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[Part of the series on German Design]

Form my experience in looking at hundreds of thousands of images over the decades that I have semi-operated an antique image store, I can say that–like cartoon characters–the main character of an image seldom looks directly and full-faced into the eyes of the viewer. It is very uncommon. That is why this ad for Mercedes motorcar found in the pages of the Illustrirte Zeitung (Leipzig) for 1923.

Car crazy detail2
This is a detail from the 5×3" original:

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Its a good piece of design.

JF Ptak Science Books Quick Post [Part of a series on German Design]

German tech art715

Two odd pieces of German technical literature stared up at me from the bottom of a box of such things, both of which contained excellent examples of advertising technical art in addition to their technical content. But it just so happens that in this case the artwork that helped pay for the publication of the previously interesting and important technical and scientific information is of more interest now than the information wrapped around the ads. The sources of these images include the Festschrift zum Hundertjahringen Bestechen der Zeitschrift of the Dinglers polytechnisches Journal (1920), and Wirtschafliche Technik…Organ des Bundes Detscher Civil-Ingenieurre (1920). Somehow the ads retain a certian light touch in the midst of their occasionally massive heaviness. Or perhaps it is just robustness, solidity? If nothing else there are an artistic anti-approach to what was going on in the world of art, the opposite of the disappearance of concrete or natural forms and replacing them with ideas and colors.

German tech art702Again, these are just two slim issues of rather obscure journals. I'll add to this collection in the German Design section as they come up.

German tech art706

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JF Ptak Science Books Post 1857

The following ads appear in just three weekly issues of the LIFE-magazine-like Illustrirte Zeitung (Leipzig). Generally the ads are crowded onto the 15-inch-tall pages–sometimes as many as 15 to a page. Their design is remarkable, and artful, and effective. Plus, they're chock-a-block full of smaller design elements. For example, this one is one of my favorites for this period:

German B+W679

I actually used it for the "Open" sign for my store back in Georgetown so many years ago oh my brothers. That was before I discovered that it has a major problematic problem–it was designed by one of the greatest German designers of the time, Ludwig Hollwein, who also happened to be "a" (and then "the") principle designer for propaganda/posters for the National Socialists, and that from the early period (1933) right on through the end of the war.

There was more to worry about than simply selling Germany's oldest champagne, but of course many were immune to worry. When this ad ran for Kessler champagne, hyperinflation had struck very deeply into thew Weimar Republic, with the U.S. dollar trading at 1:27,000 Marks. Even in January 1919 inflation wasn't bad, with the dollar at 1:9 Marks (up from 1:5 in January 1918), but the simple tale of a long story is that the Weimar Republic kept printing money, and things got completely out of control, with the dollar trading in December of 1923 at 1:1.2 trillion Marks, which was a fertile seeding bed for National Socialism.

German B+W663

This one is actually quite large, about a half-page, trying to sell the idea of the Reichenberger Zeitung to both the privileged and the working classes (the newspaper, which began in 1860, would not survive the Nazis, going belly-up in 1935):

German B+W662

Well, I don't mean for this post to be very writer-y; I just wanted to post some of the images from these issues. There's really a lot to choose from, but these twenty or so will have to do for now:

This one is about an inch tall in the magazine:

German B+W676

Another tiny ad, this for a mechanical calculator:

German B+W682

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JF Ptak Science Books Quick Post

This beautifully illustrated 1907 German book1 seems to me to be a sales catalog for a company selling flat-masks, or templates, through which desirable and somewhat complicated (or at last complex) painting may be produced. A customer could leaf through this book of 60 designs which are arranged according to room type, and perhaps, if the fancy struck, could purchase the sheets and instructions necessary for the job to be done. For example, plate #44 (Reggie Jackson's number in the great summer of 1977), the "Pause mit Hilfsschablone" (its identifier in the "Preisliste" and offered at 10 Marks) is meant to decorate a wall for a stairway.


The great bulk of the designs are those for ceilings, and ceiling corners, as well as for wall designs and the small bits that run slightly above the floor and the wall (I'm sorry, but I don't know the technical term for this).

In any event it is a very surprising work to find–for me, at least–to see someone selling the possibilities of such advanced design motifs in a simple, order-it-from-our-catalog format. [The catalog is available for purchase from the blog bookstore, here.]

