Monday, June 28, 2021

Maria Lühr, Germany's First Woman Bookbinding Meister

Following up on my previous post, "Attracting Women to the Bookbinding Trade", I'm posting a translation of Maria Lühr, erste deutsche Buchbindermeisterin, posted here July 22, 2018.

In "Frauen als Buchbinder" ("Women as Bookbinders") I shared an article, well more a photo "essay" from an unknown publication with the title "Visiting the Woman Master Bookbinder" ("Beim weiblichen Buchbindermeister"). The pictures depicted a bindery in which only women were trained or hired. Shortly thereafter I found images online that looked like they came from the same photo shoot, the benches, glue pots, and decorations on the walls all looked identical. The metadata to these other images indicated that they were taken by a  Wanda von Debschitz-Kunowski for the Süddeutsche Zeitung (Munich) in the bindery of Maria Lühr in Berlin. Von Debschitz moved to Berlin from Munich in 1921.

From "Beim weiblichen Buchbindermeister"

From "Beim weiblichen Buchbindermeister"


"In der Werkstatt von Maria Lühr."
Images by Wanda von Debschitz-Kunowski for the Süddeutsche Zeitung (Munich)

Here two more from the series.

"In der Werkstatt von Maria Lühr."
Images by Wanda von Debschitz-Kunowski for the Süddeutsche Zeitung (Munich)

"In der Werkstatt von Maria Lühr."
Images by Wanda von Debschitz-Kunowski for the Süddeutsche Zeitung (Munich)

Maria Lühr (born 1874) made her way to Berlin from Holstein and started learning in the embroidery workshop of the Lette-Verein that was founded in 1866 to further the ability of women to earn an income in skilled trades. According to Franz Weiße in an article for the Allgemeiner Anzeiger für Buchbindereien (1949), she was steered towards a workshop for bookbinding that was in the process of being established. As it was not ready, she began an apprenticeship with the Court bookbinder W. Collin who strongly encouraged and supported the rights of women to apprentice and work their way through the ranks. But first, he had to overcome the opposition of his staff, ultimately petitioning the Court and Empress Friedrich, the eldest daughter of Queen Victoria and married to the 2nd German Emperor, Friedrich III. It was as a result of these efforts that women could begin serving as apprentices. From there she went to study with Cobden-Sanderson in England for a year, returning to German to spend time with Hendrik Schulze in Düsseldorf and Wilhelm Rausch in Hamburg where she also completed her apprenticeship and became a journeyman. A year later, in 1902 she completed her exams to be a Meister successfully. Normally this would have been at least three years.

Lühr described her time with Cobden-Sanderson in an article in the Buchbinderlehrling (1930), including how it came about (referrals and introductions), funded (gifts/grants), the workshop, the kinds of bindings, her first impressions, and the personalities of those also there including her fellow students that included 3-4 Americans. Her time there made a deep impression, and she later described it as the happiest time in her life. When Cobden-Sanderson visited her in 1910 in Berlin, he was pleased to see a photo of himself on her desk. The two corresponded until 1914 and the First World War.

In 1902, she became the first bookbinding instructor at the Lette-Verein, a position she held until 1913 when she established her own bindery at Kurfürstendamm (225b) in Berlin. Paul Kersten became her successor at the Lette-Verein.

The article "Buchbinderinnen" (Woman Bookbinders) in an unidentified periodical describes binding as a career for women, mentioned the Lette-Verein, and was accompanied by the image below. The woman at right could be Maria Lühr. Ernst Collin also wrote about this in his article "Die Buchbinderei als Handwerk und Frauenberuf" ("Bookbinding as a Trade and Career for Women") published in Deutsche Frauenkleidung und Frauenkultur (1923).

Maria Lühr (r)?
From "Buchbinderinnen" (Woman Bookbinders).

The article "Eine Moderne Buchbinderin" ("A Modern Bookbinder") that appeared in Die Kunstwelt: deutsche Zeitschrift für die bildende Kunst — 3.1913-1914 writes about how Lühr fits that description, also providing details about the kinds of instruction she offered in the Lette-Verein.

"Eine moderne Buchbinderin"
Die Kunstwelt: deutsche Zeitschrift für die bildende Kunst — 3.1913-1914

The article concludes by noting the "incredible development" in terms of the artistic expression that Lühr's work took between 1912 and 1914.

Lühr was also a founding member of the Jakob-Krause-Bund, participating in their 1921 exhibition, Deutsche Einbandkunst. Like many binders at the top level, she later switched over to the Meister der Einbandkunst. 

