Publishing house Klaus Wagenbach

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The publisher Klaus Wagenbach in 1964 by Klaus Wagenbach founded, now employs 12 people and publishes about 60 books a year. The seat is in Berlin . The turnover of the medium-sized publishing company is around 2 million euros. A literary focus of the Klaus Wagenbach publishing house is Italy .

Publishing history

Founding of the publishing house

The founder of the publishing house redeemed the start-up capital for founding the publishing house in the amount of 100,000  DM from the sale of a meadow that his father had given him, as well as some movable goods from his household and the income from his second book Franz Kafka in self-testimonials and photo documents . However, the start-up capital only covered the pure production costs of the first eleven books and the small publishing almanac - rent and salaries, sales and agency costs were not yet planned for. At the beginning the general principles of the own publishing work were defined together with authors such as Günter Grass , Ingeborg Bachmann , Hans Werner Richter and Johannes Bobrowski :

  • The work of the publisher does not serve the profit, but follows the content intentions.
  • All authors are granted the highest level of equal fees and protection against abuse of their rights, as well as a maximum of self-realization, participation and information.
  • The books must not be overpriced.
  • Readers should be informed not only through texts about the books, but also through excerpts from the books, with a free annual onion almanac . Absolutely necessary savings measures, due to the BGH ruling on the distribution by VG Wort to the publishers in 2016, however, led to the onion being discontinued . The Wagenbach managing director Susanne Schüssler described the court's decision in this context as "catastrophic".

1965 to 1970

Klaus Wagenbach-Verlag tried from the start to create eye-catching formats and designs for the books. The first works published in 1965 were kept in strict black and appeared in quarto format , which earned them their series title Quarthefte . Starting with memories of Kurt Wolff , this series published texts by unknown authors such as Christoph Meckel and Johannes Bobrowski and by well-known authors such as Ingeborg Bachmann, Günter Grass and Hans Werner Richter, who each contributed a book to the project of this publisher. Due to the series format, unknown authors at the time were also ordered by booksellers in order to keep the series complete. From the beginning, Klaus Wagenbach did not want to accept a split in literature in West and East Germany and so published Stephan Hermlin , who was boycotted in the West, and Wolf Biermann, who was boycotted in the East . Biermann's ballads , to which Wagenbach gave the title Die Drahtharfe , ensured that the publisher lost all promised licenses from the GDR and that Klaus Wagenbach was banned from entering the GDR , and later even from traveling through the GDR until 1973, so that he only went with Berlin could leave the plane. Furthermore, all "plans for an east-west publishing house" had failed. The first seat of the publishing house was in Jenaer Strasse in Berlin-Wilmersdorf.

Also in 1965 appeared the first anthology with Atlas, compiled by German authors ; a genre that the publisher always cultivated.

In 1966 Klaus Wagenbach met Erich Fried , whose volume of poetry Und Vietnam and he published in the same year. The great success for Erich Fried did not come until 1979 with the publication of his 17th book, the love poems , which are still one of the most successful books of the publishing house and have been sold over 250,000 times. Klaus Wagenbach and Erich Fried remained friends until Fried's death in 1988.

In the autumn of 1967 the first "Quartplatte" (8 authors read from their quarto notebooks) appeared, which went into series production in 1968 due to broader interest. In the same year u. a. published the spoken poems by Ernst Jandl as "Quartplatte", which Wagenbach had got to know at an author reading .

The reader was also published in 1968 . German literature of the sixties years (one according to publisher nonconformist alternative to the usual German textbook and still one of the most successful books of the publishing house) and the first squid (a yearbook for literature).

The Rotbuch series was also founded in 1968. The red books were an exclusively New Left and the extra-parliamentary opposition ( APO ) dedicated book series , which was a political-theoretical supplement fictional literature.

In 1969 the publishing house began with the complete edition of the Shakespeare translations by Erich Fried, which was rejected by various other publishers . From the summer of 1970 the quarterly Kursbuch was published by the Klaus Wagenbach publishing house and continued to be published by Hans Magnus Enzensberger , as the Suhrkamp publishing house had refused to continue the magazine for political reasons. To ensure independence, a “Kursbuch GmbH” was founded.

Collective publishing constitution

At the end of 1969, Klaus Wagenbach initiated the experiment of collective and solidary publishing work. This included that the publishing house was one of the first in the Federal Republic of Germany to receive a statute that clearly regulated the rights and obligations of all employees - including the owner. In its main points, it provided for extensive co-determination of the publishing house members in all economic processes, the same salary for all employees and regular discussions of all important matters. In this publishing constitution, editing was expressly excluded from collectivization and was given an autonomous constitution. Manuscripts were edited three times (i.e. by all three editors) and only published if they were unanimous . In 1971 Klaus Wagenbach transformed his publishing house into a GmbH with 2 shareholders, giving the collective half of his shares in the publishing house.

