Gutenberg Book Guild

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Signet of the book guild
Book guild in the
Hamburg trade union building at Besenbinderhof 61

The Book Guild Gutenberg , shortly Büchergilde is a book club with private publishing company based in Frankfurt am Main . Originally developed from the union environment, it is now a registered publishing association. The Gutenberg Book Guild has a long tradition of book art and craftsmanship . In particular, the tradition of artistically illustrated books established the excellent reputation of the publisher in the publishing world, which has received numerous prizes and awards for book design up to the present day.


The Book Guild was founded on August 29, 1924 by the Educational Association of German Book Printers on the initiative of its chairman Bruno Dreßler in Leipzig . The co-founder, spiritual director and author was Ernst Preczang , who also became the first chief editor. Standing in the tradition of the German labor movement , it wanted to give poor people access to education and culture through inexpensive books. As a cultural institution for the working people , the book guild included socially committed texts by modern authors such as B. Traven , Oskar Maria Graf , Martin Andersen Nexö , Jack London and Mark Twain in its program.

Half a year after it was founded, the book guild had around 5,000 members. From 1925 the members' magazine "Die Büchergilde" was published monthly. In 1928 the book guild relocated to Berlin and Erich Knauf took over the editing . By 1931 there were 27 branches in Germany, along with branches in Prague, Vienna and Zurich. By 1933 she had published 174 book titles in 2.5 million copies. Josef Luitpold Stern was co-founder of the Austrian book guild . In 1933 the book guild in Germany had 85,000 members. After the seizure of power of the Nazis , the Berlin rooms were in 1933 by the SA occupied those present to Hitler salute coerced. Most employees were dismissed, founder Bruno Dressler was arrested, the Büchergilde into line and later in Nazi dictatorship in the German Labor Front incorporated.

On May 15, 1933, the Swiss Book Guild made itself independent of Germany through a new establishment in Zurich and continued its work under the direction of Bruno Dreßler (until 1946) in cooperation with Vienna and Prague. The Swiss Book Guild had 110,000 members at the end of the war.

After 1945, the founder's son, Helmut Dreßler , revived the book guild in the Federal Republic of Germany. The book guild began "A new chapter in their history" (p. 5 of a volume with stories by Arnold Zweig ) in 1949. Erich Kästner , Stefan Zweig and Golo Mann were among the first printed authors . Until his death in December 1974, Helmut Dreßler was committed to well-made and illustrated books. One of the typographers was Karl Franke , who was responsible for the overall design of Jack London's editions.

The tradition of design in typography and design continues to this day. With the two editions, The Conscience Stands Up (1955) and The Conscience Decides , the publisher created a permanent memorial to the victims and opponents of the dictatorship with 64 life pictures from the German resistance 1933–1945 and keeps this section of recent German history alive.

For many years the book guild belonged to the trade union holding BGAG , in 1998 it was spun off and sold to five former employees under the management of the then managing director Mario Früh. It has been a cooperative since 2015. Nevertheless, there are still many book guild partner bookstores in trade union houses, for example at the DGB Berlin-Brandenburg and DGB Hannover, or in the ver.di federal administration .

The Litfass bookstore, a book guild partner in Dortmund

Mario Früh retired in 2017. Since October 2017, Alexander Elspas has been managing director of the publishing company and chairman of the board of the Büchergilde Gutenberg publishing cooperative.

Working method

In 2018, the book guild had around 60,000 members in Germany and 2,300 in Switzerland, who have committed to purchase one article per quarter. Members either order online, by phone, in writing or buy in one of 90 partner bookstores in Germany, Austria and Switzerland. The book guild's program extends to content-wise and usually high-quality licensed editions of books, own original editions, DVDs, audio books, music CDs and articles from the book guild collection. In addition, there are various cooperation partners such as B. Folio Society in England, Bear Family Records , Trikont , Jaro Medien and Hänssler Klassik.

Edition Book Guild

In autumn 2002, the independent publishing house Edition Büchergilde was founded as part of the Gutenberg Book Guild , which is also based in Frankfurt am Main. This made it possible to offer in-house productions on the free book market. In the Edition Büchergilde appear from the categories of fiction and non-fiction as well as the series Die Bibliothek von Babel with cover illustrations by Bernhard Jäger . In addition, the Edition Büchergilde publishes book art in the category Das Illustrierte Buch and the series Die Tollen Hefte, initially edited by Armin Abmeier and now by Rotraut Susanne Berner . Since autumn 2008, the author Ilija Trojanow has been giving the Weltlese series in Edition Büchergilde . Reading journeys into the unknown .

Book Guild Essay Award

The Book Guild Essay Prize has been awarded every two years since 2000 , a literature prize on a specific topic.

Book guild designer award

The Gutenberg Book Guild Design Prize has also been awarded every two years since 2000. The basic idea of ​​the competition is to encourage young talent in the field of book design and illustration . The illustration / design of a literary text is written out. The winner of the competition receives a contract with the Gutenberg Book Guild for the complete illustration of the respective work. Previous winners are Katrin Stangl (2001), Tina Good (2004), Mandy Schlundt (2006), Manuela Sliwa / Dušan Milenkovic (2008) and Joe Villion (2010). The winner of the 2012 Designer Award was Alexandra Rügler, who was newly illustrated by Patricia Highsmith " The Talented Mr. Ripley " with anaglyphic 3D images. The 2014 award winner is Martin Stark, who re-illustrated Heinrich Mann's novel " Professor Unrat ". In 2016 Laura Olschok with Tschick and in 2018 Sophie Nicklas “for her convincing visual implementation of Theodor Storm's novella Ein Doppelgänger ” was awarded.