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JF Ptak Science Books Post 1561

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There have been some fits and starts in dedicating an effort to posting some examples of German book illustration from the period between-the-wars. There have been just a few thus far on this blog, though my intention is to place a hundred of the interesting bits in the collection here–most of these are pamphlets, and the vast majority do not make an appearance in the WorldCat database, which means that they are not catalogued/located in any library collection anywhere in the world. Of course some folks say that pamphlets are a somewhat different category from books, and so don't get catalogued as frequently, and therefore may actually exist in some number in these libraries–but if the library doesn't know whether they have a particular title or not basically means that the book or pamphlet just isn't there. In the majority of circumstances, "we don't know if we have it" = "its not here", which pretty much means that for official purposes, the thing doesn't exist.

And so to today's installment: Das Gesicht der Hungersanierung, Agitationsmaterial No.2, which seems to me to be a statistical handbook for a member of Germany's Communist Party (KPD, the Kommunist Partei Deutschland), a very short primer on the status of the general working-poor laborer, inflation and unemployment –and how whoever published this pamphlet could help its redaer.

German design619

The pamphlet does have a distinctive Communist Party taste to it, and certainly the title of one of the full-page illustrations seems to identify itself as such: "So Kampft die Rote EInheitsfront!". Given the leaning of the rhetoric, and the assault on the controllers of industry, and its dislike for Fascists, it leads me to believe that this is KPD (though I hasten to add that I am hardly any sort of expert on Germany politics of the early 1930's).

There is some fair amount of the content of this pamphlet that appears on the facade of the KPD headquarters, painted right on the bricks of the Berlin building, as it stood in 1932. THe party would have a very short life after that–Hitler and the Nazis would arrest the leaders of the party right there in that building in January, 1933, once Hitler had consolidated his power. On gaining the Chancellorship, Hitler took care to eliminate the KPD as much

File:Bundesarchiv B 145 Bild-P046279, Berlin, Liebknecht-Haus am B├╝lowplatz.jpg

as possible, imprisoning thousands of Party members in concentration camps as early as that same year, 1933.

The Communist Party did after all control some amount of the Parliament, finishing so (see tables below) in the 1932 elections; but the big loser of course was Hindenburg, and the rest of the world.

This short, oversized pamphlet was no doubt constructed hurredly, emphasizing the control of the owners of the means of production over the worker, displayed on the cover by the giant "boss" with one hand around the worker's neck and the other in his pocket, bolstered on the interior few pages with statistics. But there was little, really, to say about the Nazis themselves, which makes me think that this was printed before that final vote in July.

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JF Ptak Science Books Quick Post

(I should point out an earlier post on this blog on radium suppositories and toothpaste, here.)


These images come from one page of advertisements for issue 3991 of the Illustrirte Zeitung (Leipzig), for 1920. The page itself is about 15×10 inches, and is covered with a dozen or so ads, most of them pretty small. There’s a lot of design going on in those small places, and a lot of it seems pretty “heavy” to me–that in spite of their size, they have a certain weight to them. Perhaps its the big thick lines, or the very free use of deep black, or the obese typeface. I’m not sure. But I like them.

The ad above is for the mystery product “Radium Cakes” that seems to be a quack something-or-other produced by Radium-Cakes-Werke of Berlin, and was recommended for hte sick and convalescent, and highly approved by doctors, pharmacists and chemists. I don’t have any idea if there was radium being ingested or not–and this 22 years after Mme. Curie discovered it. The colors seem right, though…

Ich bin Rafiert!


An interesting and tiny (less than one inch tall in the original) illustration for an electrical vacuum “Waku”, sold from Chenmitz.



JF Ptak Science Books Quick Post

As it turns out there is a low-level significant assembly of published German art and book covers here in the Rancho Deluxe–its not a collection because that would imply too much order; it is barely an assembly. There's just a lot of it here, segregated, because I liked whatever it was/is.

These are some examples of a life-underground, or underground actions, that appeared in the pages of the great illustrated newspaper, the Illustrirte Zeitung.

