The Book About Awayness


Artist's Book: away

Artist’s book: away

The process of relocating my studio is not over yet, but we are getting there. This relocating business has been ongoing since early 2012. There was no denying: my situation was either being away from my work or being away from my husband.

Artist's Book at Hamburg Book Fair 2016

Artist’s book at Hamburg Book Fair 2016



It goes without saying that over those past years this has got me thinking a lot about what away means. I took to dictionaries. There was a wealth of meanings and sayings. I remembered an old lady who used to live in my mother’s neighbourhood. She had a lovely little pet companion, a dachshund by the name of Wastel. And one day he was no more. She never said he had died, she’d always say he had gone away. Awayness comes in various kinds. Some awayness we choose, others we are forced into. Some awayness is temporary, others will be permanent. Some awayness feels like alleviation, others hurt. Some awayness we hardly notice, others will be life changing.


Add to this, there was a constant flood of news about refugees. Migrants and refugees are facing awayness as fiercly as hardly any other group of people. Their homes might be bombed and non-existing in a matter of moments. Their loved ones might be killed. Their perspectives of getting an education or earning a living might vanish with the political regime changing. They might be left with just what they can carry or not more than the clothes they wear – everything else they used to live with is gone away in a moment of shelling.



And there are people who see their homes flooded – this need not be the monsoon, it can be torrential rain in the Lake District. Or shaken to rubble by earthquakes, be it in Japan or Italy. Or burnt to embers by wild fires, be it in Australia or Spain. Or blown to pieces by tornados in the US. Or washed to the sea as in Norfolk. Cattle are taken away by drought in Africa. These are but some of the many shapes and diguises in which we might encounter awayness.


The news tell us of the catastrophy, or the war, the bombing or the accident. The news do not tell that people lost all their family photos, their favorite soft toy, the violin their granddad used to play. It might be small things, but nevertheless they cannot be replaced or rebuilt. Once they are lost they are away for ever and a life is changed.


When I had the idea to turn all this into an artist’s book, I knew this book would be different compared to all books I had made so far. I had to plan this book far away from my studio. I’d then pack my suitcase and travel to my studio for a working visit limited in time. Once there, I’d print all sheets and cut to size all material needed. I’d fold and press the cover sheets. There would be no board shear, no block cutter, and only the smallest of my bookbinding presses available to me after I had left heading home again. All machinery would be some 500 kilometres away. I packed a box with the hand tools I’d need: awl and needles, thread and bonefolder.

Cover: Metal Type

Cover: metal type to go in the press

Makeshift Workplace away from Studio

Makeshift workplace away from the studio

Thus this book is special in more than one aspect. It is the last artist’s book I printed in the old place. But it is not made entirely there. I took the printed and folded sheets to finish them off away from the studio. I worked on a makeshift workplace in the tiny flat we were living in at the time. This book is not just about the meaning of the term away. It is made in different stages of being away, part of the book’s substance is awayness. It is built upon, has taken shape within awayness. It breathes awayness.



The book itself is an edition of twelve one-offs. Each of the books comes with a unique compilation of twelve photographs depicting a scene of awayness. The text passages are taken from various dictionaries. All books are hand sewn as coptic bindings. The cover is printed on grey Gmund Bee paper. The pages are fitted with glassine sheets to protect the photographs. The book was presented to the public at the Fine Press Book Fair in Oxford in autumn 2015.

2015 Fine Press Book Fair at Brookes University

2015 Fine Press Book Fair at Brookes University

As I write this the sun is shining from a spotles sky. We had one more rather frosty night and everything out there is covered in white frost. The world looks a beautiful and quiet place. Normally around noon the rooks will come in numbers and search our meadow for lunch. I doubt they will do so today – with night temperatures as low as minus 7C the sandy soil gets rocksolid. The cranes have gone away on their annual migration. And we may expect those fascinating birds back some time in spring.

Migrating Cranes

Migrating Cranes

My Books and Prints with English Roots


In London in the 70s

In London in the 70s

The first time I visited Britain was in 1977. I kept coming back. I remember I had to fill in these forms that were being handed out on the ferry. The note read: „Notice of leave to enter the United Kingdom for Nationals of EEC countries“. In 1984/85 I went there as a one year overseas student, staying at Keele University in Staffordshire. During the Easter vacations I was hiking from Cornwall through Cumbria and Yorkshire and visited Hull and Kings Lynn and some more places – covering the long distances by train. I’ve seen Goathland Station years before anybody knew about Hogwarts. I was staying in Youth Hostels that were old castles with thick walls and, boy, some of the nights were cold. They’d hire out hot water bottles for the nights in one place. I remember getting soaked while walking the perimeter of Beverley. I still keep coming back. I reckon it is not only to do with Walker’s crisps ‚Salt ’n Vinegar‘.

Keele Hall, Staffordshire

Keele Hall, Staffordshire


The Fox - broadside

The Fox – broadside

My first work with English roots is a broadside about a little black fox. I heard the story sung to me in the students‘ union at Keele University. The folkband „Falstaff“ was playing there one night. Their song „The Fox“ mesmerised me.

„And there a-sprang like lightning / a fox from out of his hole / his fur as black as the starless night / his eyes were like burning coal.“


In 2001 I figured out a German translation trying to keep both rhythm and rhyme (and still making my metal type work out on it). I handset the text from a fount called „Wallau“ and made a woodcut of a black fox with bright red eyes. People kept asking for a separate edition of the fox on a sheet smaller in size, „You don’t happen to have a print of the fox on its own, do you?“. Well, this fox quickly became kind of everybody’s darling. In the folksong the fox is the devil himself. Of course he is astute, but in a very charming way. So, in the end I printed a limited edition of the fox on its own, on strong deckled edge paper.





Did You Like the Battle, Sir? - broadside

Did You Like the Battle, Sir? – broadside

Two years later, in 2003, I started working on a second song of the tape I had bought back at that Falstaff gig.  I felt it was the perfect song to choose as 2003 was when the war in Iraq begun.  The song is called „The Battle“.

„Did you like the battle, Sir, / tell me of its use. / How many did you kill, Sir, and / how many did you loose.“

Originally this song is written by J. Richards and D. Pegg, says the leaflet that goes with the cassette tape.

„Take a sip of this glass of wine / take a morsel of this food of mine / lay your body on this bed so fine / before you die.“

This text is handset from Bodoni. Prior to printing the words I had painted some of the sheets with dye specially made from soil pigments in the colours of earth and blood;  as these would be the colours of a battle. The sheets that went with no paint in 2003 I painted over in 2008.



Where the Red Poppies Dance

Where the Red Poppies Dance

When living in England as a one year overseas student in 1984/85 I had met with the tradition of Remembrance Day for the very first time. I was touched by the way how the consequences of war were dealt with and also by the scale of it. It left me impressed and thoughtful. Years later I came across the folksong „No Man’s Land“ by Eric Bogle. It is about the countless teenage soldiers lost during WorldWar1. I felt the lyrics expressed some very deep truth. As a young man my father had been a soldier in WW2. He was severly wounded, and even though he survived the experiences left him scarred in many ways. I felt I wanted to turn Eric’s lyrics into an artist’s book. I got in touch with Eric in Australia and thanksfully he agreed that I translate his lyrics into German and make a book from it.


