Blast Books publishes illustrated books on extraordinary cultural and historical subjects.
Our newest titles are Specimens of Hair, The Secret World of Renaldo Kuhler, Humanoid,
Thomas Bernhard: Three Days, Los Alamos Rolodex, Everything’s Coming Up Profits,
and Hidden Treasure: The National Library of Medicine.

Specimens of Hair

A strangely beautiful 19th-century collection of hair discovered in the Academy of Natural Sciences of Philadelphia

No matter who we are, old or young, fashion conscious or style indifferent, we are all aware of hair. We wash it; we comb it; we cut, curl, and dye it. Hair can be envied or derided, and hair can provide clues to everything from age to culture to genetic identity to health. To a nineteenth-century amateur naturalist named Peter A. Browne (1782–1860), hair was of paramount importance: he believed it was the single physical attribute that could unravel the mystery of human evolution.

Specimens of Hair: The Curious Collection of Peter A. Browne presents a broad selection from the artful twelve-volume archive of mammalian diversity Browne created during many years of diligent, obsessive work.

Thirty years before Charles Darwin revolutionized understanding of the descent of man, Browne began vigorously collecting for study the widest possible variety of what he called the “pile” (from the Latin word for hair, pilus) in his quest to account for the differences and similarities between groups of humans and animals.

By the time of his death in 1860, Browne had assembled samples from innumerable wild and domestic animals, and the largest known study collection of human hair. He obtained hair from people from all parts of the globe and all walks of life: artists, scientists, abolitionist ministers, doctors, writers, politicians, financiers, military leaders, and even prisoners, sideshow performers, and lunatics. His crowning achievement was a gathering of hair from thirteen of the first fourteen presidents of the United States. The pages of his albums, many ornately decorated are distinctly idiosyncratic, captivating, and powerfully evocative of a vanished world.

Browne’s albums have been preserved in the archives of the Academy of Natural Sciences in Philadelphia to which Brown bequeathed them, narrowly escaping destruction in the 1970s. They are a unique manifestation of the collecting instincts of a well-intentioned man trying to explain the mysteries of the natural world.

Robert McCracken Peck is a naturalist, writer, and historian with a special interest in the intersection of science, history, and art. As Senior Fellow of the Academy of Natural Sciences of Philadelphia (now part of Drexel University), he has chronicled scientific research expeditions around the world. Among Peck’s most recent books are The Natural History of Edward Lear and A Glorious Enterprise: The Academy of Natural Sciences of Philadelphia, co-authored with Patricia T. Stroud with photographs by Rosamond Purcell.

Rosamond Purcell’s striking photographs of objects from the natural and manmade world have earned her international acclaim. Collaborations with paleontologist Stephen Jay Gould, historian of magic Ricky Jay, and Shakespeare scholar Michael Witmore testify to the breadth of her interest in the boundaries between art and science. Her numerous books include Landscapes of the Passing Strange, Egg & Nest, Book Worm, and Owls Head: On the Nature of Lost Things.

SPECIMENS OF HAIR by Robert McCracken Peck
Photographs by Rosamond Purcell
Hardcover with jacket · 6.75" × 9" · 176 pages
American History/Science · 125 color illustrations · $39.95
ISBN: 978-0-922233-49-6
Publication date: November 30, 2018

Renaldo Kuhler
* "Truly a wonder to behold."
Publishers Weekly starred review
"Kuhler’s illustrations . . . are fiercely alive."

One of the most important discoveries
in outsider art since Henry Darger

Like Henry Darger and Adolf Wölfli, Renaldo Kuhler (1931–2013) created, in private over the course of sixty years, a fully realized world unto itself. For its rocky terrain, he named this imaginary land Rocaterrania, and he chronicled in detail the tumultous history of its inhabitants: a royal family, Jewish immigrants, sexy women, tyrants, scoundrels, and neutants—individuals neither truly male nor female.

Kuhler was noticably striking in the unusual, self-designed uniform he wore. As a scientific illustrator at the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences, he made thousands of meticulous natural history illustrations—yet no one knew of his prodigious private art work begun as an isolated and lonely teenager in the late 1940s.

Wild architecture, excellent railroad and metro systems, a unique religion (Ojallaism), an evolving language and alphabet, an organized labor service, prison system (modeled after a New Jersey state penitentiary), university, Olympic sports competition, and independent movie industry all feature prominently in Kuhler’s fantastical land.

Thomas Bernhard - 3 Days
Nearly all of the 430 illustrations in The Secret World of Renaldo Kuhler have never been published before. In graphite, ink, acrylic, oil, gouache, watercolor, colored pencils, and markers, they demonstrate Kuhler’s unique imaginative power, skillful draftsmanship, and wide range of style.

