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Karte des Bücherlandes

  • Author: WOELFLE, Alphons
  • Publisher: Heimeran, Munich
  • Date: c1938
  • Dimensions: Map: 24. 7 x 35.2 cms / Sheet: 29 x 39.9 cms.


Alphons Woelfle’s wonderfully designed imaginary Map of “Bücherland” – The Land of Books – first published in Munich in 1938.

About this piece:

Karte des Bücherlandes [A Map of the Land of Books]

Imprints [L l]: Bei Heimeran in München; [L r]: A. Woelfle fec. Woodblock printed map with printed wash & outline colours. Very slightest of foxing to paper at lower left in blank margin. Overall a fine clean example.

On the roots and origins of this wonderful map of the Land of Books, an article in the Swiss work Librarium, Journal der Zeitschrift der Schweizerischen Bibliophilen-Gesellschaft, Jg. 1 (1958), Nr 2, provides some fascinating clues and pointers.

The article relates how in 1938 the popular German illustrator and graphic artist, Alphons Woelfle [1884-1951] arrived at the Schwabing Villa and Offices of the Munich printer and publisher, Dr Ernst Heimeran [1902-1955], with an idea for a modern updated version of an 18th Century Baroque-style map, in the manner of Breitkopf or Von Reilly, on the theme of the Land of Love.

Freising-born Alphons Woelfle was already and established artist and illustrator, working for such magazines as Simplicissimus and Jugend.

Woelfle had previously worked with Heimeran, who took a great deal of pleasure in this kind of work, but, after some deliberation, proved unable to make up his mind over which original map design to try and replicate for the proposed new map of the Kingdom of Love. After further discussions with Woelfle, Heimeran came up with an idea for an alternative imaginary map, this on a theme that had never previously been examined or considered: The Land of Books. So began a creative design process for the map in which innumerable members of the Heimeran family & publishing business played their part, each contributing rival & contrasting elements and features of the map design and layout, so that by the time the final design went to press, it had become a collectively-designed Heimeran artwork, produced by one of the most open-minded, fun-loving and peculiar of pre-war German publishing houses, a work for which Woelfle nonetheless appears to have been happy to claim credit as author.

One possible connection regarding the creative origins of this map and its title which has not been noted previously lies in the fact that Heimeran’s publishing partner, Ernst Penzoldt [1892-1955], had, in 1925 presented a small hand-illustrated children’s book entitled Die Reise ins Bücherland as a Christmas present for his three year old son. It was not however until 1942 that the book came into print, as Die Reise ins Bücherland. Ein Büchermärchen, published by Heimeran in Munich and with Penzoldt’s original hand coloured illustrations now transformed in twelve finely coloured woodblock prints by Albert Fallscheer depicting the wondrous adventures of a young child transported to the imaginary world of books.

The map itself takes the form of several different Provinces, set along a coastal seaboard, dotted with harbours, bays, cliffs, promontories and headlands and an array of offshore islands, through which sails the famous Narrenschiff (Ship of Fools), the famous satirical work of Sebastian Brant [1494]. In the upper right of the map, an inset town plan of the Capital City of Officiana (literally “Printing Workshop”). In the lower right the allegorical figure of Literature surveys the region from her shaded seat as the Sun rises over the horizon. The decorative rococo-style baroque title cartouche upper left is surmounted by the figure of a Owl, Athena’s helper, the traditional symbolic embodiment of Wisdom and Learning.

So it is that Bücherland is divided into several distinct regions and provinces, some six of which are named explicitly: Leser Republik (The Republic of Readers); Vereinigte Buchhandels Staaten (United States of Booksellers); Recensentia (A Realm of Book Reviewers); Makulataria (Waste Paper Land)  and Poesia (The Land of Poetry). Two other regions, in the lower left and upper right of the map, remain unnamed.

Each region is full of humorous quips and phrases which relate specifically to the region in which they are found. So for example in the Leser Republik we have Unexplored Markets (Unerforschtes Absatzgebiet); Book Readers’ Community Camping Ground (Zelte der Buchergemeinde); Caves of the Bookworms (Höhlen der Bücherwürmer); Botan Liebesgarten (Botanical Pleasure Gardens);  Tower of Winged Prose (Tor der geflügelten Worte); Pond of Popular Editions (Volksausgabenteich); Settlement of cheap editions and remainders (Siedlung von Schleuderer und Ramscher);  Bestsellery Plantations (Bestsellerei Plantagen); The Erotic Swamp (Erotische Sümpfe); and The Mines of Asphalt Literature (Asphaltliteratur Bergwerke). So-called “Asphalt literature” was blacklisted by the Nazis in the early 1930’s, one propagandist Wolfgang Hermann describing it in 1933 as being “predominantly written for the urban resident, in order to confirm and strengthen his detachment from his environment – from his Volk, from any community, and which up-roots him completely. This is the literature of intellectual Nihilism.” In the unnamed region immediately to the north of the Readers’ Republic, at its most northerly boundaries can be seen Mountains, from where originates the stream called the Source of Knowledge (Urquell des Wissens). Close by is the hermitage of Philosophy (Philosoph. Einsiedelei). The Source of Knowledge continues its course through the Cellulose Woods (Zelluose Wälder), past the Gorge of the misprint devil (Schlucht der Druckfehlerteufel), past Paper Mills (Papiermühlen), feeding the Ink Lake (Tinten See), past the Zweibelfishereien (literally “Onion fisheries”). A zweibelfisch is a colloquial German typographer’s term for a printing error where one letter in a word or sentence is mistakenly printed in a different font size to the rest). The stream continues through the Blätterwald (Wood of Paper sheets) to finally reach the Capital City of Officiana, now transformed into the Paper River (Papier Fluss) with its estuary emptying into the Harbour of Exports (Ausfuhr-Hafen).