Where The Red Poppies Dance

Where The Red Poppies Dance


The text is set from a very old and severly worn fount of Trajanus. I deliberately chose this fount because the characters had been kind of wounded during the decades during which they had been used for printing. I felt this connected with what the lyrics were about. I made five woodcuts of poppies dancing in the wind. The blocks are oak wood. They were torn and slighlty faulted so I had to print them by hand instead of in the press. I made the book a concertina folding. I wanted it to display the whole text when folded out completely. It is a strong deckled edge paper and I used a special paper in poppy red to connect the sheets.

The book itself is housed in a portfolio with a latch made of box wood and a satin ribbon in poppy red. I chose box wood for its widespread use as a border around graves and for its symbolic character, beeing connected with eternal life. The work is an edition of 11, relating to the end of WW1 on November 11th, and was published in 2006.



Where My Books Go - William Butler Yeats

Where My Books Go – William Butler Yeats

My first artwork in English is the broadside I contributed to the broadside project of „al-Mutanabbi Street Starts Here!“ in 2009. The call for artists asked for a response to the bombing of al-Mutanabbi Street in Baghdad in 2007. In the course of this attack 130 people were wounded, some of them died. The aim of the project was to have 130 different broadsides in the end, one for each wounded or dead person. The text I choose was a poem by William Butler Yeats „Where My Books Go“. It is accompanied by a black woodcut portrait of a lady looking straight ahead. Prior to printing I painted all sheets with my own dye, prepared, again, from soil pigments. I wanted the sheet to look as if it had been torn from the rubble after the attack. Every sheet is unique in its colouring, its brushstroke, in its shades and surface structure – as unique and individual as the people affected in the attack. The project was a success: 130 artists contributed their personal broadsides. One complete set went to the Iraq National Library, many were sold as fundraisers for Doctors Without Borders. And there were more projects to follow.


Manarah: issues 1,2, 3

Manarah: issues 1,2, 3


Manarah: issue 1

Manarah: issue 1

In 2011 the al-Mutanabbi Street coalition sent out another call for artists to contribute. They were to make an „Inventory of al-Mutanabbi Street“. The bomb attack not only took lives it also destroyed books and book stores and cultural heritage. The second project was an attempt to in a sense make up for the loss by creating new artists‘ books of all sorts. Be they dairies or magazine-like structures or large books, notebooks, tiny books – whatever you could think of might have been lost in the attack on a street full of bookshops and coffee houses. I contributetd three issues of the magazine-like work „Manarah“. Like with a magazin each issue deals with another theme. I choose „War“, „Time“ and „Love“ for the reason that it needs love and takes time to overcome war. Each issue is a collection of poetry. All together the poetry covers a period of four centuries of human thought and writing. The poems show what mankind has been suffering from and, also, what people have been wishing for, for a long, long time. „Manarah“ is an old Arabic word and means lighthouse, or more general a place shedding light. In the course of time it was to develop into what we now know as „minaret“.

Lyricards: Dunbar

Lyricards: Dunbar

A choice of the poems from the three issues of „Manarah“ is part of the series of cards called „Lyricards“. And a strictly limited special edition of cards was printed as a fund raiser for the project. In 2013 there was a large exhibition of „An Inventory of al-Mutanabbi Street“ at the stunning John Rylands Library in Manchester (UK). The show is touring worldwide.

Lyricards special edition

Lyricards special edition


An Inventory of al-Mutanabbi Street - John Rylands Library, Manchester (UK)

An Inventory of al-Mutanabbi Street – John Rylands Library, Manchester (UK)


Artist's book "Cumbria"

Artist’s book „Cumbria“

Artist's book "Cumbria"

Artist’s book „Cumbria“

During my travelling in spring 1985 I visited Cumbria. I was staying in Keswick Youth Hostle which is right on the banks of river Greta in the town centre. And of course I’d read „The Guide to the Lakes“ by William Wordsworth. „Cumbria“ is a small book published in 2013. It comes with 5 woodcuts and text passages from Wordsworth’s lovely 19th century writings. All sheets are painted prior to printing back and front. The text is handset from Trajanus. It is a small edition of only ten numbered and signed copies. The cover is made from mat with a cutout window. This book is completely in English.

Artist's book "Cumbria"

Artist’s book „Cumbria“


Greno printing office in Noerdlingen

Greno printing office in Noerdlingen


Just a two hours‘ drive to the east from where we used to live and only a few miles into Bavaria there is a small town called Noerdlingen. Until a couple of years ago you could find Greno printing office there. The building used to be a stable not far from the town centre. After being refurbished it became a stronghold of letterpress. Mr Buser, who was running the office, also kept a number of Monotype machines. When we went there to visit him he offered us the opportunity to cast our own type. Without hesitation we went for it. Well, to be honest: my husband was as passionate as he was excited about the Monotype casting process, which I was too, but still I opted for sorting the type into the cases, letting my husband have the joy (and excitement) of casting. Trying to print English text using German founts is tricky. Why? Because there are so many ‚y‘ in the English language. German hardly uses any. By casting our own type we could adjust the frequencies of characters to our own needs. It goes without saying: that was exactly what we did. Between 2000 and 2003 we went there again and again to complete our stock of Baskerville.

52 Weeks

52 Weeks

In spring 2011 Marianne Midelburg, living in Australia’s state of Victoria, and I decided to make a book together. We agreed to each take one photo per week for the period of one whole year. Also, we wrote a short comment to accompany each photo. This was the idea for the book that would be published in 2014 by the title „52 Weeks“. The book itself comes in four volumes, each volume covering 13 weeks. All comments in this book are handset from Baskerville, the very metal type we had cast ourselves some ten years ago. Marianne’s comments are in English, mine are in German, but there is an English translation enclosed in a bag in volume 4. The book is being described in two earlier posts on this blog. If you just give the Photobook category a klick or the Artist’s Book category, that’s where you find more on this piece of art work.

52 Weeks

52 Weeks


Woods in Winter

Woods in Winter

„Woods in Winter“, published in 2014, is one more book completely in English. It is a pamphlet stitch book with two linocuts and a poem by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow printed on deckled edge papers. As the poem focuses on winter, the book is kept mainly in cold colours like whites and blues. The endpaper is a sheet of white glassine paper with a pattern of ice crystals. The thread used for the pamphlet stitch is blue. The cover is printed from an old wooden board. This book, too, is a very small edition of ten numbered and signed copies.

Woods in Winter




As I write this the Fine Press Book Fair in Oxford is only days ahead. My new book will be out there, hot off the press – so to speak. This book, as well, is completely in English. Its title is „away“. Away-ness has become a very present if not dominant feature in my life over the past couple of years. Right now my presses and metal type are some 500 kilometres away from where I currently live. Away-ness can be a temporary phenomenon or lasting for ever. The book is all about the various aspects of away-ness. I did all the composing and printing work during a working visit at my studio in early October. Each book comes with an individual choice of 12 photographs, making the work an edition of 12 numbered and signed one-offs. The first copies will be on my table at the Fine Press Book Fair at Brookes University in Gipsy Lane, Oxford on 31 October and 1 November 2015.



