Die Bibel, published by F. Bruckmann A-G, Wood-Engravings by Bruno Goldschmitt (~1920)

{Ed. Note: This is an article by Books and Vines contributor Dlphcoracl.}

Readers of Books and Vines will not be strangers to a short-lived but remarkable series of books entitled ‘Meisterwerke der Weltliteratur mit Original-Graphik’ published by Dr. Julius Schroder in Munich, Germany between 1920 to 1927.  The books were wide-ranging and although published in the Weimar Republic of Germany nearly half of the books were printed in either English or French.  The books themselves were beautifully crafted – the type was a classic German Fraktur, the paper was a hand made Japanese Butten, and the printing was done on a 19th- century hand press.  The deluxe editions featured bindings by Knorr & Hirth (Munich) with vellum over boards and elaborate hand tooling, gilt decoration and top edge gilt. However, what truly distinguished the books in the ‘Meisterwerke‘ series were the original illustrations commissioned from a group of exceptional German artists. Of the books already reviewed in Books and Vines, Hamlet and Faust Erster Teil (Part One) were illustrated by Sepp Frank, while Antony and Cleopatra was illustrated by Max Ludwig.  Bruno Goldschmitt was also one of the artists that participated in this series, providing the illustrations for Faust Zweiter Teil (Part Two),  Wilhelm Tell, a Play in Five Acts by Friedrich Schiller, and Die Schriften Salomos (Solomon’s Decrees or Laws). It is Goldschmitt that illustrated the stunning edition, Die Bibel, highlighted in this article.

Bruno Goldschmitt (1881-1964) was born in Nuremberg where he received his artistic training at the School of Applied Arts.  In 1900, together with Herman Hesse, Ludwig Finckh and Roberte Weisse he founded an artistic colony at Unteren Bodensee (Lake Constance), then later moved to Munich.  Goldschmitt’s art is difficult to characterize but it is dramatic and occasionally apocalyptic, containing elements of both Symbolism and German Expressionism, with the sharp angles and linearity of the latter.  Many of his themes, however, are traditional and can be traced back to ancient German history and classical figures of European mythology.  Perhaps a sign of the times during the Weimar Republic (1919-1933), characterized by political instability and extremism and hyperinflation, Goldschmitt was a multi-faceted artist who was fluent in a variety of media – traditional oils, graphic art and illustration, tapestry design, fresco painting, lithography, and wood engraving, probably a necessity for an artist to stay gainfully employed and financially afloat during these turbulent years.  Apparently, he was most accomplished at wood-engraving and I suspect this was his preferred artistic medium.  Ironically, he is best remembered today for his fresco work.  He painted a remarkable series of Art Nouveau murals in the Laurin Bar of the Parkhotel Laurin in Bolzano, Italy, and the main police station in Munich in which he depicted six of the Seven Deadly Sins.

Unfortunately, he also employed his imagination and artistic talent to a variety of dubious political causes. In 1914, he produced a series of lithographs entitled:

Munchner Kriegsblatter                                Munich War Leaflets
Ur-Steindrucke deutscher Künstler           Original lithographs of a German Artist
Michel und Seine Nachbarn                        Michel and His Neighbors