From the Jüdischenadressbuch, 1929-30 (111)
Lühr was the daughter of a Lutheran pastor.

By that time (1930), W. Collin was under the leadership of Gertrud Collin at Kurfürstenstr 99a.

From the Adressbuch for Berlin, 1930.

In 1938, she celebrated the 25 anniversary of her own bindery, and in 1953 her 50th  as master bookbinder.

In a 1949 article, Lühr told Franz Weiße that she and her workshop had largely escaped the bombs..., and that with her loyal colleague (Helene von Stolzenberg) had work, taught, and just worked. She also pointed out that in the struggle to work and find work, that women could compete with the best of the men. Von Stolzenburg became a master bookbinder thanks to Lühr's training.

The article also mentioned the deprivations and losses of the war, the death of "sisters", hunger, cold, power only in small installments, looking for  place to sleep. Works were stored elsewhere, fine bindings lost. Jobs, while coming in are doing so slowly, payment comes in even more slowly. While trying to be positive about the future, Lühr was concerned about finding a successor, but at age 75, also about being alone in life. 

In "Die Frau im Buchbinderhandwerk" (1937) Lühr described her training and experiences, the state of bookbinding in Germany, and that she tried to form a federation for and of woman bookbinding masters in 1918. However, due to the hyperinflation and a lack of members this did not succeed, and efforts were abandoned in 1923. The article also provided statistics to illustrate the state of women in the bookbinding trades. Writing about her activities at the Lette-Verein and as a master binder training apprentices she said that:

... that more or less talented apprentices came through that all passed their journeyman exams with good marks. A few even went on to become masters in their own right, others married fellow masters and worked side-by-side with them, and some got married and left the trade. When male bookbinding masters saw the success of the women and that they were serious, they lost their reticence and started taking on more woman apprentices. As a result, it became much easier for women to develop their skills as binders, much easier than when Lühr began.

The bookbinding workshop of the Lette-Verein closed in September 1937. In 1944, it became the equivalent of a non-profit organization, and in 1982 it became co-educational.

Maria Lühr died alone in 1969 at age 95.

From Franz Weiße, "Maria Lühr in Berlin 65 Jahre Meisterin,"
Allgemeiner Anzeiger für Buchbindereien, Vol 62, Nr 3, 1949.

Just as Paul Adam's Praktischen Arbeiten des Buchbinders was translated into English as Practical Bookbinding, Douglas Cockerell's Bookbinding and the Care of Books was translated into German and published by Felix Hübel in 1902 as Der Bucheinband und die Pflege des Buches. A new edition edited by Lühr came out in 1925 with an introduction by her. She wrote that in revising the first edition, she found it easy to get into Cockerell's methods as like him, she was a student of Cobden-Sanderson and could correct and expand it without deviating from the original English edition. She remarked that some techniques were a bit too cumbersome for use in German binderies, but every Meister can adjust as needed. Overall, the book describes the best traditions of craft-based bookbinding, and it is hoped that this kind of work is acknowledged.

Der Bucheinband und die Pflege des Buches.

Lühr's introduction for Der Bucheinband und die Pflege des Buches.

Lühr wrote several articles for the Buchbinderlehrling about decorated papers and papermaking.

Swatch from the article "Die Herstellung selbstgefertigter
Überzugpapiere (Buntpapiere), A. Wasser- oder Oelpapiere"

Articles about Maria Lühr and women in bookbinding

Wednesday, June 23, 2021

Ernst Collin und sein Pressbengel in the Marginalien

Eine Spurensuche zum Buchbinder, Schriftsteller, Antiquar und Bibliophilen

Überglücklich und stolz mit meinem Artikel über Ernst Collin und sein Pressbengel (und alle Collins) in den neusten Marginalien der Pirckheimer-Gesellschaft e.V. dabei zu sein. Ohne der Unterstützung der Redaktion und einem Kollegen hätte ich es nicht geschafft. Danke! 

Searching for clues to the life of this bookbinder, author, antiquarian, and bibliophile

Super happy and proud to have my article on Ernst Collin and his Pressbengel (and all Collins) included in the latest Marginalien, the journal of the Pirckheimer-Gesellschaft e.V. It never would have happened without the support of the editor and a colleague. Thank you!

The article drew on all past research related Ernst Collin and all the Collins.


Table of contents

Article title spread
Book support and snakes by BookHistoria.

The article was even on the back flap,
pulling out the role of women as binders and bibliophiles.