After decades of secrecy, Kuhler first shared his work and the story of Rocaterrania with filmmaker Brett Ingram, whom he met by chance in the mid-1990s. In 2009 Ingram released Rocaterrania, a feature-length documentary with prized footage of Kuhler at home and at work. In The Secret World of Renaldo Kuhler Ingram has written the complete story of Rocaterrania as relayed over years to him by Kuhler, resulting in this extensive first book revealing a rare, major new discovery among visionary outsider artists.

Thomas Bernhard - 3 Days
Brett Ingram is the director of two documentary features, Rocaterrania and Monster Road, and twenty short films. His work as a writer and director has screened on Sundance TV, PBS, and National Geographic, among others. He is director of the Renaldo Kuhler Archive and operates Springwood Laboratories, a multidiscipinary creative enterprise.  |


Hardcover with jacket · 8" × 10" · 264 pages
Art · 430 color illustrations · $45
ISBN: 978-0-922233-48-9
Publication date: October 24, 2017
See a trailer for the documentary film
Thomas Bernhard - 3 Days
"An intriguing and dramatic collection of photographs accompanied by a lucid text, both of which open our eyes to the fascinating achievements of early twenty-first-century roboticists."
—from the foreword by David Levy, author of Love and Sex with Robots


The first book of portraits of android and humanoid robots

More than 12 million viewers have watched “The Most Awesome Robots” on YouTube; more than 1.7 million viewers tune in to AMC’s Humans TV series; Bill Gates has predicted there will be a robot in every home in the United States by 2025. Awe-inspiring, frightening, life-saving, threatening: humanoid robots are nothing if not controversial—and they are on the cusp of changing our lives in countless ways.

Humanoid is author and photographer Max Aguilera-Hellweg’s fascinating journey through the United States and Japan to explore the evolution of robot science—the turning point where robots are crossing the great divide between data processing and sentience.

As David Levy writes in his introduction to this first book of portraits of android and humanoid robots, “We are at the dawn of discovery of another new type of ‘person’—an artificial type of person who can be made in our likeness, given a humanlike appearance. . . . They can be given artificial voices that sound so much like human voices that we are unable to tell the difference. They can perform all sorts of physical and cognitive tasks as we do: walking, dancing, driving cars, climbing stairs, playing musical instruments, painting in the style of van Gogh or other famous artists, composing music in the style of Mozart or Scott Joplin, playing Chess or Go better than the human world champion, and much more.”

In Aguilera-Hellweg’s riveting photographs, the humanoid robots portrayed in this intriguing book run the gamut from robots that resemble with extreme accuracy an actual human being to those devoid of such surface attributes. Bina48 and Joey Chaos are endowed with humanlike skin and hair; the full-body Geminoid-F is accurate even down to her fingernails. Other humanoids, such as Atlas, a search-and-rescue humanoid created in response to the Fukushima disaster, and Valkyrie, NASA’s humanoid robot developed for a future unmanned mission to Mars to build a base for eventual human astronauts, replicate the anatomy of a human—arms, legs, torso, a head, and eyes. All are astonishing, ingenious, and capable of inestimable impact on our future.


Max Aguilera-Hellweg is the author of The Sacred Heart: An Atlas of the Body Seen Through Invasive Surgery. He is also a nonpracticing MD. His work as a photojournalist for 40 years has appeared in Life, NYT Magazine, Rolling Stone, Discover, Scientific American, Time, and National Geographic and is in the collection of The Museum of Modern Art.
HUMANOID · Max Aguilera-Hellweg · Foreword by David Levy
Hardcover, paper-over-board · 9" × 11" · 96 pages
Photography/Robotic Science · 61 color photographs · $39.95
ISBN: 978-0-922233-47-2
Publication date: March 24, 2017
Thomas Bernhard - 3 Days
"Great book design is always a combination of several things. Taste, cleverness, an ability to graphically augment content… But this goes beyond all of that. Perhaps beyond design altogether. This collaboration between Laura Lindgren (translator and designer), Ferry Radax (Bernhard’s film biographer), and Thomas Bernhard (one of the great writers of the 20th century) has produced a unique work of art. Bernhard had a pathological suspicion about words and language––about writing, maybe about consciousness, itself–– He wrote in such a way as to undermine the process of writing. The writer with an underlying hatred of writing, as if each word was a stain on the page. I must confess to an awe of Bernhard. Awe and admiration. This dadaesque book, 3 Days, brings Bernhard to life. It may be the quintessential Bernhard volume. I love it, and it has already become one of my favorite books."
—Errol Morris, filmmaker and author of Believing Is Seeing

Thomas Bernhard: 3 Days

a revelatory illustrated portrait of the acclaimed Austrian writer

Over the course of three days in June 1970, seated on a white bench in a Hamburg park, Thomas Bernhard delivered a powerful monologue for Three Days (Drei Tage), filmmaker Ferry Radax’s commanding film portrait of the great Austrian writer. The author of ultimately some forty volumes of plays, fiction, poetry, and a memoir, and recipient of practically every important literary prize that the German-speaking world awards, Bernhard wrote with an exceptional genius and voice, placing him in the pantheon of Beckett, Swift, and Kafka.