My Books 2000-2015 – Part 2: Typographic Books


Fernöstliches Schmausbuch

Fernöstliches Schmausbuch


I consider myself lucky in that I have a huge stock of metal type to work with. I started off with two cases of metal type way back in 1998. One was Victor Hammer’s Uncial, the other was a well filled case of 10 pt Optima. Over the past years the stock grew to around 100 founts. It really is a treat to have so much choice. However, when it comes to relocating this will make up for a heavy load.


The first typographic book I made was a cookbook. As you can imagine, it was unusual in many ways. I love cooking, I enjoy philosophy and I am fascinated by founts. This easily sums up to a cookbook with philosophical texts, designed using a variety of different founts.


All recipes in the book are of Asian style in that exotic spices like ginger, cinnamon or curry are used. And all recipes are accompanied by an aphorism or a philosophical tale taken from Asian wisdom, like the thoughts and writings of Confucius and many others (with one ancient Roman thinker having wormed himself in). All the philosophical texts are in some way or other to do with eating and drinking or with what people relish. The book comes with some 20 recipes, printed with some 30 different founts. I printed the book in 2002 and I used most of the metal and wood type I had on stock back then.

deckled edge paper in the colours of cinnamon and ginger

deckled edge paper in the colours of cinnamon and ginger

The recipes, of course, are those we used ourselves. It is quick as well as sumptuous meals, vegetarian dishes as well as some with fish or meat, and there is one dessert right at the end of the book. I used Zerkall deckled edge paper for the book in the colours of cinnamon and ginger refering to the ingredients used in the recipes.

Peacock cover

Peacock cover

There were three different covers, made from specially chosen fabric related to the recipes‘ ingredients. One cover fabric was striped in the colours of exotic spices, one was a brown-beige fabric with a pattern resembling the ornaments on blankets used on elephants, and one was a chocolate brown fabric with a very sophisticated design of peacocks, whose home is in Asia and India. The book sold out a couple of years ago.



My second typographical book is a response to the beginning of the war in Iraq in 2003. I came across a speech of Honoré Gabriel Riquetti, comte de Mirabeau. He delivered this speech on August 22nd in 1789. It is on religious tolerance. Of course, back in those times, it would all be about the hostilities between Roman Catholics and Lutheran Protestants. But it can be read in a far wider sense. Basically, what Mirabeau says here holds true for all sorts of religious thoughts and the strains between them. The quintessence is that we all can co-exist. We can be braod-minded towards other peoples‘ religion and still sleep peacefully. There is no need for killing each other for religious reasons.


Taking into account that Mirabeau was an 18th century person I chose Baskerville for the text, as it is an 18th century design. I used paste paper as endpapers. The pattern is an 18th century style made by Susanne Krause in Hamburg, who specialised in making paste paper for restauration purposes. The cover is made from an African batik fabric. The design has been printed by hand on a delicate damasc fabric. The book comes in an edition of 16 copies, one of which is still for sale.


Mirabeau had been involved in the process of discussing and designing the Declaration of Human Rights. That was the particular context in which he delivered his speech on religious tolerance.


In 2005 I chose a number of articles from that declaration and made an exclusively typographic book. There was only one fount I could think of using for this book: Futura, as austere as beautiful. I wanted this book to be special in a number of aspects. I wanted its character to mirror the long-term validity of the articles in the declaration. I wanted the book to have something sovereign to it; it was to express duration and hope. First of all I chose a strong paper of green colour, since green is the shade of hope. I printed on it the grain of an old weathered wooden board, rubbing it off by hand. In this grain every single year the tree has been living has materialised, thus it is like time becoming observable. I printed the text from Futura to stand strong for itself. I gave the book a cover from kingly red silk, expressing its sovereignity. And I made the book a concertina folding whose pages can be turned and turned endlessly. While turning the pages the book will be set in motion like if it had a life in itself. Additionally, the book can be stood on a plinth. The book’s title is „Menschen Würde Rechte“ (Men Dignity Rights), it is an edition of five. The work was accepted at the new Bibliotheca Alexandrina in Egypt for their second Biennial of the Artist’s Book in 2006. One copy is part of their collection.


In 2009 I became aware of the activities of the al-Mutanabbi Street coalition when I met Sarah Bodman at the book fair in Hamburg. Almost instantly I joined in with their broadside project. In 2011 there was a call for artists to join the „An Inventory Of Al-Mutanabbi Street“ project. I developed the idea of the magazine-like works by the title „Manarah“. I had been doing research around this theme for some time, following the Swiss voting against minarets being built within their country. Manarah is an old Arabic term describing a place that sheds light, literally and in a wider sense. In ancient times this would have been something like a signpost or a lighthouse or whatever device to guide people on their journeys. However, over the centuries this term would develop into what we now know as minaret, the typical tower of a mosque.

Manarah - Issues 1 to 3

Manarah – Issues 1 to 3

My work „Manarah“ resembles a magazine. I decided to have three issues. Each issue is a collection of poetry on a special theme: war, time and love. Alltogether they span a period of some 400 years of human thinking about these themes. As this work is partly in German and partly in English it will be described in the upcoming post dealing with all my works related in whatever way to the English language. There is a special blogpost in the category „Artist’s Books“ dating from December 2012 describing „Manarah“.


Poetical Rose Book

Poetical Rose Book

My Poetical Rose Books are utterly different in almost every respect, and they were deliberately designed to be that way. The most normal about them probably is their binding. Depending on their size they come with either seven or nine poems. All poems are dealing with roses in one way or another. And all poems are written by well known German poets like Heine, Hoelderlin, Theodor Storm and colleagues. The total number of pages in each book varies according to size and making between around 90 and 152. Understandably these books come with a good number of blank pages each.

Poetical Rose Book

Poetical Rose Book

Poetical Rose Book

Poetical Rose Book

Each book is meant to be completed by its owner. There are many ways this can be done. Gardeners fond of roses could use the book as their garden diary. It could be used as guestbook on a special occasion like a wedding anniversary. People writing poetry themselves could fill the pages between the printed poems with their own poetry. These books are a series of 20 one-offs. Every book’s cover is made from a special fabric with a design related to roses. Every book is unique.



My artist’s book about Kurt Tucholsky is a very special work without doubt. It is purely typographic apart from there having been used some old clishees. There is a special blogpost dating back to July 2014 when there was an article on the book in Matrix 32, plus another one dating back to December 2012 in the category „Artist’s Books“ describing the work.

Mir fehlt ein Wort (I lack the word)

Mir fehlt ein Wort (I lack the word)

I fell for Tucholsky’s writings way back in the 1980s when still a student. He was a writer and essayist in Weimar Republic. His mastering the German language is outstanding. He saw a second World War coming. He opposed Hitler’s party as much he could. His writings are as relevant and disturbing today as they were back in the 1920s and 1930s. He pointed out that socialists and communists faced much more severe sentencing at court than conservatives and fascists. He described how economic networks, particularly concerning the fire arms industry, had their own notion about wars paying off for them. He pointed out that as these industries made their profit by selling weapons, they quite naturally had a dislike for peace. He got stripped off his citizenship by the Nazis in 1933 and took his own live two years later in his Swedish exile.