Saturday, June 12, 2021

Attracting Women to the Bookbinding Trade

Another recent acquisition, Die Buchbinderin, #5 in the series Die Frau im Handwerk (Women in the Trades). The pamphlet was written by Agnes Richter, herself a Buchbindermeisterin, and published with permission of the Soviet military administration in 1949. 

In short it outlines the trade and apprenticeship in the way it would have been introduced and experienced by Babette/Bärbel.

Cover showing the seals of the trades in the series.
See the last image for the other publications in the series.

The series was written for all women thinking about starting a
career in the trades, other trade Meister, the Guilds, etc.

The authors' forward

Forward: This small pamphlet is particularly written for those women and girls deciding what trade and career to choose. I want to introduce a trade to them, one that has always employed women, but is particularly encouraging them formally learn the trade.

I want to describe the bookbinding trade and all of its varied facets so that girls leaving school and women contemplating a new career are filly informed about the work, apprenticeship, the exams, and opportunities for advancement.

I would be delighted if this publication helped career guidance counselors and supports the trade unins in their work. They could bring eager and interested future binders to the trade.

To those in the trade, I ask you to share your critiques so that I can update and improve this publication.

To those that helped finding illustrations and other documentation, my heartfelt thanks.

Schönbeck/Elbe, fall, 1948.

The author

Some statistics from Die Buchbinderin.
The years 1939 and 1942 are being compared.

In 1939 there were 7697 binderies in the trade, in 1942, 5498.

The table above shows how those working in these binderies were represented by type. Left column: Bindery owners, family members as "helpers", salaried staff, journeymen, apprentices, workers, totals. Top row: ["type"], [year], male total, male %, female total, female %, trade average %.

1939 and 1942 are interesting years to compare. In 1939 the war in Europe had really started, and by the end of 1942 the outcome would become much clearer. How much of the decline in binderies and males can be attributed to being closed, bombed out, drafted for the front, ...? The increase in females partially also to replace males lost, like Rosie the Riveter. Based on the print run figures in some of my earlier copies of Der Buchbinderlehrling, a comparison between pre-1929 (let's say 1927) and some time in the early 50s would have given a better sense, but that would be after this pamphlet came out. The Buchbinderlehrling would definitely have been required reading for apprentices represented in the date range of the table.

Binding by Maria Lühr (in German with pictures), first
Buchbindermeisterin in Germany. Lühr got her start with
W. Collin in Berlin and studied with Cobden-Sanderson, among others.
She also wrote the introduction to the 2nd German edition of Cockerell's
Bookbinding and the Care of Books (1925).

Bookbinder working on a folding machine.

Apprentices making cases for books.

The Meisterin checking the work of the apprentices.

From the author's conclusion

In her conclusion, the author offers practical suggestions about the career prospects and options for a master bookbinder. Among these other paper-based trades, work in libraries and archives, in conjunction with a small paper goods store. In the case of the latter, this would ideally be with the binder's husband or someone else who could run the store so that the binder could focus on the actual binding work.

She also responds to the often asked question of why invest in the training of women through to their master's certificate if they are likely to leave the trade to get married to focus on raising a family and managing a household. In her answer she points out that the number of women who will find husbands after the lost war (remember this was written in 1949) is substantially lower, and that as a result of labor shortages women will still be needed to contribute to a family's income, even in the best of circumstances. These women will be glad that they will be able to continue in their chosen careers and not have to take in odd work-from-home piecework. Yes, a portion of these women will leave the trade, but there are also plenty of men who do the same and were thus lost to the trade. 

So, for those that stick with it and practice their trade and craft to the highest standards, there will always be opportunities.

The list of other publications in the Series.
#1 a general introduction; #2, the potter; #3, the glassblower;
#4 the spinner and weaver; # 5 the bookbinder. The list of those in preparation
is quite representative of the trades learned by men and women.

Now, in the 21st century the tables have flipped and women represent the majority of those learning and working as bookbinders (and conservators). At the same time, the numbers of binderies and available positions have contracted greatly due to any number of changes. On the positive side, the number of people practicing the books arts and number of learning opportunities has been increasing for decades. Those experiences cannot be compared to the traditional trade apprenticeships, schools, and overall situation described in Die Buchbinderin and publications like the Buchbinderlehrling and its successor Das Falzbein that ceased publication in 1960... I still need to write up a summary like I did for the Buchbinderlehrling.

Monday, June 7, 2021

Become a Bookbinder!

Video produced by the Bund Deutscher Buchbinder Innungen (Federation of German Bookbinding Guilds) to promote the trade to potential apprentices.