Saturday, October 24, 2015

Binding an Empire

I've had this poem parked for future sharing, but prompted by the American Bookbinders Museum in San Francisco that started sharing bookbinding songs on its blog (and here), I decided to translate this poem that was read at the German Bookbinder's Convention in Berlin, 1882. At the celebrations, the "Altmeister" Wihelm Hoppenworth presented the following poetic tribute to his Imperial Majesty, the German Kaiser... Hoppenworth was "Obermeister" of the Berlin bookbinding guild at the time.

Here the German original from the Teltower Kreisblatt, August 26, 1882 (pg 3). Teltow is a part of Berlin. A translation into English is below with links to articles in Wiki about the historical events mentioned. Die mit Deutschkenntnissen können einfach die Abbildungen lesen... Links zu längst vergessenen Ereignißen sind in der Übersetzung ins Englische...


The Kaiser is the best bookbinder, because
He bound the fatherland together
Into a single glorious volume.
At Düppel, back in the day, and at Alsen,
That's where the Kaiser began his "folding."
With his folder of steel,
He stroked the Danes out of Schleswig-Holstein.
At Königsgrätz with mighty strength
The Kaiser began to "sew" the book.
And after only 8 days it was known,
that he understood what he was doing.
And all who didn't stand by his side,
They were simply "bound in."
And, then came the great day at Sedan,
That's when the last work was done,
That's where the principle enemy was captured,
And, that's where the book was cased-in.
And before one even noticed,
The deluxe binding Germany was completed.
And as is common with bookbinders,
He thought about the finishing,
And carried that out magnificently,
At Versailles, in the reflection of the imperial crown.
Therefore, you Masters old and young,
At the thought of this mighty memory:
Fill your glasses with noble wine,
And with mighty voices pronounce.
The Kaiser with a thunderous cheer,
He who bound Germany into a glorious volume
And with Alsace-Lorraine gave it a "gilt edge!"

It goes without saying that this pronouncement was heartily cheered by all the guests.
In 1936, the Allgemeiner Anzeiger für Buchbindereien (pg 341) republished this poem on the occasion of the 60th birthday of Bruno Müllers, director of the Fachschule (the trade school) of the bookbinding guild of Berlin. Mentioned were his grandfather Friedrich Wilhelm Hoppenworth and his Onkel Wilhelm Hoppenworth, the same who read the poem above, both very highly regarded Guild masters. Wilhelm and Georg Collin will likely also have been in attendance.

Fast forward 54 years...


The times however had changed, and instead of a Kaiser and the Second German Empire (the first was the Holy Roman Empire) there was now the Third Reich, and "a new bookbinder, Adolf Hitler, who understood that the binding Germany needed to be restored after having been frivolously and maliciously torn apart... This new bookbinder made it his, and our task to restore this binding so that no power on earth will ever be able to tear it apart again..." This was written by Emil Kloth (link in German), a bookbinder, former marxist and labor organizer, who disillusioned by the collapse of the German Empire following WW I became a committed nationalist and Nazi functionary. He was also the author of Geschichte des deutschen Buchbinderverbandes published in two volumes by the Deutscher Buchbinderverband, Berlin 1910 – 1913. He is also the subject of the recently published Emil Kloth (1864 - 1943) : vom marxistischen Gewerkschaftsvorsitzenden zum bekennenden Nazi by Rüdiger Zimmermann

I have not found other politicizations of bookbinding in other countries, but with the election of the Nazis in 1933, the total political alignment (Gleichschaltung) of all trades, social organizations, ... began. This also carried over into design aesthetics for works produced by bookbinders, demonstrated by the works of Otto Dorfner, Heinrich Luers, Frieda Tiersch, Franz Weisse, among others, as well as their students. It was also clearly evident in the literature such as Der Buchbinderlehrling, the Allgemeiner Anzeiger für Buchbindereien, even the Jahrbuch der Einbandkunst. After the war, some of these continued working, and adapted to whatever political systems ruled where they lived. For Dorfner, who remained in East Germany (the DDR), this meant producing bindings extolling the virtues of that system and its leaders out of conviction, necessity, or just convenience... Both are topics for future posts.

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