The very special feature of the book is that it is entirely made of spoiled sheets. The idea being that a young printer had collected those spoils from the waste bin at his Berlin printing office and taken them home to make a good read. He’d collected the texts he liked most in three portfolios. After him fleeing Germany for America in 1933 these portfolios end up on the desks of the Nazi party and thus were turned into files used for prosecuting and expatriating Kurt Tucholsky.


Meine Worte fallen wie Steine (My Words Fall Like Stones)

Meine Worte fallen wie Steine (My Words Fall Like Stones)

My so far newest book is entirely typographic. Also, it is of a very experimental sort of typography. Contrary to that typography originally is supposed to aid and support reading and understanding the text, here typography impedes reading, it disrupts and interferes with understanding.


This specific typography wants to make aware of our preoccupations. It wants to make us learn that we so often do not read what is written or printed but instead what meets our expectations. We are unaware of us being convinced we know the text without reading it. We reckon we can guess, and we rely on our guess being correct. The book comprises of 14 postcard-like prints. Each of them comes with one sentence. Next to the sentence a name and a year are given. All sentences have been spoken to me in real at one point in my life, in some sort of context. The context, of course, is not revealed. Readers are free to make up their own ideas of what sort of context this might have been or could be. The books are sewn in a modified way of Japanese binding. The cards are printed on a rather aged quality of brown cardboard. Covers are made from strong cardboard material in different colours. The book’s title is „Meine Worte fallen wie Steine“ (My words fall like stones). It is a series of 12 one-offs. These books are not numbered nor are they signed.




There is a blogpost dating from December 2012 by the title „My Type“ which in a way is about my stock of metal type.

My Books 2000-2015 – Part 1: Books with Pictures


Since I have started making books, I have made small books and large ones, illustrated books and typographic ones. There has been the classic handsewn hardcover as well as experimental bindings and concertinas. It is a total of 18 books I published between 2001 and 2015. Generally, all my books are limited editions, copies are signed and numbered and usally blind embossed. The choice to make this book rather than another for me is a very personal one. Basically, I choose subjects for two main reasons: because they appeal to me as such and for the wider context in which they stand.

There will be three posts about the books I have made so far. This first part will be about my books coming with illustrations. In a later post I shall describe the typographic books, and in a separate post the books that have a relation to Britain and the English language.


Little Niak - special edition

Little Niak – special edition

My very first book tells the the story of „Little Niak“. The book itself was published in 2001. However, the story is much older. I wrote it way back in 1986, when my goddaughter still was a little girl. The story was written to be read to her at bedtime.

Little Niak - title page

Little Niak – title page

I had just got back from a trip to Sweden in summer 1986. We had been hiking in pretty remote places in Lapland. It was all far off any beaten tracks. In fact, it was far off any sort of track. We had been staying kind of in the middle of nowhere for some weeks. The scenery was stunning, to say the least. There was no kind of shelter apart from the tents we were carrying. It was a very special experience. When I got back there was this story in my head about a chap hiking in remote Lapland, exploring a cave while taking shelter from severe weather. In there he meets Niak and learns that this wee little guy is in charge of our weather. In fact, little Niak is the chef cooking our weather in his very special weather kitchen. So, after having delivered a heavy hail storm to the outside, the two guys sit by the fire, have a cup of tea and chat along about the recipes for snow and hail and the process of preparing the different sorts of weather for the different corners of this earth.

Little Niak - endpapers made from individually made decorated paper

Little Niak – endpapers made from individually made decorated paper

The book is a small size landscape format. I made 4 woodcuts showing the landscape of Swedish Lapland. The woodcuts run all along the bottom edge of all pages in the book and they run straight through the fold. The text is hand set from a fount of Baskerville we had cast ourselves on the Monotype machines at a colleague’s. It was an edition of ten copies and has sold out a couple of years ago. The covers of the special edition have been made from African hand batik fabric.


Der Frosch und seine Frau

Der Frosch un syne Fru

I have a pretty large number of books with fairy tales on my shelves. Many come from my aunt’s, who had been collecting books with fairy tales from all over the world almost all her life and left the books to me. I myself have grown up with the classics not only by the brothers Grimm but also by Anderson, Bechstein, Perrault and others. Then somebody suggested I might make a book about frogs. Instantly I had the idea of re-writing one of the Grimms‘ tales. One of their very classics is the tale of the fisherman and his wife. She is described as a voracious character, never satisfied. The book that grew from this idea is „The Frog and His Spouse“. It tells the story of an old frog who goes looking for a wife one last time and gets it all wrong. Being old and short sighted he chooses a warty toad who turns out to be insatiable.
The book is a small portrait format from outside, but landscape format inside and comes with two woodcuts. One is inside the book the other one is the cover itself, with the woodcut being printed on a bright green cover cloth. The text is hand set from Akzidenz Grotesk, Memphis is used for the headlines. I chose a paper with a nice decent waterline structure, somewhat resembling the small ripples on the surface of a lake touched by the wind. The book is an edition of 16 and was published in 2003. It is one of the last two books I made in the old place at Ebersbach, where I had started as a book artist originally. I moved out there only a few months after the book was finished.


Das Nusszweiglein

Das Nusszweiglein

Das Nusszweiglein - endpaper and folded sheets

Das Nusszweiglein – endpaper and folded sheets

Ludwig Bechstein was a 19th century writer and librarian born in Weimar. He is known for collecting fairy tales and legends, his own writings are virtually forgotten. Like the brothers Grimm’s books his works have become classical compilations of long told tales and are part of many family libraries. In 2007 I decided to turn one of Bechstein’s tales into an artist’s book. I chose „Das Nusszweiglein“ (The Little Twig from the Nut Tree). The tale tells of a bargain, a curse and a transformation, and it is about confidence and trustfulness – and love.

Walnut leaves embedded in silk paper

Walnut leaves embedded in silk paper

The book is printed on a green-grey deckled edge paper with wavey waterlines. I made five illustrations. They are lino etchings. One of them is a portrait of Ludwig Bechstein going with his biography. Each book comes with two walnut leaves embedded in silk paper. All text is hand set from a variety of metal type all of the same size of 20 pt. All founts are named in the back in the order of their appearance in the book. Founts used change from page to page. The standard edition is bound in a fabric with bear motif, in the special edition an African batik fabric was used for the cover. All books come in a wooden box. The book is an edition of 12, commemorating the 12 years our wonderful dog had been staying with us. She had passed away in 2006 aged almost 14.



Die Schöne Lau - 16 unique blue covers

Die Schöne Lau – 16 unique blue covers

In 2009 my studio was 10 years old. The jubilee book was to be a special version of a very old tale. The story itself is very well known in Swabia, the region my studio was located.  It is part of a book written by Eduard Moerike, a 19th century poet and clergyman. The tale of „Beautiful Lau“ is about a water nymph being expelled by her husband for only having still born children. She has to overcome a curse by laughing five times, one time she is not allowed to become aware of it. A vital part in the tale plays a small piece of lead coming from a wizard and being full of witchcraft. There is a tongue twister about it that makes beautiful Lau laugh. The Swabian term for it is „Kloetzle Blei“ (little nugget of lead), which basically is the name I gave my studio. As for my studio it refers to the metal type I use for printing, each character being a little nugget of lead, that can work wonders when used in the right way.

