Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Exlibris, In the Ruins of a City...

Hand-colored etching, signed in pencil E[rnst] Heig[enmoser], ca. 1945. 5.5 x 9.5cm.
Click to enlarge

I recently acquired this desolately charming bookplate for Hanns Heeren by Ernst Heig[enmoser]. The bookplate shows a group of bibliophiles looking at books amidst the ruins of a recently-ended war. The sign in the background says Ex-Libris Freunde, or Friends of Ex Libris, the book on the left Samm-lung Heeren (Collection Heeren, whose bookplate it is, and the books on the right have on them [Walter von] Zur Westen, [Friedrich] Warnecke, and [Richard] Braungart. All three published books illustrating artistic bookplates. Links with their names take one to online examples of some of these books.

Heigenmoser (1892-1963) was German painter, commercial artist, and industrial designer in Munich. Heeren (1893-1968) was a German librarian who became a military pilot serving in both World Wars, but more significantly was a composer of German "volkslieder" (folk music) extolling the virtues of heimat, wandering, the countryside... He was also apparently a collector of bookplates judging by other examples found during Google searches. Here some examples:

Karl Blossfeldt, 1920

Harry Corvers, 1955

Bruno da Osimo, 1956

Waltraud Weissenbach, n.d.

In a case of serendipity, today, two days later I received the journal below featuring an article by Ernst Collin entitled "Der schöne Bucheinband" (The Beautiful Bookbinding). As I am usually single minded I don't even know if I looked to see what other authors were mentioned and/or remembered whose bookplate I ordered. In flipping through the issue also found an article by Hanns Heeren of the bookplate above on "Künstlerische Neujahrswünsche" (Artist's New Years Greetings). Fun!

Click to enlarge

Click to enlarge

To close, the iconic image of the Holland House library, bombed
out in 1940 during the Blitz. Compare with our first image.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

The Story of Two Ernsts

Written with Ruth Wiseman

When I began translating Ernst Collin's Pressbengel (The Bone Folder) it was because I felt such an affinity for the text that wonderfully portrays the state of early 20th century binding in Germany and the tension between art, craft, and industrialization, all in the form of a charming dialog. There was actually very little information available to me about Collin, and what there was raised more questions than I could find answers for. As a result I focused on the dialog itself, a context for the work, and tried to provide some biographical information about Collin himself. Sources for this biographical information were Gustav Moessner's introduction to the 1984 illustrated reprint/new edition of the Der Pressbengel and Karl Wolfskehls Briefwechsel aus Neuseeland 1938-1948, the published correspondence of German emigre Karl Wolfskehl who corresponded with many of the creative elite who were able to flee Germany. Below the excerpt from page 1215 for Ernst Collin with a birth year matching that in Moessner's introduction (5/31/1886), as well as the direct link to two of Collin's most significant publications.

Ernst Collin came from Berlin and worked in publishing both there and in Munich
and was also active as a bookbinder and literary critic married M[argarethe] Pohl in 1924.
He was youth friend of the painter Albert Weisgerber, the first husband of M. Pohl. "Deutsche
Einbandkunst, 1918, and "Paul Kersten, the leader of German fine binding," 1925, were written by him."

The other challenging source was Kosch's Deutsches Literatur-Lexikon des 20Jh, (München: KG Saur 2003, Bd 5, p.325). This cited the Leo Baeck Institute's collection that houses the papers of Ernst Collin-Schönfeld that make no mention of any of his editorial positions or writings beyond poetry in the biography or item-level finding aid.

Kosch. Deutsches Literatur-Lexikon des 20Jh, München- KG Saur 2003, Bd 5, 325.jpg

For purposes of my introduction this was the best I could find in 2008, and while I was curious to learn more and had lingering doubts, I did not dig deeper with any urgency. It turns out that Moessner was also a bit confused on some of the other details in his introduction, that like mine focused more on what Collin's work meant for the craft of bookbinding. While the Wolfskehl Correspondence raised many questions, the linkages were there in the form of the specific titles, no Pressbengel however. Kosch did mention the Pressbengel, but also Paul Kersten and other writings.

