The Mysterious Neue Jugendführer and Müller’s Buchhandlung

Cotsen 7636299

Above is a most mysterious print (a loose end that turned up during our recent temporary office move). My best guess is that it is uncut proof for the conjugate frontispiece and title page for the book Der neue Jugendführer [The new youth leader]. As the title page points out this book was published “In Müller’s Buchhandlung” (In Müller’s Bookstore) in Pest, Hungary. The lengthy subtitle makes clear that this book is an instructive (and well illustrated) polyglot primer: Der neue jugendführer : ein nützliches, und angenehmes A.B.C. = Buchstabier und Lese = bilderbuch fur die Jugend, mit 128 Abbildungen, nebst Deutsch, Französischen, und Ungarischen benennungen [The new youth leader : a useful, and pleasant A.B.C. = spelling and reading = picture book for the youth, with 128 illustrations, besides German, French, and Hungarian designations].

Curiously, however, there seem to be no surviving copies of such a title. So how can this be the title page for the “Zweite Auflage” [second edition]? Perhaps it’s as simple as concluding that the work was never published. Yet compounding the conundrums around the title is that since this is the neue jugendführer, one might expect to be able to locate the original Jugendführer. But again, no dice (to be pedantically clear, however, there are works containing “Jugendführer” in the title, but most are later than the above print and published by different publishers in mostly German cities).

“Title page” for closer examination, notice the absence of a publication date

While attempting to date the item I was able to locate a paltry few other works published in Pest by “Müller’s Buchhandlung” or “Joseph Müller’s Buchhandlung” from 1818 to 1823. All of these seem to be adult titles, mostly dealing with history and religion. After this time “Müller’s Buchhandlung” seems to move around a bit with titles appearing in Albendorf, Poland and Lucerne, Switzerland) Then again, Müller is a pretty common German last name and there are a number of bookshops and publishers operated by Muellers throughout the German-speaking world.

So maybe the “frontispiece” will yield some helpful information?

“Frontispiece” of Müller’s bookstore

The hand-colored etching (with engraving) ostensibly depicts the real Müller’s bookstore in Pest. The caption gives voice to the imploring youngster: “O, Mutter, ich bitte dich, nehme mir den Jugendführer!” (O, Mother, I beg you, take me to the youth leader!). Hard to make out above, the illustration is signed: “Perger del.” on the left and “Lehnhardt sc.” on the right. So, given the rough dates above, the illustration was “delineavit” [designed by] either Sigismund Ferdinand von Perger (1778-1841) or his son Anton Perger (1809-1876). The “sculpsit” [engraving by] Lehnhardt, was as close to an attribution as I could find.

Unfortunately, we might never know more about Müller, his bookstore, or his Jugendführers. But clearly, enigmas abound at the Cotsen Children’s Library, and it’s always fun to see what we can discover.

For other Cotsen forays into the (more recent) bookstore world, check out this post by Jeff Barton about some notable bookstores on the Pacific Northwest:
On the Road with the Cotsen Library, or, Some Independent Bookstores Are Alive and Well

another by Andrea Immel about a famous bookstore in LA:
Tour The Last Bookstore in Los Angeles

and last but not least, Minjie Chen’s about bookstores in Shanghai and Abu Dhabi

Notes of a Summer Traveller 2



Teaching Difference in a 19th-Century German Alphabet Book

This week I examined two copies of a Fibelbuch, or primer, published by Freidrich Geissler in Leipzig to make sure that they were correctly described.   The texts were identical, consisting of an alphabet, list of vowels, a syllabary, the Ten Commandments, Pater Noster, Creed, proverbs, and multiplication table all in a Gothic type.

They had different sets of illustrations, however. One has depictions of  skilled tradesmen and shopkeepers, with humorous details like a baby trying out its new wicker walker, a boy blowing up a bladder in the butcher’s shop, or  a boy trying pots on his head while his mother negotiated the price for a new piece of crockery.

The other copy features pictures of men and women in different national costumes–Tyrolers, Turks, Finns, Spaniards, and Cossacks.  For some reason, farmers are featured prominently, with couples from Saxony, Altenberger, Tartary, Russia, and Poland.  The pictures of Russian and Poland farmers are paired with pictures of a Russian merchant and his wife and a Polish Jew and his wife.

The one of the Polish Jews caught my eye.  The buildings in the background suggest that they are city dwellers like the Russian merchant and his wife.  The bearded Polish man wears a tall hat, boots, and ankle-length dark robe belted with a wide yellow sash.  His wife wears drop earrings, an orange dress with a form-fitting bodice and lace yoke, a tall yellow headdress, and dainty slippers.

A a b c d e f ff g (Leipzig: Greidrich Geissler, ca. 1830). Cotsen 46436.

I had no idea of the significance of the yellow headdress and sash until I showed the illustration to Ian, who explained that those garments must have been a sartorial marker similar to the yellow badge or patch Jews in Nazi Germany were required to sew to their clothing to distinguish them from Aryans.

Given the long history of laws in Europe and the Near East that required Jews to wear on their clothes markers that unequivocably announced their Jewishness to everyone else, it seems unlikely that it was coincidence or the whim of the colorist.   But there’s no text that explains the significance of the yellow garments to the child reader.

Is this something a child in Leipzig who was just learning to read would already know?  This is a troubling question that cannot be answered here, but it is a powerful reminder that the pleasing pictures in alphabets can communicate silently ideas of sameness and difference.  The illustration of the Polish Jew and his wife is an excellent example of a descriptive and value-free picture that looks innocent until we learn how to read it.

To look through the entire pamphlet, click here