Die Schöne Lau - poster broadside

Die Schöne Lau – poster broadside

I transformed the tale of beautiful Lau into a broadside ballad. The book itself is a concertina folding. The tale adds up to a total of 19 stanzas. It is written to be sung with a very well known tune of an old ballad. During the jubilee event a ballad monger came with her hurdy gurdy and we performed the song in the classic way with me standing on a bench and pointing out with a stick the scenes on the poster broadside that is part of the work. The broadside is a linocut coloured by hand with water colours. The text in the book is printed on strong blue paper and the concertina is made in a way that it kind of pours out of the cover like a well flowing over. The book is an edition of 16.  All books have covers made from blue fabric, but every cover is unique. The special edition comes with a portfolio containing the poster broadside, a bamboo pointing stick, the poster announcing the jubilee plus one nugget of metal type with the number of the copy tied to the portfolio.  It is up to the owner to find out about the magic powers it might carry.

Die Schöne Lau - portfolio (part of the special edition)

Die Schöne Lau – portfolio (part of the special edition)


There was a scandal in 2009. It might not have grown into a scandal had it not happend during the silly season. Somebody had bought a pack of rocket and while unpacking it he had found some herb of the wrong sort. He could have chosen to just sort it out and throw it away.  But he did not so. He sent it to a laboratory and it was identified as being a poisonous plant, and that was, where the scandal took of.  It resulted in a number of very specialised gardeners‘ businesses almost going broke as people virtually stopped buying rocket.  The herb found has an appaling taste. Normally you would just not eat it.



The book inspired by this incident was „Rocket – who has found this?“ and it was published in 2010. It describes 21 plants in text and images that could be mistaken for rocket – well, more or less. The illustrations are linocuts showing the outlines of the leaves. On the bottom of the page describing the respective plants there is a scale showing whether the plant can be eaten or is considered poisenous. There is a sachet pasted to the inside back cover containing dried rocket leaves. The book is sewn through the back with black thread.

Rucola - title page

Rucola – title page

The book is all about taking responsibility for oneself, for ones own health and life and for the risks one decides to take. It comes with a quote of Immanuel Kant’s quintessential proposition based on the old Latin advice „sapere aude!“. There is a standard edition of 15 copies (Arabic numbers), and a special edition of ten copies (Roman numbers), the latter coming with a poster with all 21 linocuts.  Being a trained botanist I thoroughly enjoyed making this book. It is dedicated to our late friend and talented Blues musician Harald Goldhahn who died far too young just before Christmas in 2009, the very time when this book was in the making.




So far I have made two more illustrated books. One is „Cumbria“ (Image on top of this post) and the other one „Woods in Winter“ (image below). Both books are completely in English and will be part of an extra blogpost covering those of my works that have a British background. So stay tuned, there is more to come.


52 Weeks – A Photobook


52 Weeks. The edition.

52 Weeks. The edition.

Title Pair Volume 2

Title Pair Volume 2

52 Weeks“ is my first photobook so far. In a previous post I have outlined how I came to be making this book in the first place. The post came with both a portrait of my fellow artist Marianne Midelburg (who of the top of her head said „Yes!“ when I asked whether she would like the idea of making this books together) and me. The post went online in April 2014, days before I presented the book at Turn The Page artist’s fair in Norwich.

Week 5

Week 5

Week 8

Week 8

Now, this current post will go in more detail as for the photographs in the book and some further aspects of interpretation. For all of you who have not yet read the previous post, these are the basics: two artists, one from Australia and one from Germany, each took one photo per week for one whole year. This resulted in 52 pairs of photos. Also, each photo comes with a short commentary written by the respective artist. Thus the book presents 52 pairs of moments from the every day life of two artists. All photos have been taken in the vicinity of the places where we two artists live.

Week 10

Week 10

Week 13

Week 13

The artist’s book „52 Weeks“ is about those little every day life things and moments in our surroundings we tend to drop out taking notice of after some time. At some point we just take them for granted, or simply walk past. „52 Weeks“ is a book that asks for our mindfulness, it asks for what makes things familiar and what makes them alien to us. It asks for what makes us feel at home, quite literally but also in a broader sense, and what makes us feel a stranger.

Week 17

Week 17

Also, this book is about what we treasure. It is about a very special tree growing in some field. It is about that one particular bench on this one particular path through the bush and this one quiet spot in a wood we go to again and again because it makes us feel at home in some sense. It is about this very special scene in autumn when the fog is still asleep in the valleys and the hilltops stick out, underneath a spotless blue sky with a blazing morning sun; a moment that is just awesome. It is about that small creek bubbling with water after it had run dry for years. And it is about the white frost in the coat of grazing sheep and goats on an icy early winter morning. This book is about those places and moments in our vicinity we treasure, whether or not we are aware of doing so.

Week 19

Week 19

Week 21

Week 21

In one sense „52 Weeks“ wants to make us become aware of how different and, at the same time, how alike our own life might be compared to somebody else’s life. And it is not necessarily the milage that makes the difference. Our next door neighbour might live a life totally different to us while the every day life of somebody thousands of miles away might have much in common with our own. The book wants to make us reconsider our preconceptions.

Week 23

Week 23

Basically, most of my art work is to do with humaneness. As for that „52 Weeks“ does not make an exception. Our attitude towards the situation of others and towards our own situation might change dramatically once we try to put ourselves in the other person’s place. This is the moment when enmity, preconceptions, discrimination and humiliation all of a sudden lose their basis. They just fall to pieces as we realise, we all are human beings after all. We all prefer not to be offended, but approached with kindness and respect, whether counting as local or foreign. We all wish for a safe and peaceful life. And for all and each of us there are those small things and those precious moments in our surroundings we treasure and that make us feel at home. And we all do not want to take the blame for other people’s crimes, just because we happen to have the same skin colour, religion or nationality as the criminals.

Week 25

Week 25

These might well become aspects in the case that you will not be staying in that particular place where you’ve been born to live there until the day of your death. There are countless reasons why you might leave or be forced to leave the place that was home to you. It need not be war or terrorism or starvation. But it can well be. You might not move far or the trek might take you around half of this planet. In either case you might find yourself being called a stranger, being alienated, refused access to a community. This might or might no be for the colour of your skin, your religion, your language or even accent, the clothing you wear. All this can be the wake up call for preconceptions, humiliation, bullying.
This wants to be read as a plea for a policy of open arms&minds rather than one of closed borders – in heads as well as in nations.

Week 27

Week 27

Week 30

Week 30

What makes us feel at home is tightly connected with what feels strange to us. Both are just two sides of one coin. One makes us feel safe and comfortable, the other scares us. Fear towards what we feel is foreign is the least appropriate coach imaginable in a society wishing for peace. Fear tends to generate hatred. And acts of hatred tend to produce new acts of hatred. We need a world of understanding and respect, if we want to drain hatred from its powers and create a world of peace. I strongly believe that there is no overcoming war and terrorism by shooting back. And I am convinced that peace and freedom cannot be gained by air strikes or snipers or assassins. It is a sad coincidence that I write these words just days after the shootings in Paris.

