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book (design) story #32

armin t. wegner:
jagd durch das tausendjährige land

büchergilde gutenberg, berlin, 1932
printer: buchdruckwerkstätte gmbh, berlin
size: 24 x 17 cm
designer: herbert bayer

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in the weimar republic, both the büchergilde gutenberg and the bauhaus contributed to the "new typography" movement in germany. but as far as i know, there wasn't any direct collabaration between the two organisations. only after he had left the bauhaus, one of its meisters designed a book for the büchergilde: herbert bayer (1900-1985).

at that time bayer worked for the graphic design studio dorland in berlin (mentioned in the impressum). the page layout is quite distinctive: book title, impressum and page numbers are arranged along a vertically centered horizontal line – maybe inspired by the flat horizon of the desert? the bright yellow cloth cover and "hot" red endpapers suggest desert temperatures, too. the bold antiqua type, with its constructed shapes and strong contrasts, was a favourite among "new typographers".

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armin t(heophil) wegner (1886-1976) is a german writer who seems to be almost forgotten today. his biography is quite dramatic: in ww1 wegner was in turkey with the german army; there he witnessed the tragedy of the armenian population (turkish politicians today deny that a genocide occured) – wegner even managed to smuggle out some shocking photographs to proof the horrible facts. he became a pacifist and fighter for tolerance towards religious/ethnic minorities.

in the late 1920s wegner travelled through the middle east on a motorbike, and this book is about this journey. in this poetic report we hear much about the jewish settlers, but also about arab people who feel uneasy about the immigrants. that was 75 years ago...

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there are many photos showing wegner with his german-built 1000 ccm "ardie" sidecar motorbike "weisser fuchs" (white fox). most impressive is the pictorial montage on the dustjacket: the caption on the back panel says that we see wegner racing though a sandstorm near the dead sea. amorphous yellow shapes – clouds of dust? or kandinsky-inspired art? – are printed across the photo, while name and title form a dynamic diagonal.

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in april 1933, not long after the publication of this book, armin t. wegner wrote a courageous – or naïve? – letter to adolf hitler, demanding him to stop his antisemitic politics. the führer answered in his way: wegner was arrested and jailed in the concentration camps of oranienburg, börgermoor and lichterburg. in 1934 he managed to escape to england. wegner never returned to germany. he lived so secluded that he even was declared dead in 1947... he died in rome in 1978.

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