Insel Verlag

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Insel Verlag Anton Kippenberg

legal form GmbH & Co. KG
founding 1901
Seat Berlin
management Ulla Unseld-Berkéwicz , Jonathan Landgrebe, Thomas Sparr
Branch publishing company

Typical original edition with signet: Ernst Hardt - Gesammelte Erzählungen , first edition, 1909

The Insel Verlag is a German literature publishing , in 1901 from two years earlier established literary and art magazine The island emerged and its original publisher based in Leipzig had. It has been based in Berlin since 2010 , having previously resided in Frankfurt am Main and having a branch in Leipzig.

Together with the Deutscher Klassiker Verlag , which has been affiliated since 1981 , the company belongs to the Suhrkamp family. As a result of the insolvency proceedings at Suhrkamp Verlag , Insel Verlag also filed for insolvency on June 3, 2013 and applied for self-administration .


The beginning: 1899 to 1918

The monthly magazine Die Insel

Die Insel magazine , first cover page of the first edition (excerpt), October 1899

In 1899 Otto Julius Bierbaum , Alfred Walter Heymel and Rudolf Alexander Schröder launched the monthly magazine Die Insel . The booklet was designed by Georges Lemmen and was intended to make a contribution to the literary and art landscape in Germany. The publisher's signet , a two-masted sailing ship, still used today , was designed by Peter Behrens for the magazine. When the magazine was published, great importance was attached to the equipment and illustrators such as Heinrich Vogeler and Emil Rudolf Weiß could be won over to the collaboration. The first books of the new publisher included the volume of poetry Dir by Heinrich Vogeler and the prose collection of Fritz Kocher's essays by Robert Walser . Vogeler illustrated, for example, the book on The Emperor and the Witch by Hugo von Hofmannsthal .

The foundation of Insel Verlag

On October 1, 1901, Insel Verlag was founded as a GmbH based in Leipzig under the direction of Rudolf von Poellnitz. After his death on February 14, 1905, Carl Ernst Poeschel took over the publishing house on a provisional basis, in which Anton Kippenberg took a share with him from July 1, 1905 under the same management. After Poeschel left Insel Verlag in September 1906, with Anton Kippenberg also leaving Poeschel Verlag in return, Kippenberg managed the company alone. He received support from his wife Katharina, who became the publisher's employee and authorized signatory in 1918 . His nephew Max Christian Wegner also rose to the position of authorized signatory at Insel-Verlag in the 1920s, before moving to Bernhard Tauchnitz Verlag around 1930 . In 1906, Kippenberg had relocated the company to Kurz Strasse 7 (since April 1, 2001: Spohrstrasse ), the house where Poeschel was born.

The literary focus of the publishing house

Under the leadership of Kippenberg, the publishing house advanced to become one of the leading literary houses in Germany in the following years. His publishing focus was the works of Goethe , which he published in various editions and configurations. In addition to facsimiles and lavishly designed books, Insel Verlag published the six-volume “Volksgoethe” in 1909, which was also affordable for a wider audience. The editor was the literary scholar Erich Schmidt . Other Goethe publications included his poems as well as his correspondence with Frau von Stein, Marianne von Willemer or Friedrich Schiller and his work West-Eastern Divan . In 1915, in the second year of the First World War , the publishing house issued a ten-title Goethe war edition that began with Faust I and ended with an excerpt from Poetry and Truth , Goethe's Youth . In order to facilitate the dispatch to the soldiers of the German Reich fighting on the front, the texts appeared in gray brochures, which reduced the transport weight. Similar war editions are also available for many titles in the island library .

Alongside Goethe, Rainer Maria Rilke became the most important author in the house. Kippenberg endeavored to publish all of the writer's titles on Insel. In 1912/1913 the publisher had acquired the rights to all of Rilke's works written up to that point. In addition, the complete works of Hans Carossa appeared in the publishing house, which also had a focus in the program.

In addition to writings by contemporary authors (such as Stefan Zweig , Hugo von Hofmannsthal or Albrecht Schaeffer ), Insel published many works from world literature . Works by Heinrich Heine , Friedrich Hölderlin , Heinrich von Kleist and Charles Dickens even appeared in multiple volumes (Heine, ten volumes: 1910–1920; Dickens, twelve volumes: 1910–1913). The publishing house achieved its first financial success with a volume from the series Stories from Thousand and One Nights in the translation from English by Greve , which was published in twelve volumes in 1907/1908.