1970 to 1984

In 1972 there were violent disputes about the autonomous editing constitution. Klaus Wagenbach thought decisions about manuscripts could not be collectivized and, moreover, had only consented to the collectivization of his publishing house under the condition of the editing autonomy. On May 13, 1973, a general assembly took place in the presence of the authors, at which, after almost 10 hours of discussion, some authors proposed splitting the publishing house and all but three decided on a new publishing house, Klaus Wagenbach. Klaus Wagenbach left with his wife Katharina Wagenbach-Wolff and Wolfgang Dreßen with great financial losses from the publishing collective and the “Kursbuch-GmbH” and also lost the series title Rotbücher and the name of the publishing almanac Das Schwarze Brett . The Rotbuch Verlag was created on the one hand , and the Klaus Wagenbach publishing house on the other. In 1971 Klaus Wagenbach lost a lawsuit over Bambule , the text of a television play by Ulrike Meinhof . In the same year the collective published a manifesto of the RAF entitled “On the armed struggle in Western Europe” in the Rotbuch series , which together with the “Red Calendar for Schoolchildren and Apprentices, 1972” prompted the Berlin public prosecutor's office to search the publisher's house and to confiscate both publications both in the publishing house and in the bookstores, since these writings contained calls for violence and criminal association as well as incitement to damage to property. Complaints followed, among other things, because of the "Red Calendar 1973", in which Klaus Wagenbach called the shooting of two students by the police as a "murder", which earned him a complaint for insult. He was acquitted in the first instance, but lost after the police chief revision lodged, and was sentenced to a fine of 1,800 DM and DM 20,000 court costs. Klaus Wagenbach lost each of his four processes between 1974 and 75. He was sentenced to fines and a prison sentence of nine months on probation convicted.

In 1975 Wagenbach changed the publishing concept: the new book series Wagenbachs Taschenbücherei (WAT) contained literary and political texts of the respective time against the general trend. This series was given the motto : “Let's instigate thinking and mood instead of dictating. And shake your head, that means loosen up. " The publisher began to change its focus so that it increasingly published Italian literature .

In 1979, Klaus Wagenbach received his first public recognition: The "Association of German Critics" awarded him the " Critics' Prize 1979 for Literature " for the anthology Vaterland, Muttersprach - German Writers and their State .

Due to the dwindling interest of readers in political literature, the publisher gave up the Politics book series in 1981 , but tied its most important books and integrated them into the pocket library and into the 1981 general program . This general program / series of non-fiction books exists to this day and combines extensive academic texts and large-format books that correspond to the intentions of the publisher: i.e. art and social history , philosophy and political-analytical books with a left, emancipatory character that other publishers had rejected.

In 1984, to mark the 20th anniversary of the publishing house, the Fintentisch was published, an extensive almanac on the history of the publishing house with selected poems and texts from publications from previous years.

In the 1970s, Wagenbach published other sound recordings of Ernst Jandl's poems , which hardly have any effect in print.

1985 to 2002

In 1987 the publishing house founded the SALTO series , the books of which are produced according to traditional craftsmanship and bound in bright red linen , thus presenting texts from contemporary literature in a classic, traditional form. (e.g. authors such as Erich Fried , Carlo Emilio Gadda , Djuna Barnes , Virginia Woolf ) The SALTO series was a complete success, also in the area of ​​gift books. In 1988, Klaus Wagenbach founded the Kleine Kulturwissenschaftliche Bibliothek series , which mainly contains scientific essays. In 1989, for the 25th anniversary of the publishing house, the almanac Das schwarz Brett , based on the fint table, was published.

In 1990 Klaus Wagenbach received the “Il Premio Nazionale per la Traduzione” prize from the Roman Ministry of Cultural Property, endowed with 33,000 DM (approx. 17,000 EUR), for the dissemination of Italian literature in the German-speaking area. 1993 began the most extensive project of the publishing house: The publication of the complete works of Erich Fried with partly previously unpublished texts by the poet. In 1997 the paperbacks were redesigned, and in 1998 the CD / MC series Wagenbach's reading ear was founded.

In 2002 Klaus Wagenbach handed over the management of his publishing house to his wife Susanne Schüssler . Wagenbach is still active in the publishing house as an editor and consultant and is part of the management with his daughter Nina Wagenbach, who heads sales.

Since 2002

In 2004 the first volumes of the famous Vite , with which Giorgio Vasari founded European art history in the middle of the 16th century, appeared. The Giorgio Vasari edition with 45 volumes is being edited by the Art History Institute in Florence .

The literature program is internationalized with discoveries from Italian, Spanish, French and English-speaking countries, and more and more often from overseas and Africa. The SALTO series celebrated its 20th birthday in 2007: with 1.4 million copies sold, 150 published and 105 of them still available, the red linen volumes have long become the publisher's trademark.

After 25 years, Susanne Schüssler and the political scientist Patrizia Nanz are reviving the Politics at Wagenbach 2008 series : opinionated books for a culture of interference and democratic debate.