Week 37

Week 37

It is our mindfulness that can make us stand strong against all hatred.

It all starts on our very doorstep.

Week 43

Week 43

There are many more offers and options to be found in this book. Go and find yours.

My books do not want to restrict your thinking, my books want to enhance it.

Use your thinking, that’s what you’ve been given it for.

Week 45

Week 45

Week 47

Week 47

Technical notice: In this post not the original image files have been used. All photos included here are shots taken from the books itself. This was done to keep the book feeling alive, even though it meant that the photographs themselves lose some of their brilliance-which they have, I can assure you.

The artist’s book „52 Weeks“ has been published in a limited edition of 6 numbered copies, each signed by both artists. Each book consists of 4 volumes. The book is a collaborative work of art by Australian artist Marianne Midelburg and German artist Annette C. Disslin. Copy No 1 is the special edition and comes with two extra photographs, one by either artist, that can be framed.

Week 49

Week 49

Find the former post on „52“ Weeks“ here on this blog in the category „Artist’s Books“ or in the Archiv of April 2014

Find more information on my work and studio on my website.


52 Weeks – 52 Pairs of Moments


Moments. Our life is full of them. Infact, you could come to think of our lives being made up of innumerable moments, some of them might be related to each other, others which seem to come and go without any apparent connection. It is as if they can only be perceived by being flashed by a strong light source; to then turn invisible as soon as the light dies away. Centuries ago philosophers wondered whether things only existed as long as they were looked at; ceasing to exist as soon as no-one observed them.


We feel that our lives are moving in a line, be it straight ahead or zigzag. Our physical senses constantly perceive sensory input in the form of images, sounds and smells; we are permanently feeling the effects of cold or heat, wind or rain, the texture of our clothing on our skin. This gives us a glimpse of continuity. But our awareness is not static; it also constantly changes.  It falters from time to time and from circumstances to circumstance.  Our memory can be very selective picking out this and missing out on something else. It is as if we are never told the whole story.  Always there remain interstices, little gaps which we may never fill; and so we may never discover what really happened when we were not looking.


This line of thinking has always fascinated me when I travel by train, especially train travel at night.  I sit in a comfortable carriage, looking out into the dark while the train races past villages and through open landscape, past roads and over bridges. There are houses scattered out there, some windows dark, some brightly lit, an ambulance might rushing somebody to the hospital the blue flashing lights cutting through the darkness.  Momentary glimpses of people having dinner or an argument, somebody proposing to a beloved, their neighbours brushing their teeth. None of these people are aware of the others around them. So many lives with interstices, these little gaps are being lived out at the same time, almost in a parallel manner.  However, many of these lives progress presumably unnoticed by most of the others. Not being looked at and thus – in the sense of those old-time philosophers –  seemingly non-existing.

„52 Weeks“ is a photographic project about moments, a book about these gaps, about the many things that often go unnoticed. The original concept idea is as follwos: Two people agree to both take one photo per week over the period of a whole year and write short commentary to accompany each of the images. One of the two artists, Marianne Midelburg, lives in Bendigo, a former gold rush city in Central Victoria, Australia. The other contributor is me and I live in a rural strip of southwest Germany not far from Stuttgart and the Swabian Mountains.

Marianne Midelburg putting up her 2007 exhibition in Germany

Of course „52 Weeks“ is also a book about two artists: about Marianne Midelburg and me, about where we live, about what we do all year round and especially about the things we look at. We first met in 2007 when Marianne was visiting friends in Germany and having an exhibition with her textile art, her hat creations, her collages and landscape photography.  We both had been involved in collaborative artistic projects before, be it on a regional, national or international scale.

Marianne had participated in several community arts project; one highlight being the Centennary of Federation „… such fertile ground …“project in 2001. Marianne was one of twelve artists who created large-scale landscape installations across the state of Victoria, the aerial photographs of each work were then made into postcards.


 In 2006 she was approached by Margaret and Christine Wertheim to become one of the „core reefers“ to create the Hyperbolic Coral Reef for the Institute for Figuring, Los Angeles (USA).  Since then, this crocheted Coral Reef project has extended rapidly to create many satellite reefs and has become a global project to raise awareness for the state of all coral reefs and the effects of global warming.

Some of Marianne’s hyperbolic crocheted rosettes in the bushland park in Bendigo

In 2009 I became involved with the worldwide activities of the al-Mutanabbi Street coalition. Their main aim is to commemorate the car bomb attack of March 5th 2007 on al-Mutanabbi Street, the historic literary centre of Baghdad.   There are many book stalls and tea houses in this street, it is a centre of culture and communication. With readings and artistic projects in poetry, literature and printmaking the coalition tries to make people aware of how vital and, at the same time, how vulnerable free access to books, information and education still is. As a printmaker artist I have contributet to the Broadside Project and the al-Mutanabbi Street Inventory Project. In 2013 there was a large exhibition of the al-Mutanabbi Street Inventory project at the John Rylands Library in Manchester. You can find a blogpost in the „Artist’s Books Archive“ about this show in that breathtaking location.

Annette at Klaffenbach artist’s book fair

And so finally in April 2011, I decided to begin work on the concept for the book (after Marianne had instantly agreed to join in): one year, two artists, with one photo per week per person resulting in 52 pairs of photographic moments plus a short text. We both wrote our comments using normal every day language, Marianne wrote in English, I dod so in German. The comments are handset from metal type and printed letterpress; the photos are traditional prints. Naturally the book has an album binding, as this would be what penfriends would do with their collected letters, photos and other memorabilia: glue them into an album. Thus the finished work resembles something like a week-by-week double diary.


So, in a nutshell: one year from April 2011 to April 2012 – 52 weekly pairs of moments, one pair following the other in their natural progression, making the gaps in between only the more evident. We will never be able to look at all and everything.  There is an abundance of things that’ll go unnoticed by us. However, we can always remind ourselves, that they all exist, whether or not we are looking.


„52 Weeks“ – factual data
With 56 photos and comments by Marianne Midelburg (Australia)
and 56 photos and comments by Annette C. Dißlin (Germany)
4 volumes, 30 x 36 cm each, total weight 13 kg
124 pages with 114 photographs (traditional prints), including 2 portrait photos of the artists
Edition of 6 numbered copies signed by both artists
Copy No. 1: special edition with two extra photos (FineArtPrints), size 30 x 18 cm
With an English translation of all German comments (enclosed in a bag in Vol. 4) and some used stamps

Come and peruse the new book at Turn The Page artists‘ book fair in Norwich (UK), 2nd & 3rd May 2014.  The fair is open 10am to 6pm on both days in the entrance hall of The Forum right in the city centre of Norwich.

Find a blogpost on last year’s Turn The Page artists‘ bookfair in Norwich on this blog in the „Fairs and Markets“ archive – klick or scroll down to May 2013.

