The Ballad of Santo Casiero

The Ballad of Santo Casiero

Clifford Harper illustrates John Gallas’s ballad poem about the life and times of the Italian anarchist Santo Caserio; a baker who assassinated the French President, a little man who tried to change things and got his head chopped of

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Sante Geronimo Caserio (September 8, 1873 – August 16, 1894) was an Italian anarchist and the assassin of Marie François Sadi Carnot, President of the French Third Republic.

Caserio was born in Motta Visconti, Lombardy. On June 24, 1894, he fatally stabbed President Carnot after a banquet, to avenge Auguste Vaillant and Emile Henry.

At his trial, Caserio described the assassination in detail:

I heard the "Marseillaise" and the cries of "Viva Carnot!" I saw the cavalry come up. I understood that the moment had come and I held myself ready. On seeing the President's carriage I drew my dagger and threw away the sheath. Then, when the carriage was passing close by me, I sprang forward to the step, supported myself by resting my left hand on the carriage, and with my right hand buried the dagger in the President's breast.


The Board of Pardons decided against all appeals for clemency on August 14. Caserio was executed by guillotine in Lyon at precisely 5am, August 16, 1894. In front of the guillotine, he exclaimed "Coraggio cugini—evviva l' anarchia!" ("Courage, cousins—long live anarchy!")



Clifford Harper illustrates John Gallas’s ballad poem about the life and times of the Italian anarchist Santo Caserio; a baker who assassinated the French President, a little man who tried to change things and got his head chopped off. The drawings are an homage to the work of Frans Masereel and perfectly accompany the ballad verse. Agraphia is Harper’s own publishing imprint, and as you’d expect, the books are exquisitely designed, illustrated and printed. Includes a biographical sketch of Caserio by Harper.


"When in 1968 I turned on, tuned in and dropped out, I brought these skills with me to the anarchist and underground scene. In those days we had very limited access to print-production, colour and half-tones were a scarce luxury, so it was important to be able to produce good black and white, (B/W), or 'line' images - just like in the late 19th century. These limitations were central to my developing my skills and continue to be so - our greatest trial is to be shown our limitations, and our greatest triumph is to accept them. Black and white is really where it's at."

Clifford Harper


Clifford Harper (1949- ) describes himself as "a committed anarchist" and is Britain's leading radical illustrator. He is a self-taught artist and although much of his artwork resembles the wood cuts style of drawing, he in fact works mainly in pen and ink. He was born in London and, after being expelled from school at the age of 14, he began a series of low paying jobs. As a teenager living in the 1960's he was drawn to the ideals of the anarchist movement and lived in communes in Cumberland and in London's Eel Pie Island. During his illustration career he has continued to be directly involved in the radical movement and produced publicity material of the annual Anarchist Bookfair held in London between 1990 and 1999.


However, he has gradually been accepted by the mainstream providing illustrations for many national newspapers and magazines. Since 1989 he has drawn for The Radio Times and from 1996 he began working for The Guardian newspaper, illustrating the Country Diary and Last Word columns in The Saturday Review. Clifford Harper's distinctive style and bold illustrations have made him one of The Guardian's most popular graphic artists.


In 2003 he set up Agraphia Press, dedicated to restoring the balance between illustration and text, and maintaining the tradition of radical and didactic, black and white drawing with the aim of providing accessible, well designed, low priced books and pamphlets.



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