Friedrich Ernst Fehsenfeld

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Friedrich Ernst Fehsenfeld (born December 16, 1853 in Groß Lengden near Göttingen , † September 16, 1933 in Freiburg im Breisgau ) was a German publisher . He was an important publisher of the German writer Karl May and co-founder of the Karl May publishing house .



He was the eighth son of pastor Johannes Fehsenfeld (1805-1883) and his second wife Adelheid († 1855), née Goldmann. At the age of eight, his father, who had 13 other children to look after, gave him to Berlin to live with his half-sister and aunt Elise, who was married to the then well-known literary historian Julian Schmidt . In this house writers and scientists like Ferdinand Freiligrath , Fritz Reuter , the Brothers Grimm , Theodor Mommsen , Wilhelm Dilthey and Iwan Sergejewitsch Turgenew frequented .

On May 22, 1880, he married Pauline Aloisia Katharina (1858–1947), née Rheinbold, in Baden-Baden . From this marriage there were two daughters and two sons, the sons died in childhood. One of his daughters was married to the Freiburg zoologist Konrad Guenther , who had his father-in-law publish most of his books.

School and education

After elementary school, he attended the Royal Wilhelm High School in Berlin. For financial reasons he then had to learn the trade of bookseller . He completed his apprenticeship and the following years as a journeyman in Hanover .

Professional development

Wallstrasse 10 in Freiburg, where the von Fehsenfeld publishing house was based from 1890 to 1895.

In 1879 he bought a university bookstore in Gießen , Hesse , which he sold again after six years. In Freiburg im Breisgau he met Curt Abel , who had also attended the Royal Wilhelm High School in Berlin. He signed this as the first author of his publishing house, which was in the process of being founded, as an in-house author who was also able to translate works in English. He had a warm relationship with Abel (later Curt Abel-Musgrave).

Fehsenfeld opened his publishing bookstore on April 1, 1890 at Wallstrasse 10.

In 1891 Fehsenfeld met Karl May for the first time after reading a story by him. That was the beginning of a long and very successful, albeit by no means tension-free collaboration. In addition to the works of Karl May and matching postcards that illustrated scenes from the stories, Fehsenfeld also brought out other adventure literature. Among other things, he had the jungle book by Rudyard Kipling , Wolfsblut by Jack London and Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson translated into German and published these novels in his series "World of Journeys and Adventure".

After Karl May's death in 1912, he wanted to part with his works, and May's widow was also looking for a new publisher. When this did not succeed, however, the publishing house of the Karl May Foundation Fehsenfeld & Co. was founded in Radebeul on July 1, 1913 by May's widow Klara as the universal heir of the rights and estate administrator, the jurist Euchar Albrecht Schmid and Fehsenfeld as shareholders January 1915 was renamed to Karl-May-Verlag Fehsenfeld & Co. Since 1960 the publishing house, shortened to Karl-May-Verlag , has been based in Bamberg . In 1921 Fehsenfeld left the Karl-May-Verlag and lived until his death on September 16, 1933 in his house, the "Lehenhof" acquired in 1898 near Ehrenstetten im Breisgau, where he is also buried. His widow then sold his own publishing house to Paul-List-Verlag in Leipzig .

Fehsenfeld was a tall (184 cm) athletic person, ice skater, swimmer and one of the first snowshoe riders in the southern Black Forest . With the farthing he crossed the Gotthard Pass . When he became wealthy thanks to the good sales of May's works, he was able to afford a car, which was still a rarity at the time. Another passion was hunting, which he could pursue extensively around his house in the country.

The relationship with Karl May

After Fehsenfeld had read Karl May's short story “Giölgeda padishanün” (Im Schatten des Großherrn) by Karl May in 1891, he was so enthusiastic that he immediately contacted the author. At May's invitation, he traveled to Kötzschenbroda , where he was warmly received. It was quickly agreed that the stories and new texts that had previously been fragmented in magazines should be published in book form. On November 17, 1891, a publishing contract was signed, which provided that May should receive an advance fee of 500 thalers per volume and then a further payment of 2000 thalers after every 5000 copies were sold. May later demanded higher payments from Fehsenfeld. On February 12, 1907 it was agreed that the net profit should be divided equally. May constantly needed money because he was very generous, at times wasteful and his various processes also devoured some funds.