IB 1, Rilke: Cornet

The island library

The island library was founded in 1912 . Their eye-catching cover, the thematic diversity of the series titles and their carefully chosen furnishings make them one of the publisher's best-known products to this day. The first book in the series was Rainer Maria Rilke's The Way of Love and Death of the Cornet Christoph Rilke . In 1915 and 1920 the Austrian Library and the predominantly foreign-language series Pandora appeared as side pieces of this series ; however, neither was granted long duration.

The equipment of the books

At Insel Verlag, the design of the books in line with the work played a prominent role, and so magnificently furnished fonts and the inexpensive, yet individually designed book appeared. Kippenberg wanted to do without unnecessary jewelry and demanded that the font used should be legible and content-related. He used user-friendly paper and created the thin print editions as the new book standard for the classic editions. He was mostly involved in the overall design of the Insel publications. The careful equipment of the Insel-Bücherei , which is well above average for an inexpensive paperback, shows Kippenberg's efforts for the beautiful book among the broadest readership, which was achieved by the high editions of the series.

The congenial book illustration was cultivated at Insel Verlag from the beginning, and so the publisher was in personal contact with many contemporary illustrators . Artists such as Eric Gill , Friedrich Wilhelm Kleukens , Rudolf Koch , Emil Preetorius , Max Slevogt , Henry van de Velde , Willi Harwerth and Marcus Behmer worked for the house .

On the other hand, Kippenberg refused to use dust jackets for a long time, as they would deprive the book of the artistic effect of the always elegantly designed cover, but after the First World War he bowed to market requirements that required a dust jacket as a sales-promoting element.

1919 to 1940

Dostoevsky: Guilt and Atonement (Libri Librorum, 1921)
Kleist: Stories , (Bibliotheca mundi, 1920)

Book series of the inflation period and multi-volume editions of world literature

After the end of the First World War , in which the publisher was drafted for military service in the Belgian stage , difficult years awaited the company. In the course of the advancing inflation , the purchasing power of the public decreased drastically, so that the number of copies of facsimile and classic publications fell rapidly. From 1919 to 1927 Kippenberg published the outstanding collection “ Der Dom ”, which contained the writings of German mystics in 13 volumes . The publishing magazine Inselschiff also appeared for the first time in 1919 , and a year later began the edition of the predominantly foreign language book series Bibliotheca Mundi (Ed. Stefan Zweig), Libri Librorum and Pandora , which are the best works in world literature in the original "join together to form the Orbis Literarum " should. In the 1920s, multi-volume editions were published by Fjodor M. Dostojewski (translation: Hermann Röhl ), Stendhal (t: Arthur Schurig , Otto von Taube ), Leo Tolstoi , William Shakespeare , Theodor Storm and Rainer Maria Rilke , as well as the complete works of Goethe was reprinted in seventeen volumes. Other authors of those years were Georg Büchner , Émile Zola , William Butler Yeats , Ernst Penzoldt , Virginia Woolf and Paul Valéry .

Facsimile editions and offprints

The facsimile editions of Bach's St. Matthew Passion (1922) and Mass in B minor (1924) as well as the Manessische Liederhandschrift (1926) were published as special island prints . On Kippenberg's 50th birthday in 1924, the Festschrift Navigare necesse est with original graphics by artists working for the publishing house, such as Marcus Behmer , Frans Masereel and Walter Tiemann , was published and, on the occasion of the 25th anniversary of the publishing house, a directory with all publications by House.

Seizure of power by the National Socialists

When the National Socialists came to power, around 30 island titles were designated as undesirable and deleted from the publishing program . Books by Jewish or politically unpopular authors, such as Stefan Zweig or Aldous Huxley , were no longer allowed to be sold by the mid-1930s at the latest. The publishing house survived the thirties with publications by classics and non-banned writers such as Hans Carossa , Edzard Schaper or Reinhold Schneider .

The division of the publishing house after the Second World War

On the night of December 3 to 4, 1943, the publishing house at Kurzen Strasse 7 in Leipzig was completely destroyed in an air raid. After the end of the war, against the background of the looming division of Germany, Kippenberg founded a West German branch of the publishing house in Wiesbaden , the management of which was taken over by his long-time colleague Friedrich Michael .

