Tuesday, December 29, 2015

The Book Cover in the Weimar Republic

For Christmas, I got a remarkable new 452 page book, The Book Cover in the Weimar Republic,
by Jürgen Holstein. Published by Taschen earlier this year, it's an eye popping treat for both book lovers and those interested in 20th century German history.

The publisher description reads this way: "The years between the First and Second World Wars in Germany are famed for their cultural boom. With Berlin as its epicenter, the Weimar Republic was replete with ground-breaking literature, philosophy, and art. At the heart of this intellectual and creative hub were some of the most outstanding and forward-thinking book designs in history.

The Book Cover in the Weimar Republic assembles 1,000 of the most striking examples from this golden age of publishing activity and innovation. Based on the remarkable collection of Jürgen Holstein and his rare collectible Blickfang, it combines an unparalleled catalog of dust jackets and bindings with Holstein’s introduction to the leading figures and particular energy of the Weimar publishing age. Expert essays discuss the aesthetic and cultural context of these precious fourteen years, in which a freewheeling spirit would flourish, only to be trampled, burned, or driven out of the country with the rise of National Socialism.

From children’s books to novels in translation, bold designs for political literature to minimalist artist monographs, this is a dazzling line-up of typography, illustration, and graphic design at its most energetic and daring. Part reference compendium, part vintage visual feast for the eyes, this very particular cultural history is at once a testament to an irretrievable period of promise and a celebration of the ambition, inventiveness, and beauty of the book."

The Book Cover in the Weimar Republic is not only a visual feast for those who love books and literature, but also for those interested in early German film. Here are snapshots of some representative pages which speak for its many visual treasures. 

"Just browsing through the pages can easily transport you into a huge bookstore in early 20th Century Berlin, well-stocked with just about every genre of fiction and non-fiction you can imagine… To enjoy the pleasures and glories of the golden age of the region’s visual — and literary — arts, you can blissfully immerse yourself for hours in The Book Cover in the Weimar Republic." — PRINT Magazine

"This book is, in the parlance of my profession, total eye candy. The work is stunning, and there’s a whole lot of it: over a thousand distinct (and distinctly interesting) book covers, jackets and bindings for books in a variety of genres. It turns out that Weimar, that creative caldron of philosophy, literature, painting and music, also cooked up a renaissance in the book arts, a golden age of book cover design. Who knew? The release of a monograph such as this one is a big deal for designers like us, important not only because the work that The Book Cover in the Weimar Republic comprises is so inspiring aesthetically, but also because these designs present a new historical context for our own contemporary covers." — New York Times Book Review

For more on this stunning book, be sure and check out this heavily illustrated write-up on the Paris Review website.

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