The success of the books was accompanied by an increasing dissatisfaction, which was not least due to the very different characters of the partners: May lived out his fantasies and felt like one of his literary heroes, so he always had a somewhat critical relationship to reality. Fehsenfeld, on the other hand, was a sober, open person who couldn't pretend. He found May's nature to be somewhat untruthful, a peculiarity that was alien to him. Envious people, flatterers and those who would have liked to have participated in the success of the books slandered Fehsenfeld at May. May became suspicious and doubted the honesty of his publisher. He secretly made inquiries about the editions and tried - in vain even - to take the publishing into his own hands, because he believed that the publisher earned too much from his books. Nevertheless, Fehsenfeld was always loyal to his author. When May was publicly discredited in 1910, Fehsenfeld stood up for him in a public appeal that was printed three million times at his expense.

In the novel “Im Reiche des Silbernen Löwen”, May portrays his publisher as “Pedehr”, father, as a helpful healer who exudes love for his people and receives love for it. The striking eyes described correspond to those of Fehsenfeld.


  • Ekke W. Guenther: Karl May and his publisher Friedrich Ernst Fehsenfeld . Lecture given at the 4th conference of the Karl May Society in Freiburg on October 22, 1977. In: 1978 Yearbook of the Karl May Society ( online version of the article )


  • Karl May: Correspondence with Friedrich Ernst Fehsenfeld. Vol. 1: 1891-1906. With letters from and to Felix Krais u. a. Edited by Dieter Sudhoff . (= Collected Works and Letters. Vol. 91). Karl-May-Verlag, Bamberg / Radebeul 2007, ISBN 978-3-7802-0091-4 .
  • Karl May: Correspondence with Friedrich Ernst Fehsenfeld. Vol. 2: 1891-1906. With letters from and to Felix Krais u. a. Edited by Dieter Sudhoff and Hans-Dieter Steinmetz . (= Collected Works and Letters. Vol. 92). Karl-May-Verlag, Bamberg / Radebeul 2008, ISBN 978-3-7802-0092-1 .
  • Comprehensive literature review
  • Edmund-Kara Jendrewski: Friedrich Ernst Fehsenfeld, Freiburg i. Br. Publisher's bibliography. 2012, ISBN 978-3-8442-2521-1 .
  • Albrecht Götz von Olenhusen a. a .: Karl May and Freiburg: The Freiburg Karl May publisher Friedrich Ernst Fehsenfeld. Karl-May-Verlag, Bamberg 2002, ISBN 3-7802-3012-7 .
  • Edmund-Kara Jendrewski: The Karl May publisher Friedrich Ernst Fehsenfeld. A biography and publisher's bibliography. 2015, ISBN 978-3-7375-3615-8 , p. 2015.
  • Edmund-Kara Jendrewski: Illustrated bibliography of the works by Karl May, published by Friedrich E. Fehsenfeld, Freiburg i. Br., Have been relocated. 1892 to 1912. 2018, ISBN 978-3-7450-9401-5 , p. 114.

Web links

Individual evidence

  1. ^ A b c Edmund-Kara Jendrewski: The Karl May publisher Friedrich Ernst Fehsenfeld: Biography of Friedrich Ernst Fehsenfeld . epubli, Berlin 2015, ISBN 978-3-7375-3615-8 , p. 11.
  2. Dieter Sudhoff (ed.), Hans-Dieter Steinmetz ( collaborator ): Karl May: Correspondence with Friedrich Ernst Fehsenfeld I (1891-1906) . Karl-May-Verlag, Bamberg / Radebeul 2009, ISBN 978-3-7802-1791-2 , pp. 11-12.
  3. Edmund Kara Jendrewski: The Karl May publisher Friedrich Ernst Fehsenfeld . epubli, Berlin 2015, ISBN 978-3-7375-3615-8 , pp. 50-52.
  4. bz: Freiburg: This is where the success of Karl May began. In: Badische Zeitung. February 24, 2017. Retrieved February 24, 2017 .
  5. so z. B. Ulrich Schmid: "Am Tode": Encryption of the adventure. In: Karl May: At death. Edited by Helmut Schmiedt. Reprint of the Karl May Society Hamburg, 1999, pp. 7-11.