On March 1, 1946, the Soviet occupation authorities issued a production license for Leipzig, which was revoked on April 11, 1946, but initially made it possible to reprint older titles. It was not until February 25, 1947 that the Insel Verlag in Leipzig was finally licensed , and Richard Köhler received its “general authorization”.

After Kippenberg's death in Lucerne on September 21, 1950, his daughter Bettina von Bomhard and then her older sister Jutta von Hesler continued the Wiesbaden company.

The Leipziger Verlag

In the GDR, Insel Verlag Anton Kippenberg was never completely nationalized; individual shares were either state-owned or placed under fiduciary management. Until 1960, the East German publishing house was the company's headquarters, then the West German one. In 1977 the publishing house was merged with the Leipzig publishers Gustav Kiepenheuer , the Dieterich'schen Verlagsbuchhandlung and Paul List Verlag to form the Kiepenheuer publishing group, of which Roland Links was director from 1979 to 1990. In the GDR, the house continued to focus on the humanist legacy, contrary to the government's initial distrust. At first, books by socialist authors also appeared increasingly, but at the end of the 1960s, Kippenberg's program was again in the foreground of the publishing work. Works by writers such as Ricarda Huch , Hugo von Hofmannsthal , Heinrich Boll , Oscar Wilde , Arthur Rimbaud , Paul Verlaine , Christian Morgenstern or Virginia Woolf were in the GDR available long time only on the issues of the island publishing house. In addition, new editions of older German literature and new translations of standard works of world literature were published.

The careful design of the books continued to have top priority for both the Leipzig and Frankfurt buildings. Despite the increasing bottlenecks in material procurement and the uncertain economic situation, the Leipzig productions were mostly able to meet the high standards of the prewar period, although Insel Verlag had to make do with inferior, wood-containing printing papers in some cases. The cooperation with the University of Graphic Art and Book Art in Leipzig and the provision of the museum holdings from Gotha, Dresden and Weimar were of great help here.

The cooperation with the Frankfurt House, which became noticeably more difficult after 1961, was maintained until the reunification of Germany. In 1970 the jointly created bibliography of the entire publishing house production from 1899–1969 was published, another for the Insel-Bücherei followed in 1987.

The West German publishing house

In 1960 the West German branch was designated as the headquarters of the publishing house and the headquarters were moved to Frankfurt am Main. In 1963 it was taken over by Suhrkamp Verlag , to which Insel Verlag still belongs to this day. The Suhrkamp publisher Siegfried Unseld took over the management . The merger with Suhrkamp brought the company a new economic upswing.

The selection of titles followed on from the publisher's original program and so multi-volume classic editions were published by Lessing, Hölderlin, Schiller, Kleist and ETA Hoffmann. Contemporary authors were Reinhold Schneider , Erhart Kästner , Marie Luise Kaschnitz , Hermann Lenz , Mircea Eliade and André Kaminski .

The tradition of facsimile editions could be maintained (Goethe's Das Roman Carneval , the Heidelberg Illuminated Manuscript of the Sachsenspiegel or the Gospel of Heinrich the Lion appeared) and in 1967 the library of German first and early editions began . a. Writings by Schiller, Goethe and Kleist were published in a presentation that is true to the original. In addition to Goethe's work, Rilke's books continued to be a focus of the publishing house. One of the company's main concerns since the mid-sixties has been the publication of biographies, autobiographical texts and correspondence from classical writers.

From 1969, beginning with Walter Schmögner's "Drachenbuch", the "Insel-Bilderbücher" appeared. They were bound in glossy cardboard tape and comprised around 40 pages. Well-known domestic and foreign authors and illustrators, such as James Krüss , Mordillo and Nicola Bayley , were involved in the design of this new type of children's book in Germany. In the 1980s, many titles were included in the "Insel-Taschenbücher" series.

In 1972 a series of paperback books was launched, the Insel-Taschenbücher ( it ), in which, in addition to works by the publisher's in-house authors, books from the ancient world and travel literature were also published. The cover design was done by Willy Fleckhaus . In 1975 the Insel-Almanach (first published in 1906) summarized the last 75 years of publishing work.

Siegfried Unseld founded the Deutsche Klassiker Verlag in 1981 as a subsidiary of Suhrkamp and Insel. Here, too, emphasis was placed on the special design of the books and selected materials were used for the covers and pages. The volumes were available from retailers in six coordinated shades of blue and contained an age-resistant thin printing paper (Persia K) specially developed for the library . Since then, the house has published both classical fiction texts as well as historical, philosophical and political writings.

