Fritz Kredel: das buchkunstlerische Werk in Deutschland und Amerika

By Hansen, Thomas S | German Quarterly, April 1, 2004 | Go to article overview

Fritz Kredel: das buchkunstlerische Werk in Deutschland und Amerika


Hansen, Thomas S, German Quarterly


Salter, Ronald. Fritz Kredel: das buchkunstlerische Werk in Deutschland und Amerika. Rudolstadt: Burgart-Presse, 2003. (Bibliographischer Druck der Burgart-Presse Jens Henkel; 6). euro75.00 (Normalausg.), euro450.00 (Vorzugsausg.).

The author and publisher have produced an extraordinary volume that is as handsome to behold as it is informative to read. This illustrated monograph, which is devoted to one of the twentieth century's premier book illustrators and designers, appears in a limited edition of 550 copies (30 in a numbered edition). It is a pleasure to find a bibliophile volume that is both a feast for the eyes and a scholarly tour de force. As such, it deserves a place in general collections of German Studies, art libraries, and special collections of book arts. Salter, who knows his subject thoroughly and has produced extensive scholarship on German book design, gives a comprehensive picture of the life and achievement of Fritz Kredel (1900-1973), whose contribution to both German and American book design has at last found the book it deserves. Salter does a wonderful job of presenting an artist whose works readers of a certain generation may know either directly or subliminaHy, but that younger readers and book designers need to discover. Furthermore, librarians and collectors will find the catalogue raisonne one of the most useful features of the book.

Fritz Kredel was a major talent in one of the minor arts of the twentieth century. Although book design and illustration may lack the cultural cachet of easel painting, the book is a visual medium that reaches many more consumers. Every volume that Fritz Kredel worked on is more beautiful for his talented calligraphy, woodblocks, color illustrations, or cover designs. About half of his work was devoted to literary projects, while the other half encompasses books on cooking, geography, school texts, song books, pictorial maps, botanical specimens, and militaria. A major focus of his talent was children's literature with historical and fairy tale subjects.

Kredel served as a soldier in World War I, but with the reduction of the German army after the end of hostilities, the career path in the officer corps was closed to him. After trying various jobs, he was fortunate to be accepted to study with the pioneer typographer and designer, Rudolf Koch, in his Offenbach studio. In 1928, when George Macy visited the Offenbach workshop, Kredel received his first commission from an American publisher. The 1931 publication of Fairy Tales of the Brothers Grimm for Macy's Limited Editions Club spread Kredel's reputation in the United States. Being a gentile with a Jewish wife, Kredel was not spared a Berufsverbot in 1936, which precipitated his emigration to Vienna in 1937, and thence to New York in 1938. …

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