The bibliophile editions of the book guild can be found almost every year in the price lists of the Book Art Foundation and in the exhibition Most Beautiful Books from All Over the World .

The book guild in Switzerland

At the time the Nazis were brought into line, the book guild had around 6,000 members in Switzerland, of whom 5,000 immediately transferred to the newly founded Swiss book guild. The Swiss Book Guild was not only important for the exile authors, but also had increasing importance for Swiss book authors and illustrators. In 1943 it already had a turnover of 2 million Swiss francs. In 1936, under the name of Guilde du Livre, a French-Swiss offshoot was founded in Lausanne, which until its discontinuation in 1977 was primarily known for the photo books it published. The Swiss Book Guild operated bookshops in numerous cities until the 1970s. The great success of the book guild in Switzerland, with over 100,000 members at times, called on more and more competitors in the post-war period. In 1981 the Swiss Book Guild still had 16,000 members and was subsequently taken over by the newly founded Book Guild AG, whose share capital was raised by the book center Hägendorf as the majority shareholder and the member organizations of the Swiss Federation of Trade Unions as minority shareholders. In 2000 the Swiss book guild was sold again to the German guild. Since then, the Swiss guild members have been getting their books from a delivery point in Zurich.

Works (selection)

  • 1924 - Mark Twain: With cheerful eyes. Stories . German translation by Margarete Jacobi, Henny Koch and L. Ottmann. Selected and introduced by Ernst Preczang. 192 p. Gutenberg Book Guild, Leipzig (Salomonstr. 8). Only to members of the BG. 1st edition of the BG.
  • 1925 - Moritz Hartmann: The war for the forest. A history . BG, Leipzig. 192 pp.
  • 1925 - Ernst Preczang: In the breach of Satan. Fairy tale . With original woodcuts by Otto Rudolf Schatz. BG, Leipzig. 30 pp.
  • 1925 - Ernst Preczang: The shining tree and other short stories . BG, Leipzig
  • 1925 - Colin Ross: travel and adventure book . BG, Leipzig. 236 pp.
  • 1926 - B. Traven: The Death Ship. The story of an American sailor . BG, Berlin. 256 pp.
  • 1926 - Luitpold Stern: The uprooted tree . Cut in wood by Otto Rudolf Schatz. 18 sheets. BG, Berlin
  • 1926 - Mikkjel Fönhus: The Troll Elk. The story of Gaupa, the hunter from the Mottal . Translated from the Norwegian by Julius Sandmeier and Sophie Angermann. BG, Berlin. 168 pp.
  • 1928 - B. Traven: Land of Spring . Pictures from the author. Set by Curt Reibetanz. First edition. BG, Berlin. 429 p., 64 p. Fig.
  • 1948 - The Josef Luitpold Book. Poetry and prose from 4 decades by Josef Luitpold Stern . Selected from the collected work and designed v. Alfred Zohner. Woodcuts v. Otto Rudolf Schatz. BG, Vienna. 247 pp.
  • 1974 - Joachim Fest: Hitler. A biography . With 213 z. T. unknown picture u. Text documents. BG, Frankfurt a. M. / Berlin / Vienna, ISBN 3-7632-1828-9 , 1190 pp. (Only for members)


  • Helmut Dreßler: Becoming and working of the Gutenberg Book Guild . Book guild, Zurich 1950.
  • Helmut Dreßler: Books full of good spirits, 30 years of the Gutenberg Book Guild . Book guild Gutenberg 1954. [363 p.]
  • Jürgen Dragowski: The history of the Gutenberg Book Guild in the Weimar Republic. In: Writings of the Fritz Hüser Institute, Series 2, Research on Workers' Literature, Vol. 8, Essen 1992. ISBN 3-88474-008-3
  • Carola Müller: Books, pictures and ideas: 75 years of the Gutenberg Book Guild . Verlag der Büchergilde, Frankfurt am Main 1999 (official journal accompanying the anniversary exhibition).
  • Robert Höffner / Hanneliese Palm (arrangement): The Gutenberg Book Guild. Dreßler estate 1879–1999. In: Writings of the Fritz Hüser Institute, Series 2 = Research on Workers' Literature, Vol. 11, Essen 2002. ISBN 3-89861-070-5
  • Wolfgang Kaiser: Book clubs of the labor movement . In: Jürgen Holstein: Eye-catcher. Book covers and dust jackets from Berlin publishers 1919–1933 . Self-published, Berlin 2005, ISBN 978-3-00-014786-9 , p. 77 ff.
  • Luise Maria Dreßler: Dreams come true. Bruno and Helmut Dreßler and the Gutenberg Book Guild, 1924–1974 . BoD , Norderstedt 2005, ISBN 978-3-00-015678-6 .
  • Luise Maria Dreßler: The most beautiful books 1924–1974: Book guild Gutenberg - Helmut Dreßler 1910–2010 . Self-published, Frankfurt am Main 2010, ISBN 978-3-00-032359-1 .

Web links

Individual evidence

  1. ^ Educational Association of German Book Printers.
  2. Interview with Alexander Elspas , Managing Director of the Büchergilde, from July 7, 2018 with the Börsenblatt . Retrieved August 17, 2018.