If you look for more information on the „…such fertile ground“ project, you’ll find it here:
If you like to read more on the Crochet Coral Reef project:
One piece of Marianne is part of the satellite reef which is on the Isle of Föhr in the Museum der Westküste:
there is abook about to be published on the Coral Reef project, if you like to read more about it:

You can find more information on the activities of the al-Mutanabbi coalition with all links on the German + English website:

If you’d like to get in contact with Annette or Marianne:

Cumbria – an artist’s book


When on holidays in Scotland some years ago we went into an antiquarian bookshop where we found „The British Encyclopedia In10 Volumes Illustrated“. It was ever so cheap – for the simple reason that volumes 7 to 10 were missing. Being book lovers we couldn’t resist bying it anyway. It had been published back in 1933. Vol 3 said „CHI-DUN“, which meant China-Dunstan(St.) and we find „CUM’BRIA“ on p 360. It reads:

„An ancient British principality, comprising besides part of Cumberland the Scottish districts Galloway, Kyle Carrick, Cunningham, and Strathclyde its capital being Alchuyd or Dunbarton. It was possibly at one time the chief seat of the power of Arthur and in the sixth century was an important and powerful kingdom …The name still survives in „Cumberland“.


Now „CUM’BERLAND“ we find on the previous page 359:

„The extreme north-western county of England … There is great variety of surface in different parts. Two ranges of lofty mountains may be traced – one towards the north to which belongs the ridge called Crossfell (2892 feet); and the other to the south-west of which the highest peak is Skiddaw (3053 feet). … The two largest rivers are the Eden and the Derwent. The county embraces part of the „Lake Country“ of England. The largest lakes are Derwentwater, Bassenthwait, Loweswater, Crummock, Buttermere, Ennerdale, Wastwater, Thirlmere and part of Ullswater.
Cumberland is rich in minerals, including lead, gypsum, zinc, and especially coal and rich hematite iron-ore. In the western division of the county there was a great many blast-furnaces, and works for the manufacture of steel and finished iron. The principal crops raised are oats, barley, wheat and turnips, but the bulk of the enclosed lands is sown in clover and grass. The rearing of cattle and sheep and dairy-farming are engaged in to a considerable extent.
Carlisle is the county town, the other principal towns are the seaports Whitehaven, Workington, and Maryport; and the inland towns Penrith, Cockermouth and Keswick.


I visited Cumbria back in 1985. It was not spring in the sense that the trees had not yet grown their leaves. There was still a sense of winter as snow was covering the summits of the mountains. It was end of March, I was sleeping in Youth Hostels and some of them were still in winter mode with reduced opening hours. I had decided I wanted to see counties I had not been to so far and since I had only been to Sussex, Essex, Oxfordshire and Berkshire there was a lot more to see than I had time to travel going on what was called a 4-week BritRail ticket.


After one week in Cornwall I was heading north to the lakes, going by train from Falmouth to Penrith, only just so catching the last bus of the day that would take me to Derwentwater Youth Hostel. A few days later I moved on into Keswick Youth Hostel. I have still got the old YHA brochure describing all the hostels in England and Wales and as to Keswick hostel it says:
„Former hotel, near centre of busy and popular lakeland resort at the northern end of Derwentwater. On river Greta overlooking Fitzpark.

View from the window at Keswick Youth Hostel

And my diary tells of the murmur of the river running past the walls of the hostel, then swollen from some late winter rain and the melting snow on the mountains. And even though I missed out on noting it down I still remember vividly that they were selling homemade flapjacks in their shop which were absolutely delicious.
On one of my last days down in Cornwall I had been visiting Trelissick Gardens and bought a copy of William Wordsworth’s „Guide To The Lakes“ in their shop.



The idea I had in mind when designing my artist’s book „Cumbria“ was that it should be like a walk out somewhere not far from Keswick and Derwentwater. The images are woodcuts showing places I went past when I was walking some of the paths there. The text passages are taken from Wordsworth’s guide, the lines being sprinkeled in between the images like some text passages you might have read years ago will all of a sudden spring to your mind while you walk somewhere in the woods or over meadows taking in the scenery, the sounds and the scents.




The sheets for the book have been painted prior to printing with specifically made colours using soil pigments. The text is hand set from metal type, the fount used is Trajanus. The book covers are made from passepartout board, the woodcuts are rubbed off by hand, the text is printed on a cylinder proofing press (Grafix).


The book is an edition of 6 signed and numbered copies, printed in early 2013. Copy No. 1 is the special edition and it comes with a separate woodcut print by the same title „Cumbria“, copy No. 1 as well. It is, in fact, one of the prints from the book, done separately on deckle-edge paper – in an edition of 6 just like the book –  to be framed and hung up to the wall.


Cumbria – special edition of the artist’s book with print.


Where The Red Poppies Dance

When I was a student studying in England in the 1980s I heard about Remembrance Day for the first time. I saw all these people wearing their red poppy flowers pinned to their shirts, jackets or coats. And then I wondered whether they seriously wanted to ‘celebrate’ the horrific First World War that England had been involved in. It took me some time to understand that I had got it quite wrong back then.

When the horrific killing finally came to an end on the 11th November 1918 it left Flanders devastated. Large parts of the countryside had been ploughed over by the massive bombing and the dismembered bodies of thousands of soldiers had gotten mixed with the soil in a way they could not be brought home or even buried in the proper respectful manner. Within days the countryside had turned into a sea of red: millions of red poppies covered these fields of grief and horror. Red poppies are summer flowers; they don’t usually come to bloom in November. On the other hand, a botanist would be able to give a quite unspectacular explanation as to what happened then and why.

However, there’s a bit more behind this. For a very long time the Red Poppy has been seen as a symbol for both Death and Life. People in all their grief, pain and despair, could see the message pinned to the coat or jacket and understand. The still unknown total death toll of WW1 demanded action to be taken for Life and for the living. The Red Poppy became the symbol for Remembrance Day, a day to remember not only all those, who had fought and died, but also those individuals that had survived wounded; who had lost a limb or their sight. The Red Poppy is also a symbol for the families who had lost a father, a brother or a son, and for the many young women who had lost their husbands, many of whom had only been married weeks or months earlier. The Red Poppy reminds us of the tragedies any war can bring. This simple red flower is a warning to always be aware and be prepared to take appropriate and timely action against looming conflicts.

In 2006 I asked Scottish-Australian folksinger and songwriter Eric Bogle if he would give me the permission to translate his song ‚No Man’s Land‘ into German in order to make an artist’s book. He immediately gave me permission. I loved his lyrics and very much enjoyed translating them into German. Then I made 5 woodcuts of Red Poppy flowers dancing in the wind over Flanders. The finished result is a concertina-folding type book; the sheets of the deckle-edge paper are connected with poppy-red folds. The woodcuts are rubbed off by hand and printed poppy-red. I used blocks of oak wood that had cracks and an interesting wood grain, giving a most pleasing texture.

The song text is set by hand from a very old and much used metal type: Trajanus. The book is housed in a portfolio with a clasp made of poppy-red ribbon and Boxwood twigs. Boxwood was very commonly used as a border of graves, symbolizing eternal Life, everlasting true Love and the overcoming of Death. The edition is signed and numbered and limited to 11 copies relating to the particular date and time of the 11th November at 11 o’clock in the morning when the guns finally fell silent.

Find more here:
including a link to Eric Bogle’s original lyrics and a reference for further reading.