In late February, I was contacted by a Ruth Wiseman on the East Coast who is researching her genealogy, and believed she was related to Georg Collin (Ernst's father and the Hofbuchbinder/Courtbookbinder to the German Emperor) and Ernst Collin. She found my translation online (a benefit of "open access"). This intrigued me deeply and on many levels, and we have been actively corresponding ever since, 100+ emails since 2/20 with lots of shared resources. Given some other changes in my life related to work this was a very welcome diversion. So now, listening to the music of Kurt Weill that helped define the artistic life of Berlin between the wars, we will tell the story of two Ernsts. The video in my previous post frames this era visually.

A starting point was Wolfskehl's correspondence that provided several names including his wife, Margarethe whose first husband was the painter Albert Weisgerber. Weisgerber fell in WWI (ironically serving in the same unit as a certain Corporal), and his work as a painter was later labeled degenerate. Since originally translating Collin's Pressbengel, the papers of an Ernst Collin[-Schönfeld] (According to inventory 1886?-1953, but birth year of 1882 in biographical sketch in collection and death year of 1954 on headstone) came online at the Center for Jewish History/Leo Baeck Institute in NYC showing an Ernst married to just this Margarethe Collin. According to a biography provided by Margarethe, this Ernst was born in Nordhausen; lost his father, a Fritz Schönfeld at a young age; and his mother remarried Adolf Collin, a businessman who adopted Ernst and his older brother Paul. No mention of a Georg Collin or bookbinding. There was also information on the page of a genealogist that even included a picture. Dates were wrong though, never mind the fact that none of the publications were familiar. If this was "our" Ernst, it showed him as having gotten out of Nazi Germany and having died in London.

Naively, I had never thought of Collin as Jewish, "subversive," or degenerate, but the period in Germany between "The Wars" was very turbulent with civil war, hyper-inflation, depression... Moessner in his introduction had written that Collin was missing since 1933 (when the Nazis took power)... The book, Broken Glass, Broken Lives: A Jewish Girl's Survival Story in Berlin 1933-1945 written by Rita J. Kuhn, the mother of Ruth with whom I am corresponding, (and Georg Collin’s great-niece), provided a very good picture of the situation in Berlin during that period from the perspective of a child who survived it. Highly recommended reading on many levels, it also provided some good starting points for researching further. Anything could have happened to “our” Ernst.

I had also recently read Anna Nyburg's, From Leipzig to London: The Life and Work of the Émigré Artist Hellmuth Weissenborn (New Castle, Delaware: Oak Knoll Press 2012. ISBN 9781584563143. 192 pages. $29.95), a book that was just reviewed for Bonefolder Extras. While focusing specifically on the illustrator Hellmuth Weissenborn it did a very good job describing the period leading up the takeover of the Nazis in Germany, the increasing spiral of anti-semitism, emigration, and life in the diaspora.

After finding the obituary below for Ernst Collin in the April 1954 issue of the Association of Jewish Refugees Information I wrote to Professor Nyburg in London, this émigré community is her special area of interest and research, and I asked if she had any leads I could follow. That correspondence is still ongoing, but so far no leads. Another obituary written by Julius Bab, a German dramatist and theater critic, appeared in the Aufbau. Why would there not have been any mentions in the obituary of the prolific writings on bookbinding by Collin? Concurrently, my partner in this research was reaching out via the genealogy networks to peers in the UK and elsewhere, netting the gravesite below. Despite mounting evidence to the contrary they still believe that this is "our" Ernst.

Ernst Collin's grave in London. From https://www.usintranet.org.uk/burial_system/web_images/

Muddling the situation further was the catalog of the Deutsche Nationalbibliothek that showed 2 Ernst Collins (records 46/47 and 50), the writer of so many articles and a few monographs on bookbinding (with a birth year of 1886 but no death date). and a Collin-Schönfeld (1882-1953) with few known publications (just one if Bab is correct).