More than the Leipzig house, Frankfurt also included French, Portuguese, English, Italian and Spanish literature in its publishing program.

If the Insel-Bücherei was once the financial backing of the house, the book series was no longer able to hold its own against cheaper paperback series from other publishers, especially from the 1970s , so that the number of copies was reduced more and more. The series also lost its traditional face due to a cover design that was increasingly similar to that of paperback books. Even the discontinuation of the series was ultimately discussed, since the problem of a series concept that does justice to tradition as well as modern market requirements was not so easy to solve at first. This unfavorable trend in terms of content and form was not stopped until the series' 75th anniversary in 1987.

The series took a clear upswing in the course of German reunification.

The publisher since 1991

After the reunification of Germany, the two publishing houses were merged again. The Insel Verlag then operated under both publishing houses again; legally, however, "Leipzig" was run as a branch.

In 1999 the house celebrated its centenary with numerous events. Siegfried Unseld died three years later, succeeded by Ulla Unseld-Berkéwicz and Philip Roeder.

In 2005 the publishing house of the world religions was founded as a subsidiary of Insel.

The program stayed true to the basic ideas of the previous decades. In addition to 20th century fiction, the house also has a large classic area. In addition, the sections culture and history, non-fiction as well as the category children and adults can be found in the overall directory (see: web links). From 1906 to 2011 - with interruptions in 1920 and from 1942 to 1951 - the annual Insel-Almanach also provided information about the publishing program and the main focus of current edition activities . The series of publications discontinued in 2011 was only continued in the Wiesbaden publishing house after 1945.

Published in Berlin from 2010

On February 6, 2009, the publisher Ulla Unseld-Berkéwicz announced that Suhrkamp Verlag , and with it Insel Verlag , would move to Berlin. At the turn of the year 2009/2010 the publishing house started its activities in Berlin; A branch remained in Frankfurt in which all three foundations of the publisher continue to operate. The historic Nicolaihaus on Brüderstraße in Berlin-Mitte , which was intended as the new publishing house, could not yet be moved into, so the publisher was temporarily located at Pappelallee 78-79 (former seat of the Friedrichshain-Prenzlauer Berg tax office) in Berlin-Prenzlauer Berg had to reside.

Together with Suhrkamp Verlag, Insel Verlag has had its new domicile since the end of August 2019 in a partially publicly accessible new building in the center of Berlin, on the corner of Torstrasse and Rosa-Luxemburg-Platz, with the postal address " Torstrasse 44". The concrete ensemble was designed by the architect Roger Bundschuh, the interior was planned by the Kinzo team.

Book series

  • Insel-Bücherei (since 1912, more than 2,000 volumes)
  • Memoirs and Chronicles (1914–1924)
  • Austrian Library (1915–1917, 26 volumes)
  • The cathedral . Books of German Mystics (1919–1927, 13 volumes; facsimile edition 1980)
  • Original foreign-language series with a few German-language titles ( Orbis literarum ):
    • Bibliotheca Mundi (1920–1923, 14 volumes) - collections of important authors
    • Libri Librorum (1921–1942, 5 volumes) - larger individual works of world literature
    • Pandora series (1920–1921, 52 volumes) - poetry, prose and drama as well as smaller writings on politics, art and culture
  • German Masters (1921–1934) - monographs on German art and artists
  • sammlung insel (1965–1969) - texts from literature and science of the past
  • Usher Library (1969–1975, 26 volumes) - eerie and fantastic literature
  • Fantastic Reality (1971–1975, 15 volumes) - international science fiction
  • Insel paperbacks (since 1972) - brochures with works of all genres and times

Publishing directories and advertising material

Most recent list of available books 2007/2008
Last complete catalog in World War II, Christmas 1940
First general catalog (1913)

Right from the start, Insel Verlag presented its publishing program or special excerpts from it for special topic groups or individual authors in carefully designed advertising materials. These were either to be found in the books themselves as inserts or were made available by the bookstores or the publisher directly on customer request as larger and more extensive compilations. The format accordingly ranges from a simple laundry slip to a stitched brochure in A4 format with black and white illustrations. The latter was used from the mid-1920s, especially for the advertising material traditionally published before Christmas. Due to the war , the use of advertising material initially ended in 1940. That year, for Christmas, the publisher drew attention to its publishing products with a printed book announcement for the last time before the end of the war. Only at the beginning of the 1950s was the tradition of advertising material production resumed in both publishing houses. Due to the market economy conditions, this happened in the Wiesbaden and later Frankfurt publishing houses understandably to a much greater extent than in Leipzig.

