Montreal Quebec - To mark Canada's 150th birthday, the German publisher Callisto asked Montreal writer Marc Choko to assemble a "premium" edition of his acclaimed coffee table book "Canadian Pacific: Creating a Brand, Building a Nation".
It was printed in Italy using a state-of-the-art printing press, and is being released in a limited edition of 999 copies.
Each one comes in a wooden case and costs $1,200.
One was sent to Postmedia News this week, and it's stunning.
"The quality of the printing is really, really, exceptional," says Choko, a professor at the University of Montreal.
"I've done quite a few nice books, but never this quality."
This isn't hype.
OKthePK Joint Bar Editor: Says you.
The 384 page tome is 18 inches high, 12 inches wide, and probably weighs as much as a caboose.
It features 620 illustrations, including 505 in colour.
(This is a slight increase from the earlier coffee table book, which is still available, and sells for $80.)
In its heyday in the early 20th century, Canadian Pacific Railway liked to boast it was "the world's greatest travel system."
To promote its trains and ships, and later an airline, CP produced a staggering amount of travel posters and brochures from the 1880s on.
Some were executed by famous studios, such as a stylish 1932 poster for the Empress of Britain by the Clement Dane Studio in London.
It depicts the brow of the "white empress" ocean liner at sea, illuminated by a flash of light, smoke billowing out its stacks like waves from the ocean.
Other posters were done in-house by artists like Norman Fraser, whose 1933 poster designed to lure train travellers to the Chicago World's Fair is so beautiful it makes you want to travel back in time.
A blazing searchlight lights up the night sky while a blue-black train engine hauls CPR red passenger cars to the art deco wonderland of the fair, which is represented by a blue deco tower.
And you could experience it all first-hand through "fast convenient train service" to the fair at "special reduced rail fares."
Fraser also designed a poster for the Empress Hotel in Victoria, which entices viewers with the pitch line "Play golf every day of the year in Canada's evergreen playground."
The design is very elegant, a red golf flag sticking out of a black hole, a couple of white golf balls (and their shadows) nearby.
"I like simple posters like the golf one," said Choko.
"It's nearly abstract, you just have the green grass with the post (golf flag) and two small balls."
There are some marvellous posters for skiing at CPR resorts in Banff and Lake Louise, many done by Peter Ewart.
But some of the smaller items are just as cool.
"We wanted to insert different brochures, timetables, and menus, all kinds of publicity items that were pretty much unknown," said Choko.
"Most of it is from the CPR archives, some is from a couple of other institutions, and a few pieces are from private collections."
Oddly, Choko doesn't know of any big posters for any of the three CP hotels that were known as the Hotel Vancouver.
But there is a small engraving in an 1890 brochure that shows the first Hotel Vancouver at Granville and Georgia, with a gazebo and tennis court out front.
There is also a lovely poster for CP service in the Selkirk Mountains in the B.C. interior in 1937, 25 years before the Trans-Canada Highway was completed.
"Bridge the Highways Gap, Ship Your Auto By Rail Over The Selkirks Between Golden and Revelstoke," advises the poster, which was designed by Fraser and uses 10 different typefaces.
Norman Fraser's 1937 poster for CP in the Selkirk Mountains of the B.C. interior.
The 69-year-old Choko was born and raised in France, where posters have long been considered an art form.
He moved to Montreal in 1969, where he studied architecture and environmental studies at the University of Montreal.
He became interested in CP posters when he went to an exhibition staged by David Jones, a longtime CP artist and archivist.
Choko and Jones wound up doing two books on CP posters, sifting through thousands of images.
"Every month nearly we keep discovering new posters we never saw before, in different auctions around the world," he said.
"It's incredible. They were produced in Canada and England, but there were also some printed in France, there were some printed for the eastern (European) countries, there were some printed in Australia. It was a really massive production."