Two Ernsts married to the same woman? So, who's who? What's the truth?

Our "other" Ernst studied at universities, enrolling in many classes primarily in literature, but never testing/completing these to the annoyance of his step-father who worked in banking in Berlin. He wrote poems, and was known to have affections for men and women. At age 19 he showed series of poems to the publisher now known as Axel Juncker who published a selection under the title of "Lieder eines Knaben," "Songs  by/of a Boy." Julius Bab's obituary indicated that he only published one work, most likely this one. Ernst also associated himself with the "art scene" in Berlin and Munich. To become more independent he moved to Great Britain to teach at the Berlitz School, spent some time teaching for Berlitz in Constantinople, and returned to Germany to fight in WWI. He was initially in the Bavarian cavalry, but was was then transferred to an artillery unit because he was Jewish. There he served with distinction, was awarded the Iron Crosses 2nd and 1st class, and reached the rank of Captain. It is not clear when he married Margarethe Weisgerber. Following the war he found it hard to reestablish himself, losing much of his assets during the period of hyper-inflation, but finally finding employment as an archivist among other things with the Berlin banking firm of Dreyfus & Co., working there until its "aryanization" in 1939 when he emigrated to Great Britain to work as a secretary with the Dresdner Bank. When WWII broke out he, like all "enemy"/German émigrés, lost his position, and began a gradual decline until his death. [From Ernst Collin Collection, biographical info and writings, Center for Jewish History/Leo Baeck Institute.]

This could not have been the Ernst Collin who wrote Der Pressbengel and other bookbinding related publications...

Digging through my own research library that contains among other things the complete set of the Meister der Einband Kunst's (MDE) Jahrbuch der Einbankunst, several of Collin's other writings, the 1927 Allgemeiner Anzeiger für Buchbinderein, HathiTrust, Worldcat, the Deutsche Nationalbibliothek, Google...,  I began to develop a better picture of the extent of his publishing, the date range (well into the mid-1930s refuting Moessner's 1933 date), and became friends with our inter-library loan department requesting just about everything I could not find in my own library or online.

I also wrote to the archives of the MDE in Münster, the Jewish Community of Berlin, and other bookbinders and bookbinding organizations in Germany, with but a very small number of helpful leads. In one case, the response was does it matter and why are you doing this...?

The inventory for the archives of MDE is online and showed little, with the archivist making an effort - travel there is not really an option, though at some time I may engage a proxy researcher. However, Die Heftlade No. 1, 1922 did provide an address for Ernst Collin in Berlin. This was a journal produced by Collin for the Jakob-Krause-Bund, the precursor to MDE, and published by the same Euphorion Verlag as Der Pressbengel.

An address! Wandering through the myriad of archives and other collections I discovered the address/telephone for Berlin online, searchable and browseable back to 1799. Below the entry for [Collin], Ernst from 1922 at Sachsenwaldstrasse 25 in Berlin-Steglitz, a mixed residential commercial district with little pre-war architecture left.

A match! Note also the "Schriftsteller" following Ernst. This indicated profession/trade for many, and made it easier to distinguish between entries. "Our" Ernst lived here from 1922-23 as a Schriftsteller (writer), then 1924-28 as Redakteur (editor). Below the 1928 entry. Note that there is an Ernst described as a "bank beamt." above his listing.

Directly above "Ernst Schriftstell" is an Ernst working at a bank.Our other Ernst?

Meanwhile, Ruth had contacted the Jewish cemetery in  Berlin and located the grave of Georg Collin (10/22/1851 – 12/24/1918) whom we both believe to be the father of "our" Ernst. That W.  Collin was the father of Georg is established, but there was still no direct linkage between them and Ernst. Thanks to inter-library loan, I was able to read a number of articles written by Ernst and found the missing link in the 1925 article "Die deutsche Kunstbuchbinderei der Gegenwart," published in the Gutenberg Jahrbuch. A birth certificate for Ernst would still be desirable though.

