs.