The Secret Books

Sean Kernan

The Secret Books

Autographed First Edition

Image dimensions: 12" x 9.5"

Pristine condition

certified authentic
The Secret Books



Sean Kernan’s monograph, The Secret Books, is comprised of images of his gelatin silver photographs handcrafted from 4×5 format Polaroid Type 55 negatives. The series was a serendipitous moment that grew into a series of over forty photographs. While taking a break from photography in order to bring freshness to his work and remain “aware”, Kernan began writing poetry. One day he noticed an old book on the table in front of him, and in a moment of inspiration, Kernan pulled out four Japanese rocks and placed them on the book. To him it looked like a poem itself – perhaps a haiku, perhaps free verse. He took a photo of the poem and began the series that turned into The Secret Books: photographs of old books juxtaposed against light and objects such as a mirror, a dried bouquet of violets, and a hand with water. He nailed a book, painted over one completely, created a text out of ants, and bound one in steel bars. The book is paired with writings by the famous South American author, Jorge Louis Borges, whose blindness at a young age altered the way he wrote and thought about books. The combination of Kernan and Borges seems more than fortuitous – rather, it seems divinely inspired. For both Borges and Kernan have created works that challenge how we as humans collectively respond to the Book as an archetype, and go on to subvert the common idea that a book is merely the sum of its pages, or the content, or “good” and “bad”. Instead, the Book becomes the starting point for a journey of inspiration and internal dialogue. You can find both a universe and a death in the pages of a book, if only you have the eyes to see.

This collection of three stories and numerous poems of Jorge Luis Borges is complemented by extraordinary, original photographs that give this book great visual appeal. Stories include “Library of Babel,” in which a man wanders though the labyrinthine universe; “The Book of Sand,” where a man discovers a book that reveals a strange and shifting content; and “Borges and I,” in which the protagonist reinvents himself through his writings. A collection that combines the most provocative writings of the great Argentinian author and the startling black-and-white photographs of the artist, this volume is a beautiful and profound evocation of the power of the book to inform and inspire.

ISBN: 09018172217
ISBN-13: 9780918172211
Pages: 108
Published: October 1999


An HD video of the actual work in question has been provided as a visual condition report.


Born in 1942 in New York City, Kernan began his creative life at a young age. After graduating from the University of Pennsylvania’s writing program, he fell into the theater where he immediately felt at home. Those early years in theater have largely formed the way Kernan creates. Never taught photography in a formal setting, he nonetheless became a renowned teacher and inventive photographer. His work has been shown around the world, from the Whitney Museum in New York City to the Museum of Photography in Greece, even appearing in the Biblioteca Alexandrina in Alexandria, Egypt and he has appeared in The New York Times Magazine, Communication Arts, Graphis, and the Atlantic Monthly.