"Around the turn the turn of the century, the Berlin bindery of W. Collin (at that time on the direction
of my father Georg Collin (Deceased in 1918), one of the best bookbinders of all time)
worked with artists like Sütterlin, Eckmann, Christiansen..." [Pg. 79)

"I'd also like to refer to the Pressbengel, my book that was published by
the Euphorion Verlag, and attempts to bring together traditional craft bookbinding
with the expectations of bibliophiles. My book about Paul Kersten, a festschrift in honor of
his 60th birthday, and the first biography of a bookbinder, was recently published for the
Jakob Krause Bund, of which Kersten was honorary president,
by my Corvinus-Antiquariat, Berlin Steglitz." [Pg.81]

Whether Ernst was also trained as a bookbinder is uncertain at this time, but what is known is that he was an antiquarian bookseller and publisher, doing business as the Corvinus-Antiquariat Ernst Collin Gmbh (Inc) at Mommsenstrasse 27 in Berlin Charlottenburg, a rather nice district. The listing below is from 1925, the same year as the article above.

In 1929, Collin moved to  Cicerostrasse 61 in Berlin Wilmersdorf where he lived into 1939, first from 1929-32 as Redakteur, then again from 1933-39 as Schriftsteller. Listing below from 1929.

Directly above "Ernst Schriftstell" the other Ernst still working at a bank.

Wilmersdorf was a fashionable area, and Cicerostrasse a beautiful apartment block designed and built by the architect Erich Mendelsohn between 1927-31. Mendelsohn was on the cutting edge of architecture at the time, also designing the Einstein Tower, an observatory in Potsdam near Berlin. Ernst was doing quite well for himself. Note, however, the "demotion" from editor to write in 1933. This would have been a result of the Schriftleitergesetz of October 4, 1933 that removed non-Aryans (Jews) from editorial positions, one of the early steps to isolate and marginalize in the Nuremberg Laws. These also forbade contacts between  the groups and made it increasingly difficult for the two groups to interact on any levels and for either Ernst to work. MDE decided to disband in 1937 because according to the MDE archive site it did not want to bow to the laws, laws that would have had an impact on some members and friends of the group such as Martin Breslauer, the famous bibliophile and antiquarian.

The last listing for Ernst from 1939.

After 1939 no more addresses or listings could be found for him. The Nuremberg Laws forbade Jews to live in the same buildings as Aryans (non-Jewish Germans), those that owned property had to sell it at staggering losses, and move to mini-ghettos that could be as small as an apartment house, so-called Judenhäuser, that were often over-filled. The impact of these laws on a personal level is well described in Broken Glass, Broken Lives, and a recent article in the New York Times entitled "The Holocaust just got more shocking." Ernst would probably have been relocated to one of these...

Putting together these different pieces I took the step of going to Yad Vashem, to the Central Database of Shoah Victims' Names where I found an Ernst Collin. His name is linked to both the List of murdered Jews from Germany (known as the Memorial Book/Gedenkbuch) and List of deportations from Berlin with links to the sources of that information.  Below are the search results for Collin, Ernst. The birth date matches that provided by Moessner in his introduction, the one biographical fact he had right.

From Gedenkbuch Berlins der jüdischen Opfer des Nazionalsozialismus, Freie Universitaet Berlin,
Zentralinstitut fuer sozialwissenschaftliche Forschung, Edition Hentrich, Berlin 1995. Note that the
print version also included the street address of Cicerostr. 61 we saw in the Adressbuch above...

While there are still loose ends to wrap up, we both believe we have sorted out the Ernsts, and given both back their own identities. Questions as to Ernst's professional activities, i.e. did he apprentice as a bookbinder or as an antiquarian, did he study...? What was his family/marital status. Some details may be still be uncovered, some lost in the mists of a turbulent time.

Subsequent posts here will describe the father and grandfather of Ernst, the Court Bookbinders W. Collin and Georg Collin, followed by an expanded bibliography of Ernst's writings.

A new edition of my translation of Collin's Der Pressbengel (The Bone Folder) will also appear in time and incorporate some this new information.

Saturday, March 9, 2013

Symphony of a Great City, Berlin 1927

I am in the process of helping clarify much of the biographical information about Ernst Collin, author of Der Pressbengel (1922) that I translated as The Bone Folder several years back.

To set the stage, I am sharing this 1927 silent film that provides a wonderful picture of the vibrant Weimar era Berlin that Ernst Collin lived in. Granted, there was also the period of civil war, hyper-inflation and depression, but it was a relatively good time with incredible energy in the arts... Think also Dada, Bauhaus, the arts of the book, music... The music of Kurt Weill is a great accompanyment - it certainly was for me as I worked on the larger post to follow.

The film was directed by Walter Ruttmann, and co-written by Carl Mayer and Karl Freund. It is an example of the city symphony film genre. A musical score for an orchestra to accompany the silent film was written by Edmund Meisel. As a "city symphony" film, it portrays the life of a city, mainly through visual impressions in a semi-documentary style, without the narrative content of more mainstream films, though the sequencing of events can imply a kind of loose theme or impression of the city's daily life.

In 2007, a restored version of the film was shown with the fully reconstructed original score by Edmund Meisel. The film was restored by the Bundesarchiv-Filmarchiv in cooperation with ARTE and with funding by the ZDF. The restored version is based on cellulose nitrate copy from the archives of the former Reichsfilmarchiv which was augmented by footage acquired from the Library of Congress. (From http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Berlin:_Symphony_of_a_Metropolis)

The (greatly) revised story of Ernst Collin, both of them,will follow soon.

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Lacunose 1

First attempts at creating lacunose panels, a technique developed by English binder Paul Delrue.These may still be in progress, haven't decided yet. Been a lot of fun so far.

The panels were created on a sheet of mylar that kept everything dimensionally stable and allowed me to sand easily. To create the effect first made mostly random base and sanded until smooth from both sides, occasionally brushing on the very dilute PVA and letting it dry, occasionally laying on another thin piece of leather. Then laid-on the cut out shapes and sanded some more, mostly from behind, finishing off lightly from the front so the whole panel is smooth.

Click image to enlarge

Paul demonstrated this technique at the Guild of Book Workers Standards of Excellence Seminar in Portland, OR (2004). Download the handout for that demonstration here, or go to Paul's website for a more extensive tutorial.

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

The Bone Folder, con't (About stiffened paper bindings)

It has been some time since our Bibliophile and Bookbinder had their last conversation about bookbinding and the trade. In the spirit of Collin and his Bone Folder (Der Pressbengel) I  continue that conversation to draw in some German binding styles not included in the original text but of that time. I invite you to join the conversation in the "comments" section below, too.

From Marburg, Bildarchiv Foto Marburg

Several months later…

BOOKBINDER: Hello. What brings you back so soon? I haven’t even begun working on the books you dropped off after our last conversation about bookbinding. How is your book about our conversations coming along? Is it done yet? (chuckles)

BIBLIOPHILE: Don’t laugh. I’ve been working on it constantly and the more I do so the more questions I have. I had no idea there were so many facets to bookbinding and even art. As I was looking through some reference books at home and at the library I came across some bindings that you did not tell me about, perhaps because they are too common and beneath a binder of your reputation. Yet, as I was pondering them they struck me as perhaps the most honest in how they were made and are used.

BOOKBINDER: Really, this could be very interesting. Do you have examples with you?