These lithographs were part of the German propaganda effort to elicit support for Germany after its decision to enter World War I in August 1914.  The illustrations depict the state of German affairs as seen by “Michel”, a euphemism for the typical patriotic German citizen or the German “Everyman”.  The theme of each lithograph has an unchanging central theme with variations in each individual illustration: the lithograph is dominated by a large, central figure with heroic depiction (Germany). i.e., a noble warrior dressed in medieval armor holding a sword, a strong contemplative figure seated on a bench in a pastoral setting, etc., surrounded by caricatures of animals selected to represent the Allies.  Russia is represented as a bear, snarling and threatening Germany; Great Britain is represented as an aged, toothless and hairless lion, seen as weak and ineffectual; and a silly-appearing two-headed cockerel (Coq Gaulois) crows aimlessly, representing France.  Two decades later, then-Professor Bruno Goldschmitt was selected by the National Socialist central office of Gau Munich-Upper Bavaria to plan and supervise the artwork for the annual Nazi November 8-9, 1933 celebration of the march to the Feldherrnhalle on November 9, 1923, the culmination of Adolf Hitler’s infamous Beer Hall Putsch in which fourteen members of the National Socialist Party were killed in the subsequent clash with Munich police.  This event became central to Nazi propaganda, a celebration of Nazi martyrdom for the “New Germany”.  Although it would be tempting to speculate that Goldschmitt was an artist who was following the party line to survive difficult times, the importance of this event suggests otherwise.  The reenactment of the march to the Feldherrnhalle had by now assumed mythical overtones and was of central importance in Nazi propaganda.  The 1933 event was of unusual importance, the focal point of a nearly year-long celebration of the formal assumption of power by the National Socialist party earlier in the year.  More likely, Goldschmitt was selected because he was well connected with and sympathetic to the National Socialist party and its causes.

Die Bibel’ is arguably the high point of Bruno Goldschmitt’s artist achievement as a wood-engraver.  The twenty-one illustrations from the Old Testament are powerful, dramatic, and at times apocalyptic.   This aspect of Goldschmitt’s work was recognized and incorporated into an unusual and imaginative exhibit in 2013 by the Century Guild Gallery in Culver City, California entitled: “After the Apocalypse” contrasting the works of two Symbolist and Art Nouveau artists from the early twentieth century (Alphonse Mucha and Bruno Goldschmitt) with the work of a modern comic artist Richard Friend.

Die Bibel was not published as part of Dr. Julius Schroder’s “Meisterwerke der Weltliteratur” series but was printed and published by F. Bruckmann A-G (Aktiengesellschaft), also in Munich, circa 1920.  Three editions were issued:

Edition I Numbers 1-5: Printed on the handpress with hand-colored illustrations.

Edition II Numbers 1-45: Printed on the handpress on Imperial Japan paper

Edition III: Numbers 1-300: Printed letterpress on handmade Butten paper.

Pictures of the Edition

(All pictures on Books and Vines are exclusively provided, under fair use, to highlight and visualize the review/criticism of the work being reviewed. A side benefit, hopefully, is providing education on the historical and cultural benefits of having a healthy fine press industry and in educating people on the richness that this ‘old school approach’ of book publishing brings to the reading process. Books and Vines has no commercial stake or financial interest in any publisher, retailer or work reviewed on this site and receives no commercial interest or compensation for Books and Vines. Please note that works photographed are copyrighted by the publisher, author and/or illustrator as indicated in the articles. Permission to use contents from these works for anything outside of fair use purposes must come directly from the copyright owner and no permission is granted or implied to use photo’s or material found on Books and Vines for any purpose that would infringe on the rights of the copyright owner.)

Die Bibel, F. Bruckmann A-G, Cover
Die Bibel, F. Bruckmann A-G, Cover
Die Bibel, F. Bruckmann A-G, Title Page
Die Bibel, F. Bruckmann A-G, Title Page
 Table of contents - twenty-one wood engravings
Die Bibel, F. Bruckmann A-G, Table of contents – twenty-one wood engravings
Der Sundenfall - the Fall of Man (literally, the “sin case”)
Die Bibel, F. Bruckmann A-G, Der Sundenfall – the Fall of Man (literally, the “sin case”)
Die Bibel, F. Bruckmann A-G, Moses verwandelt Wasser in Blut - Moses Transforms Water into Blood
Die Bibel, F. Bruckmann A-G, Moses verwandelt Wasser in Blut – Moses Transforms Water into Blood
Die Bibel, F. Bruckmann A-G, Der blinde Tobias - The Blind Tobias
Die Bibel, F. Bruckmann A-G, Der blinde Tobias – The Blind Tobias
Die Bibel, F. Bruckmann A-G, Colophon
Die Bibel, F. Bruckmann A-G, Colophon

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