Wednesday, July 20, 2016

The Art of Style

Red Baron's battered copy
of Reiner's Stilkunst
When Red Baron left high school his Stilkunst (art of style) was somewhat limited. My German sufficient to publish scientific papers lacked fluency and elegance. Knowing this I started to work on the problem and bought the one and only expensive book - nearly 17 Deutsche Mark in 1961! - titled Deutsche Stilkunst. The author was Ludwig Reiners, a trained merchant with literary ambitions. He had died in 1957 and all what he is remembered for is his book Stilkunst.

It was a surprise when last week I came across another book called Deutsche Stilkunst written by an intellectual giant Eduard Engel. The list of Engel's publications is long. His Stilkunst, first published in 1911, saw many improved reprints until 1931 when the book already was in its 31st edition. Politically Engel was a right-winger and hailed the Machtergreifung (takeover) by the Nazis in 1933 simply forgetting that he was a Jew.

In spite of his patriotic views the Nazi government banned Engel from publication, they canceled his retirement pension, his life's work was no longer printed. Only friends supported the 82-year old Engel. He died in 1938 impoverished.

Engel's Deutsche Stilkunst republished
 in two volumes in a slipcase
In 1943 Ludwig Reiners published his Deutsche Stilkunst based on Engel's work. He copied whole paragraphs unnoticed - there was no longer any copyright on Engel's Jewish Stilkunst in the Nazi area - while the original printed in Gothic had simply been banned from libraries and became forgotten. In addition, in 1941 the F├╝hrer had ordered that for the German 3rd Empire Antiqua (Latin-script) was now mandatory and prohibited all new publications using Fraktur (Gothic letters). So it was easy for Reiners, member of the Nazi party, not only to plagiarize but to aryanize Engel's book ruthlessly including a "modern" typeface. Denazification only came in 1949 when Reiners deleted some compromising sentences and rebaptized "his" book Stilkunde leaving the deutsch out. Still, in my edition of 1961 the name Engel is not mentioned at all.

Last month Die Andere Bibliothek (The Other Library) republished Engel's original Deutsche Stilkunst in its 31st edition of 1931 printing only 4444 copies. The publisher is advertising his two volume edition as follows: May others publish the copy we prefer the original.

Immediately Red Baron was on fire and ordered the two volumes right away. When they arrived yesterday I opened them and I found out that my copies bear the number 3237; but then I became slightly disappointed: The books are printed in Antiqua and not in Fraktur.

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