Bernhard’s stature as a writer was clear by 1970, when experimental filmmaker Ferry Radax sought out Bernhard and obtained his agreement for an unconventional film portrait to be created over nine days. Bernhard, however, suddenly withdrew his cooperation and would agree only to a three-day shoot in which he would sit on a bench and say what was going through his mind. With characteristic frankness, irascibility, irritation, and acerbic humor—which together evince his great heart—in Three Days, Bernhard extemporaneously articulated his thoughts about his life and about his writing. Radax interwove the monologue with resonant visual techniques—blackouts, extreme distance, extreme close-up on his uncomfortable subject.

Published for the first time in English, and for the first time with imagery from the film and source material that spurred Bernhard’s thoughts, this publication of Bernhard’s poetic prose monologue, by turns raw, grave, absurd, tender, and deeply human, is combined with more than 160 stills from Radax’s film, allowing this unique portrait of Bernhard to be savored in book form.


"If the novelist and playwright Thomas Bernhard had not lived, Samuel Beckett or Werner Herzog would have created him as an existential antihero. Like them, he expressed a view of life that was rigorously bleak and exactingly nihilist, yet in its way terribly humane, because it offered no false hopes or misleading promises, the ultimate inhumanities. As he says here, 'In darkness everything becomes clear.' Filmmaker Ferry Radax came up with precisely the right minimalist process for interviewing him, which Laura Lindgren has translated (in every sense) to the pages of this meticulously beautiful book."
—John Strausbaugh, author of City of Sedition and The Village
"Thomas Bernhard: 3 Days works so well as (photo-)album book that there are times one forgets that it is a film-record.... Thomas Bernhard: 3 Days isn't so much a print-reproduction of the film as a complement to it (with Vogt's Afterword providing some useful supplementary information), and a beautiful and very appealing work all on its own."
—M. A.Orthofer, The Complete Review
"Beautiful—and strikingly spare—few books exert such fascination so quickly!"
—Sven Birkerts, author of The Gutenberg Elegies
Thomas Bernhard
Thomas Bernhard (1931–1989) is widely regarded as Austria’s greatest post–World War II writer. His best-known works include Frost; The Loser; Concrete; The Lime Works; Gargoyles; My Prizes; and his extensive memoir, Gathering Evidence, published originally in five separate volumes between 1975 and 1982.

Ferry Radax (b. 1932) is an Austrian filmmaker best known for his short experimental films, documentaries, and portrayals of writers and artists, including Bernhard, Konrad Bayer, Friedensreich Hundertwasser, and James Joyce. He is the recipient of two lifetime achievement awards in Austria, among others.

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"Los Alamos Rolodex 1967–1978 is the perfect complement to my rolodex of hell. Picture this: you’re building an atomic weapon; you know it’s going to be pretty complex; you’re probably going to need some help. Wouldn’t it be great if there were a rolodex with the appropriate names and phone numbers of the people who know what you need? Well, guess what? There is. Help yourself.
(This is really cool.)" —Errol Morris


In 2012, the Center for Land Use Interpretation acquired a set of seven rolodexes from the dispersed collection of former Los Alamos National Laboratory employee Ed Grothus, who operated a salvage company of lab cast-offs known as The Black Hole.

Now part of the center’s Radioactive Archive, the rolodexes contain many thousands of business cards kept by some unknown office in the lab over the 1960s and 1970s—the peak of the arms race and its technological development. They are a physical record of everything from major military contractors to obscure high—and low-tech software and widget suppliers—many no longer extant, some, like Kodak and Xerox, evolved—all seeking or engaged in business with the Los Alamos nuclear industry.

The selection of 150 cards, presented in an oblong-bound book to simulate flipping through a rolodex, may be viewed as a snapshot of synergies between the business community and America's atomic might. On the one hand, they are a direct indexical connection from the recent past to the sources of building and operating the most sophisticated and powerful national defense technologies in the world. On the other hand, they are obsolete information, relics of a former usefulness. As a specific printed historical record—superbly reproduced in full color in this volume—they retain relevance for a potential understanding of the present; they are evocative evidence of the links that formed the secret technology of our nation.