In the same year the publisher published a bestseller for the first time with The Sovereign Reader by Alan Bennett , 230,000 copies were sold in the first six months alone. In 2010 the magnum opus Vittorio Magnago Lampugnanis Die Stadt im 20. Century came out with 960 pages and 640 illustrations (most of them in color). German-speaking authors such as Milena Michiko Flašar and Katharina Mevissen are also appearing more and more .

The publisher's authors have received numerous awards, including Daniel Alarcón with the International Literature Prize , Horst Bredekamp with the Max Planck Research Prize and the Aby M. Warburg Prize , Milena Michiko Flašar with the Alpha Literature Prize , Sergio Pitol with the Cervantes , Tiziano Scarpa with the Premio Strega , Klaus Wagenbach with the Austrian Tolerance Prize and Victor Zaslavsky with the Hannah Arendt Prize.

In 2014 the publishing house celebrates its 50th birthday with many new authors and books as well as a big party in the Maxim-Gorki-Theater in Berlin. A quarto booklet with the title Literally Wagenbach brings a review of the publisher and many of its authors. From May to July 2014 an exhibition about the publisher took place in the State Library of Prussian Cultural Heritage in Berlin, further stations of this exhibition were the Haus des Buches in Leipzig and the Literaturhaus Stuttgart .

Susanne Schüssler has been the publisher's sole shareholder since 2015. In 2018 the publishing house received the Berlin publishing award, endowed with 35,000 euros, as a "landmark of the Berlin publishing and cultural scene". In addition, the novel All but Me by the Italian author Francesca Melandri was on the Spiegel bestseller list for weeks. In the same year, Susanne Schüssler was voted Publisher of the Year by BuchMarkt. In 2019 he received the German Publishing Prize .


  • Klaus Wagenbach: The publishing house Klaus Wagenbach. How I got in and what it looked like between 1965 and 1980. In: Rita Galli (Ed.): Of all books. Thirty-one publishing self-portraits. Ch. Links Verlag , Berlin 1998, ISBN 3-86153-167-4 , pp. 96-105,



  • Klaus Wagenbach (ed.): Fintentisch: an almanac. Wagenbach, Berlin 1984, ISBN 3-8031-3011-5 .
  • Klaus Wagenbach (Ed.): The black board. A reader with stories, pictures and poems from 25 years. Almanac for the 25th anniversary of the publishing house, Berlin 1989, ISBN 3-8031-3548-6 .
  • Klaus Wagenbach (Ed.): Why books? How and with what intentions do you survive good books, room fires and the German environment? Or: instigate thought and mood! Almanac for the 30th anniversary of the publishing house, Wagenbach, Berlin 1994, ISBN 3-8031-3576-1 .
  • Klaus Wagenbach (Ed.): Why so embarrassed? About the love of books and their future. Almanac for the 40th anniversary of the publishing house, Wagenbach, Berlin 2004, ISBN 3-8031-2487-5 .
  • Peter Laudenbach: More liberal than the police allow . In: brand eins , 2010, No. 9.
  • Susanne Schüssler (ed.); Klaus Wagenbach: The freedom of the publisher. Memories, speeches, swipes. Wagenbach, Berlin 2010, ISBN 978-3-8031-3632-9 .
  • Susanne Schüssler, Klaus Wagenbach (Ed.): Literally Wagenbach. 50 years: The independent publisher for wild readers. Wagenbach, Berlin 2014, ISBN 978-3-8031-3650-3 .

Web links

Individual evidence

  1. ^ Onion - Verlag Klaus Wagenbach. Retrieved January 8, 2020 .
  2. ^ The address is given in The Bulletin Board , 1, 1965
  3. the almanac appeared under this name between 1965 and 1972, see the entry under DNB 012617741 in the German National Library
  4. Holger Heimann : Against the slanderer of the book. In: Börsenblatt des Deutschen Buchhandels , June 30, 2014.
  5. ^ Arno Widmann : Wagenbach anniversary. Small publisher, but not a small publisher. In: Frankfurter Rundschau , March 18, 2014.
  6. Exhibition information : 50 Years of Verlag Klaus Wagenbach. The independent publisher for wild readers. An exhibition by the Klaus Wagenbach publishing house together with the Berlin State Library ( Memento from May 1, 2015 in the Internet Archive ) Report on the exhibition: Kathleen Hildebrand: When the book was still a brass knuckles: The Berlin State Library shows finds from the history of the Wagenbach Publisher . In: Süddeutsche Zeitung , May 31 / June 1, 2014, p. 17
  7. Information on the exhibition in Stuttgart
  8. ^ Berlin publishing price . In: Berlin Publishing Prize . ( [accessed November 25, 2018]).
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Coordinates: 52 ° 29 ′ 50.28 "  N , 13 ° 19 ′ 10.92"  E