BIBLIOPHILE: Not of both, but I do have an example of the smaller one in my coat pocket. It is very simple binding on a trade publication, comfortable to hold, not too delicate, unadorned, and very affordable. I have seen it used for school books, notebooks, address books and never really paid any attention to how they were made. But since our conversations I find myself critically looking at anything resembling a book. You have opened my eyes more than I could have imagined when we first met.

BOOKBINDER: Hmmm, yes that is a stiffened paper binding [Steifbroschure]. We, and by that I mean the trade, use it often for ephemeral items, or as an interim binding for something that book lovers like you might want to have bound properly. Although I am familiar with them and made one during my apprenticeship, it is not something I am interested in producing in my bindery – I usually refer them to a colleague who specialized in more modest, less expensive bindings. He also does work for some of the libraries in the area. I suppose they do have their place though.

BIBLIOPHILE: Tell me more about them so that I may understand your aversion to them. I could see them as a very useful binding for many books that may not be worthy of a fancier binding.

BOOKBINDER: Well, there are many reasons, but the main reason is that the structure is weaker and looks cheaper when compared to a “real” binding.

Often, especially for things that are to be rebound properly like a finely printed text, this minimal structure is appropriate in the short term, but what happens if it is never bound? If “holländern” [a very rudimentary form of sewing a text that originated in Holland [PDV1] is used the sewing is very weak and the only thing holding the text together is glue and a single thread. Then, we often use a very thin calico cloth that is glued directly to the spine to cover with everything else being paper. The cheapest ones may not even cover the thin boards – not a very durable combination. That may not matter, but why not bind the book properly from the beginning?

BIBLIOPHILE: As always Master you make good points, but what if I want to read the text and think about it before asking you to bind it. Wouldn’t it be better to have it protected at least that little bit?

BOOKBINDER: Perhaps… For the other types of “books” you mentioned such as school books, notebooks, address books it may well not matter much if they do not last. Still, there are simple ways we can use to make them stronger. We could, for example, sew them on tapes, and stiffen the boards with thin card. Perhaps one could even use a stronger cloth on the spine, perhaps with a nice decorated paper, or one could cover the whole book in cloth and just turn in at the fore-edges. But even then, why not bind properly?

BIBLIOPHILE: That is very interesting and gives me ideas. Still, I believe that you are right in saying that the binding is not very durable. That would also mean one shouldn’t use it for larger or heavier books. In that case I agree that one should just bind it properly to begin with. But, don’t you think that the style has its place in your selection of tools? I am trying to remember who it was, but I recently read in one of your trade publications that "'good enough’ is sometimes an appropriate, and even a noble goal, not an abomination.“ [PDV2]  I think it was in the Allgemeiner Anzeiger für Buchbindereien. Don’t you think that might be the case with these unassuming bindings?

BOOKBINDER: I suppose you might be right, but there is a reason that these stiffened paper bindings are not described very often in our bookbinding manuals. Often one does not even need to know how to bind a book in order to make one. Even a printer could make one – a trade that often does not even understand the importance of grain direction.

Here, look at the example you brought. You can see that the endpaper is nothing more than a single leaf that has been hooked around the first signature. Then the sewing is very weak, the holländern I mentioned earlier. Then, the boards are only thin pieces of card like that used for file folders, how much protection can they offer. Also, the thin cloth is adhered directly to the spine. See how the cloth on the spine is starting to fray at the spine. It is not even turned in or reinforced as in the case of a proper binding. There are not even squares to protect the textblock like we have on even the most basic paper-covered case binding. Imagine what would happen if it was covered in nothing but a thin paper…

BIBLIOPHILE: I apologize if I am causing you distress, but I am very eager to learn and understand all I can about your beautiful craft and the trade. You have work to do, and I must go. I will try to stop by again soon with that other style of binding I wanted to learn about. Until then…

Several weeks later…

BIBLIOPHILE: Hello Master! Thank you for sending your apprentice over with the first of the books you bound for me. I am completely enamored with the delicate paper case bindings you made for my collection of poems. The pastepaper harmonizes beautifully with the delicate leather trim on the spine – headcaps you called them? – and the corners. Here is my payment. Unfortunately I was on my way out when he came by and couldn’t pay then.