History, Technology
Hardcover • 4.25" x 6.75" • 160 pages • 150 color illustrations
$17.95 • ISBN: 978-0-922233-45-8
Publication date: January 19, 2016

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Once upon a time, when American industry ruled the earth, business and Broadway had a baby. This mutant offspring, glimpsed only at conventions and sales meetings, was the industrial musical.

Through the rare souvenir record albums presented in Everything’s Coming Up Profits, an alternate show-biz universe emerges: a universe in which musical theater can be about selling silicone products or typewriters or insurance or bathtubs. Some of these improbable shows were hilariously lame. Some were pretty good. And some were flat-out fantastic.

Get ready for eye-popping album covers... rhymes for words like invoice and compressor... war stories from the people who were there... it’s a surprising slice of Americana that will make you laugh, make you shake your head in wonderment, and make you want to get out there and sell something.

Hardcover, 252 pages, 91/2 x 91/2 in.,
425 color illustrations

Visit the companion website
streaming audio of the songs and more.

Follow Industrial Musicals on Facebook

Wall Street Journal
Chicago Sun-Times
The New York Times
Record Collector
Dangerous Minds
Mental Floss
Boing Boing

“A wildly entertaining, gorgeous tribute to a world we never knew existed. Anyone interested in American history, music, or culture should buy this book by the fistful.”
— Dave Letterman

"The world of industrial musicals is magical, weird, and funny. Mssrs. Young and Murphy escort you into that world with panache and not nearly enough guilt. Like Steve, I amassed a collection of these records—souvenirs of the days when corporations were rich enough to care about the morale of their employees—and like him, I thought I was 'the only one.' Now these idiots have spent serious time and energy producing a freaking book on the subject. Humor them. Buy this book and
let it change your life."
— Harry Shearer

"As a veteran of many an industrial, I can attest that EVERYTHING’S COMING UP PROFITS is accurate as well as fascinating and hysterical. If I had friends, I'd tell them about it."
— Martin Short

"All Singing! All Dancing! All Selling! This delightful history reveals the corny glories of corporate America's fling with motivational musicals, and its vintage graphics are like a peek at an alternate world where the hit songs
were about Ford tractors."
— James Lileks, author
The Gallery of Regrettable Food

"Young and Murphy map us to a nether-universe Brill Building located at the intersection of Madison Avenue and Tin Pan Alley. The songcraft is stupefyingly absurd, but thanks to this book a lot of product music has outlived the products."
— Irwin Chusid, WFMU Radio,
author Songs in the Key of Z

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Around the Bay is the second book in our series by the Center for Land Use Interpretation, which “has been putting together quietly impressive and obsessively detailed exhibitions, publications and field trips for nearly two decades” (Los Angeles Times). Through CLUI's revelatory, original aerial photography and unique look at human interaction with the earth's surface, Around the Bay explores the connective shoreline tissue of the San Francisco Bay Area, every inch of which today is the product of human activity, by either intent or incident.

Hardcover, 152 pages, 6 x 9 in.,
73 color illustrations and a fold-out map

"Everybody likes or finds some places interesting,
but CLUI makes every place interesting."
— Lucy R. Lippard, art historian/critic,
author of The Lure of the Local

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Hidden Treasure, a spectacular book with 450 images, celebrating the 175th anniversary of the National Library of Medicine, the world's largest medical library.

"My fantasy holiday is a week spent locked in the archives of the National Library of Medicine, so you can imagine how excited I am about this book. It's an incomparable treasure trove. I hugged it to my chest like a four-year-old with a new pair of shoes."
— Mary Roach, author of Stiff and Packing for Mars

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"...a visually voluptuous volume...always amazing in its splendor."

"Amazing images from the archives at the National Library of Medicine..."
Boing Boing


"a compendium of the greatest graphic as well as historical and human interest...revelatory..."

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Eighteenth-century French anatomist Honoré Fragonard's Écorchés—preserved dissected animal and human cadavers—are extraordinary works of virtuosic skill that have survived nearly two hundred and fifty years in the Fragonard Museum in Alfort, on the outskirts of Paris. They are the real and very rare18th-century precursor to BodyWorlds and other modern-day anatomical specimen exhibitions.

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Mütter Museum Historic Medical Photographs was the #1 most popular pictorial attraction on for 2008

See A Century of Medical Oddities

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"Mad Men meets Flash Gordon."
The New York Times

"A doozy."
Boing Boing


See author Megan Prelinger

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"This is the most extraordinary book I have ever seen—the perfect coffee table book for all the households where I'd most like to be invited for coffee."
Mary Roach

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Listen to Dissection co-author John Warner on NPR's All Things Considered
Listen to Dissection co-author John Warner on NPR's All Things Considered