German between th ewaqrs526
The first is by Willi Munch(-khe), a Jugendstil artist (1885-1961), a very expressive, and dark, interpretation of what should be done with German politicians in the ripe days following the end of WWI. This image, published aorund 1922/23, shows a decorated and fancy spats-wearing politician being booted into the hole of hell. The book he is carrying ( Geheme Kabinet-Politik Aller Landes/Secret Political Rules of Our Country or thereabouts), seems to be broken, its pages spilling out to feed the fires of the nasty inferno, lighting and heating the way for the failing pol as the devils and monsters await his arrival, much to the controlled agreement of the monster-y spectators in the hell galleries.

German between th ewaqrs527

We can guess why the man/symbol is being sent to the ring of fire–the tattered, worn, hobnailed boot with the old patched pants above, the myriad of tombstones, the water-filled bomb craters,m the completely shattered trees, the bombed out cities, and of course the witches and death riding a speckled fire-breathing horse in a dark sky, pretty much round out the picture of "why". Several years after the end of the war and into a problematic realm of the democratic Weimar Republic, and just freshly into the hyperinflation that wiped out whatever the middle class had managed to save (banknote denominations climbing to literally astronomical levels, reaching 1×1014), there was a lot to complain about.

JF Ptka Science Books Post 1168

[One of a long series of posts on propaganda --enter this term in the search box at left to see the listing.]

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Germany 1928 tanks525
In my "reading" of the Illustrirte Zeitung (Leipzig) I found this full-page illustrative representation of data (11 April 1929), one of the earliest propoagandist pieces (to my mind) in that magazine, showing the state–and great height–of militaristic weakeness in Germany, one of the lowest points that it reached in the breathing space between the two wars. It was really a picture of nothingness, a mention of the lost possibilities, and also what needed to be done–it was an early call to attention, to arms, to the reconsider of the Paris agreement, of doing "something". Four years later the rearming business would be kicking into action, six years and five months later, the Second World War would start in earnest.

Germany 1928 airforce523
"Abruestung? Aufruestung!" is the name of the article-ette (roughly shouting Disarmament? ARMAMENT!, or Disarm? ARM!), basically stating that enough was enough, and that now was the time to start the process of having a military again.

Every Germany (basically) would've known these facts, but seeing the representations of their zero-strength force of planes and tanks would've been an enormous blow. And it was intended to be so.

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JF Ptak Science Books LLC Post 1006 April 16 mini german 15

April 16 mini german9 det The Illustriete Zeitung, published in Leipzig beginning in 1855, was a popular, middle-road/middle-class Life-like
magazine. I have a long run of this big, well-written,
sumptuously-illustrated journal, beginning about 1870 and extending
though the end of the war in 1945, and at this point I've looked through just about every issue. It is fascinating on many levels,
and has proved to be a valuable source of historical minutiae as well
as an excellent resource for images and graphical displays of
quantitative data. One aspect that I've never looked at very
closely though are the advertisements–actually, the miniature
advertisements. There are thousands of them sprinkled throughout the magazine, the thyme on the rice, the za'tar on the bagel.

April 16 mini german7 good det Here are three decent examples showing the complexity and superior design of these little bits: the top-right image is only an inch square, and was published in 1924; the slim image just above is only an inch tall, while the example below-right is smaller yet, about a third (!) of an inch 'round.

I've decided to begin to reproduce some of them here, mainly because
so many of them are gorgeous design elements, many of which just don't
exist past the pages of this journal.

April 16 box One thing that I've done with them is to construct "Onkel Karl's Berlin Glass Diary", a series of microscope slides with these small images as specimens illustrating the imaginary diary of Karl Muefler as he strolls the streets of Berlin in 1925 looking for "missing paper". The original images are all very small, generally smaller than an American penny, and can be fantastic: sometimes there are thirty of them clustered on one of the Illustriete Zeitung's back advertising pages.

I'll return to this category from time to time and add more images, hopefully compiling several hundred or so examples.

April 16 mini german

Image is 1.5 inches tall and printed in 1930.

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Image is 2 inches square, printed 1938.

April 16 mini german 14

Image is 2 inches square and printed in 1938.

April 16 mini german 12

(This image is less than half-an-inch tall, printed 1919)

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This image measures about 1/3 inch, printed 1925.

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Image meaures about 1.5 inches tall, printed 1919.

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(This measures about 1/3 inch, printed 1882.)

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