Manarah is an old Arabic word for ‘lighthouse’, a place of light to help those on a voyage find their way. Later the word developed into ‚minaret‘ – which is the tower of a mosque. I found out about this a few years ago whilst doing research on this topic. The Swiss populace had just voted not to allow the building of minarets in their country.

I like the image. A lighthouse gives guidance and orientation but it does not take you by the hand. The symbol of the lighthouse does not make it too easy for you. You’ve still got to do the travelling by yourself. You’re still responsible. You are free to make your own choices.

My ‚Manarah‘ is a book-arts magazine printed letterpress using metal type. The first 3 issues were published in 2011. Every issue is a ‚Divan‘, a collection of poetry on a chosen subject. ‚Divan‘ is a Persian word for the collection of poems. I had decided that these first 3 issues would be my contribution to the al-Mutanabbi Street inventory project. This project is one response to the bombing of al-Mutanabbi Street in Baghdad back in March 2009. During the attack the centuries old city district of bookselling as well as literary and intellectual life was totally destroyed. One hundred and thirty lives were lost or injured. An ancient city’s cultural heritage was left shattered. Beau Beausoleil, a Californian writer and bookseller with his al-Mutanabbi Street coalition, has put out the global call to follow the „al-Mutanabbi Street Starts Here“ campaign.

They asked bookartists all over the world to follow their call  and built up a new inventory of books for al-Mutanabbi Street by making 3 works of bookart each.

The 3 themes I choose for my three issues were: war, time and love. I felt it would need love and take time to overcome the destruction and suffering caused by war.

From the time when I realized that there was something the adults called ‚News‘, this News was usually about war and death. During my childhood and teenage years there were wars and conflicts in Belfast, Lebanon and the Near East and in the Basque country of northwest Spain. Of course there were other wars and conflicts elsewhere, but these were the theatres of war I remember during my formative years. Some of these wars went on for decades; many of them are still no closer to a peaceful resolution. Thousands of children, born in these places, die during a bombing raid or get caught in sniper fire. If they survive they lead a life of permanent threat, danger and hatred. They could lose any of their family or friends at any moment. It becomes almost impossible to lead a normal life, have a proper education, earn a decent wage, build up a career, raise a family or even build a small house. How can one lead a normal life, when everything can be taken away from you at any moment?

I feel the deepest respect for any person who grew up during a war or a regional conflict and who will stand up for peace. Someone, who will still make every effort to stand strongly against hatred and against the lies and distortions of the truth of war; someone who is convinced that war will never give an answer nor be a solution – and who has the courage to say so.

The choice of poems in all my Manarah issues covers a period of four centuries going back to the 16th century with William Dunbar being the eldest of the chosen writers. I also feature a number of poets who died during WWI.

These poems tell of despair and hope, of pain and solace. They raise questions and seek answers that have been troubling mankind ever since he gained self-awareness. The collection of poems tells of the deeply felt longing for a life lived in peace and within a community full of loving understanding. They express the wish for tolerance and the possibility for one and all, to gain a state of inner contentment and happiness. These have been the treasures of mankind – and so they should remain for all times. Poems have been chosen from English and German sources and they have been printed all in their original wording with no translations provided.

Covers are either woodcuts or linoprints. All poems have been set by hand from individually chosen metal type and ornaments. Every issue is a limited edition, numbered and signed, with less than 25 copies each. The issue on War has ten poems, the issue on Time has nine and the issue on Love has thirteen poems. This edition on Love also comes with a linoprint portrait of Joseph von Eichendorff, one of the poets. Copies are hand sewn with black or red thread.

To view this work, please visit:


Mir fehlt ein Wort

When the Nazis came to total power in August 1933 they established an initial list of people to be expatriated from Germany. One name on that list was Kurt Tucholsky. He was then aged 43 and had become a well-known author, reputable essayist and journalist during the Weimar Republic. He wrote for the newspapers „Weltbühne“ and „Vossische Zeitung“. He had studied law and as a soldier during WW1, he felt an intense dislike for the Nazis for numerous reasons; one of which was his own fear that the Nazis would plunge Germany into another brutal war in the very near future.

Tucholsky was a great lover of the German language and a brilliant writer. He was witty, humorous and could be bitterly sarcastic when he honed in on particular issues. He very much enjoyed playing with pseudonyms and used five of them simultaneously, treating each of them as a quasi-personality in its own right. Apart from his real name, there were also Peter Panter, Ignaz Wrobel, Theobald Tiger and Kaspar Hauser. He stopped writing completely when he was expatriated and tragically took his life aged 45, exiled in Sweden in 1935.

I have loved his skilful way of handling the German language ever since I first read his work back in the 1980s. I respect him greatly for the clarity of his insight. Much of what he wrote during the Weimar Republic still holds true today. This is a frightening thought when associated, for example with the control industry held over politics, with the international trade of weapons and with Germany’s jurisdiction back in the 1930s tending to have a ‘to the right leaning’ blinkered vision.

Tucholsky was able to provide evidence of the severe nature of forced imprisonment and unlawful sentencing against Socialist or Communist ‘rabble’ when compared with the much less severe conditions of detention inflicted on Conservative or Fascist ‘villains’.

„Mir fehlt ein Wort“ (I lack the word) is how Kurt Tucholsky expressed himself when he did not know the right word to appropriately describe what the leaves of the Birch tree do when touched by a breeze. This sentence has become the title of an artist’s book I made as an homage to Kurt Tucholsky. The book was produced in 2010 for the 75th anniversary of Tucholsky’s tragic death.

This work comprises 3 portfolios – one on Language, one on War and one on the Arts, giving a total of more than 60 texts primarily by Kurt Tucholsky. The folios are printed letterpress from metal type throughout. The work comes in a corrugated cardboard box resembling an archive box and the portfolios are presented as if they are Secret Service files.


I worked out the story about a young printer, who started working in a Berlin printing office during Weimar Republic. When he came across a text he liked, he would take one of the spoils home to read and then he’d keep it. Over the years he accumulated a fine collection of mainly Kurt Tucholsky’s writing. This young printer with his young Jewish wife left Nazi-Germany in early 1933 and the collection of spoils ended up in the hands of the Nazi officials. These literary works were then turned into processed files to prove that Kurt Tucholsky was a „Vaterlandsverräter“ i.e. a national traitor. This was reason enough to force him into exile.

I too play the game Tucholsky loved so much. I incorporated some more pseudonyms, featuring authors like Cora Cobra or Louis Luchs and their essays on recent topics, in ways Kurt Tucholsky might have done if he were still with us today.

The files are assembled from a wide variety of papers and sewn in the original Prussian style in similar fashion to the official files used in Prussia and housed in the state archives. The texts are in German. The work is a limited edition of 12. Numbers 1 to 6 are special editions with all three files contained in the one box.

Numbers 7 to 12 are the normal editions with File No.1: Language and File No. 2: War having their own boxes. Special rubber stamps and embossing tools have been designed and made to mark pages in an official style. Stickers have been printed letterpress giving the year when the texts were originally written. The story of the young printer is a typewritten script on very old blue fine typing paper and tied to the cover with piece of thick red string.