Within the “United States of Booksellers”, we find the Detective (Novel) Cellars (Detektiv Kellereien); the Fort of the Censor (Zensur Fort); the Construction site of Piracy/Plagiarism (Raub-Bauplätze); and the Novel Racecourse (Roman Rennbahn). In the Neighbouring Province of Recensentia (Realm of Reviewers) we have the Critic Forests (Kritische Wälder) and the Old Parade ground (Alter Exerzierplatz). In adjacent Makulataria (Land of Waste Paper) we discover Shelved Projects (Versandete Unternehmungen) and the Pyramids of Forgotten Books (Pyramiden von vergess. Bücher). Nearby the pinnacle of the extinct volcano of drama (Erlosch. dramat. Vulcan).

In the Realm of Poetry we have the Philological Leasehold (Philol. Pachtland), the Pinnacle of Fame (Gipfel des Ruhmes) and The Laurel grove (Lorbeerhain), whilst along its southern shoreline can be found the Foothills of the Classics (Vorgebirge der Klassiker).

In the adjacent unnamed territory, contrast is drawn between the land of blossoming fantasy (Blühende Phantasiegefilde) and the Hungertuschwebereien (literally “the looms of hunger sheets”), the idiomatic “am Hungertuch nagen” meaning literally to nibble on the Hunger sheet, i.e to be very poor. So also common grounds (Gemeinplatz) and Heavily grazed (desert) lands (Abgegraste Gebiete). Nearby is the Castle of Platitudes (Schloss Platitud).  The coastline offers equally negative features with the Meerbusen von Enttauschungen (Bay of Disappointments) and the Track of the Rainbringing winds (Regenwind Trift). Offshore we have Rara Island, Curiosa Island with its spinning mills (Spinnereien), Unique Island (Unica Ins) with its principal harbour, the Bay of one-hit wonders (Bucht von Eintagsfliegen); Smuggler’s Island on the Gold Coast, and Treasure Island of Adventure stories (Schatzinsel der Abenteuerroman). Other coastal features include the Cape of shattered hopes (Kap der geschieterten Hoffnung), where a shipwrecked vessel can be seen sinking beneath the waves. The cape lies just to the south of the Tropic of Literature (Literatur Wendkreis). The sea itself is named the Sea of New Editions (Meer der Neu Erscheinungen)

The inset town plan of Officiana offers a key to the buildings and locations of importance :

No 1. The Book Market (Büchermarkt)

No 2. Boulevard of Mass Circulation (Boulevard der Massenauflagen)

No 3. The New Book District (Neues Bücherviertel)

No 4. Residential district of the Publishers (Villenviertel der Verleger)

No 5.  Publishing house with maze and fountain of advances (Vertragshaus mit Irrgarten u.Vorschussquelle)

No 6. Library (Bibliothek)

No 7. Readers’ Ramparts (Wall der Lektoren)

No. 8. Bridge of Good Relations (Brücke der guten Berziehungen)

No 9. Boom fountain (Konjunktturbrunnen)

No 10. Authors’ track (Autorensteig)

No 11. Remainder stores (Restposten)

No.12 Poet’s House (Haus des Dichters)

Until 1933, Dr Ernst Heimeran had for some time been a specialist niche publisher in Munich, supplementing his income from publishing by working as a features writer & columnist for one of the large Munich daily newspapers, a job that had initially arisen from a legal case in which he had been prosecuted following publication of a satirical edition of a newspaper entitled Die Kuhhaut (the Cowhide), a single spoof edition of which had been printed as a parody of the Münchner Neuesten Nachrichten newspaper. In 1933 the influence of the Nazis led to a complete ban on his journalistic work, and he fell back on mainstream publishing, taking care to avoid publications that might attract the further wrath or the negative attentions of the Nazi regime. As well as classic works in translation, Heimeran’s wide range of publications included popular art & music books, books on historical and cultural curiosities and cook books. A tireless and earnest publisher, Heimeran fell into publishing not as a business but almost as a sideline to his interest in art and journalism. He sought to maintain the cultural values in which he believed against the oppressive political influence of the state and also to preserve his business and book stock throughout the destruction of the ensuing War. As a family-based specialist publisher in “small form”, it is perhaps fitting that it was indeed Heimeran who produced this map, a map for book lovers like himself. As he noted in his own memoir,   Büchermachen, Geschichte eines Verlages, von ihm selbst erzählt“ (1947/1959), one of his principal aims in publishing had always been to try and put out into the world books that he would like to own himself.

Examples of Woelfle’s original 1938 edition of the map of Book Land are rarely seen offered on the market, as it is a map that has been much reproduced and copied, especially since the early 1960’s when a further slightly reduced-size version of the map also appears to have been printed.

More recently, a very similar satirical map, Karte des Steuerlandes [Land of Taxes]. Eine farbige Phantasiekarte designed by Hans-Martin Schmidt and Wolfgang Raquet, and self-evidently modelled of the Woelfle-Heimeran Bücherland map, was published by Verlag Dr.Otto Schmidt in Cologne in 1983.

Refs: Georg Zimmermann: Karte des Bücherlandes – von Urquell des Wissens in das Meer der Neuersheinungen: in : BIS – Das Magazin der Bibliotheken in Sachsen – Jg. 2. 2009, H. 3, pp.184-185; Lotte Roth: Alphons Woelfle, 1884-1951 : Illustrator und Buchkünstler: Leben und Werk [Munich, 1998]