BOOKBINDER: I am delighted that you are pleased with the binding. It is a style I truly love for its honest simplicity, especially when well done.

I’ve been thinking more about our earlier conversation – the one about those stiffened paper bindings. I was especially struck by your comment about something “good enough” being an appropriate goal. It is a very basic binding, one that is very easy and economical to make. That doesn’t mean it can’t be well made with almost the same amount of effort. When I was making a delivery to a very good client, a professor with a large library and many students, I noticed several books on a table that were bound in that way. Of the ones I saw that even the oldest one from the 1860s, a dissertation., It wasn’t pretty, thin cloth on the spine with boards undecorated except for the front of the wrapper that had been glued on, but had held up quite well with seemingly heavy use. Then I noticed others with marbled papers and other combinations of materials. I admit with a sense of chagrin that they have grown on me as an acceptable style of binding that I could see producing in my bindery. A nice economical alternative that could appeal to many who would like something very basic yet attractive. I will need to experiment so that I can discover the many variations that are possible. It would even be useful for my apprentices to learn. They even teach it in trade school now because of that Professor Adam (1849-1931) in Düsseldorf. He has spent a great part of his life trying to change how we train apprentices, and what they learn. It might even be something I could offer my clients in a more distinctive version. I do need to be careful about my reputation, especially in this economy.

BIBLIOPHILE: I’m sorry, but I must rush out. Next time I will remember to bring that other book I wanted to ask about. It’s rather strange style of binding – one I have not encountered before.

BOOKBINDER: Until then, and hopefully I will have finished some more of your books. I thank you for this conversation and making me challenge my assumptions.

  • [PDV1] Ludwig Brade, Emil Winkler, Das illustrierte Buchbinderbuch heißt es im 23. Abschnitt über Broschüren: "Durch das Heften der Broschüren bezweckt man die inneren Lagen der Bogen beim Aufschneiden derselben fest zu halten, damit sie nicht herausfallen, deshalb wird es so einfach als möglich ausgeführt und zwar auf die Art, welche man holländern nennt. Diese Bezeichnung hat ihren Ursprung darin, daß man jene Heftart zuerst in Holland anwendete und sie später auch in andere Länder überging.
  •  [PDV2] Karen Hanmer in an email to the author about this binding style. 4/26/2012.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

A German View of English Bookbinding

From The British Bookmaker, Vol V., 1891-92.

An English, French, and German bookbinder meet in a bar... Often contentious, yet unavoidably fun at bookbinding conferences among the older generations. The youngsters just shake their heads... Here are the German's thoughts on English binding. It should be remembered that a great number of Germans emigrated to England to work as binders making this more interesting.

Click to Enlarge and Read

From this we see that the English book is remarkable for its durability, but of decorative style and taste there is a complete absence. Clumsy are the stamps and poor are the designs in a style not worthy of mention, but the national pride of the Englishman keeps him from studying the work of other nations, either to benefit by it or even to copy it, except a few old historic and well-known originals: they have a chance of being copied, but even in the styles of Roger Payne or Harley they use massive ornaments that require very cleverly putting together to make a tasteful ensemble.

All of this is debatable, so get a beer and sit back. I'd love to hear what the British of the same era think of the Germans, what the French think... Attitudes haven't changed all that much.  

When it comes to design/fine binding, my interests really begin in the 20th century with a preference for German vellum and paper case-bindings (especially with pastepapers), and anything French art-deco. In leather design/fine bindings the French aesthetic just can't be beat. Just plain elegant (with the leather too thin...) and mind blowing. The Germans with typographic designs are also hard to beat, but their structures are a bit more Teutonicly robust. For utilitarian, everyday binding the German case in cloth or paper is it.
What are your opinions of the various national traditions?