In the GDR, under planned trading conditions, Insel Verlag's books were sold without extensive advertising. The so-called washing slips were therefore only available on a larger scale in the 1950s. Nevertheless, in order to continue the publishing tradition and, above all, to be able to address foreign customers, half-yearly and later yearly directories of the Insel publishing program were produced until the reunification. The cover designs of well-known artists, such as Hellmuth Tschörtner , Karl-Georg Hirsch or Heiner Vogel , were often used with sophisticated design .

The tradition established in 1969 of the publication of small half-yearly directories with the new releases of Insel Verlag in leporello form with the publisher's signature and some illustrations was maintained until 2002. From the end of the 1970s, the Frankfurt publishing house built on the large-format advertising brochures known from the pre-war period. They now appeared as multi-colored program announcements printed on art paper in spring and autumn of each year. It was initially 2–4 dozen pages long. In autumn 2010 their name changed - they have now been edited as half-yearly directories. From the second half of 2011 onwards, the volume increased noticeably and has since fluctuated between 80 and 120 pages. In addition, the publishing house produces special advertising material for successful classical and contemporary authors of the publishing program, such as book inserts, advertising brochures, posters or newspapers. This applies e.g. B. to Friedrich Schiller, Hermann Hesse as well as Sigrid Damm and Ralf Rothmann .

Publishing archive

The publishing archive of book production has been located in the German Literature Archive in Marbach since 2010, where it was sold by the publishing house when it moved to Berlin. It consists of the production archives of the main program from 1899 to 2002 and the island library from 1912 to 2002.


  • John D. Brinks: From Ornament to Line. The early Insel-Verlag from 1899 to 1924 . 2 volumes. Triton, Laubach 2000, ISBN 3-935518-00-5 .
  • Bettina Jütte: Publishing licenses in the Soviet zone of occupation (1945–1949) . Walter de Gruyter, Berlin 2010, ISBN 978-3-11-023011-6
  • Heinz Sarkowski: The island publishing house. A bibliography 1899–1969. 2nd Edition. Insel, Frankfurt am Main and Leipzig 1999, ISBN 3-458-15611-9 .
  • Heinz Sarkowski: The Insel-Verlag 1899-1999. The history of the publisher . (Chronicle 1965–1999 by Wolfgang Jeske. Introduced by Siegfried Unseld). Insel, Frankfurt am Main / Leipzig 1999, ISBN 3-458-16985-7 .
  • Christian Wegner (arrangement): Directory of all publications by Insel Verlag 1899–1924 . About 1500 entries. Leipzig 1924.
  • Bernhard Zeller (ed.): The island. An exhibition on the history of the publishing house under Anton and Katharina Kippenberg . Exhibition catalog. German Literature Archive Marbach 1965.
  • 100 years Insel Verlag 1899–1999 . Insel, Frankfurt am Main and Leipzig 1999, ISBN 3-458-34400-4 .

See also

Web links

Wikisource: Insel-Verlag  - Sources and full texts

Individual evidence

  1. Insel Verlag files for bankruptcy . July 1, 2013. Retrieved July 2, 2013.
  2. Compare the cataloging in the DNB .
  3. ↑ In 1980 the edition was reprinted in a facsimile form in 1200 copies in the Frankfurt publishing house.
  4. ^ Insel-Verlag zu Leipzig: Orbis Literarum (publishing house IV 439, approx. 1920)
  5. see holdings of the Insel-Taschenbuch series in the German National Library at
  6. See the article of February 22, 2009 on the planned move to Berlin Suhrkamp publisher Unseld-Berkéwicz "We are planning to move at the turn of the year"
  7. Sandra Kegel: Fasting for Success ( FAZ August 27, 2019 ) and Gerrit Bartels: The Suhrkamp Verlag has arrived in Berlin a second time ( Der Tagesspiegel, August 25, 2019 ) as well as the online presentation Kinzo-Berlin .
  8. ↑ The publisher has no information about the beginning of this unnumbered value of the series; however, editions from 1979 are known.
  9. Compare the holdings of the literature archive ( main program and island library ).

Coordinates: 52 ° 32 ′ 34.8 "  N , 13 ° 24 ′ 50.8"  E