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book (design) story #9

b. traven:
die troza

büchergilde gutenberg, zürich / prag, 1936
printer: volksdruckerei basel
size: 24 x 17 cm
designer: emil zbinden

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in b. traven's "caoba" series, "der marsch" (see last week's story) was followed three years later by "die troza". although the design of the cover and inner pages is identical to "der marsch", this edition was not printed in austria but in switzerland. actually, the title page only mentions zurich and prague, so it looks like this book was not available for the vienna büchergilde members.

while the covers of the "caoba" series were standardized, their dust jacket design wasn't. the designer of the "troza" jacket is credited in the impressum: swiss graphic artist emil zbinden (1908-1991). zbinden grew up in bern, switzerland, trained as a typesetter, and later studied art in berlin and leipzig. he was a graphic designer and worked for the büchergilde berlin. in 1933 he returned to switzerland where he soon started working on book designs for the exiled büchergilde in zurich.

emil zbinden is best known for his fine woodcut prints. the büchergilde commissioned many hundreds of these for their jeremias gotthelf editions. but zbinden's design skills weren't limited to woodcuts, as this photographic dust jacket with a touching portrait of a mexican boy shows. the title's letters look as if they were cut from pieces of the clay wall in the background – floating on a blank area where the clay has "crumbled" away.

there is another photo, right after the title page, showing a mahogany camp in the jungle with logs – the word "troza" means mahogany log. both photographs were probably taken by b. traven himself. in 1928, the büchergilde had published traven's book "land des frühlings" (land of springtime) showing many of his photos, and a different edition of this book was printed by the zürich büchergilde in 1936. this edition is advertised on the back of the "troza" dust jacket. by the way, this is another one of these traven fetish objects that dealers in the states like to ask muchos dollares for.

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