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The Revival of Hebrew Book Art in Weimar Germany – Gil Weissblei

Shortly after the end of WWI, Hebrew cultural activity flourished in Germany, mainly in Berlin. During the 1920s some of the most important artists, scholars and authors of the Jewish world gathered in the German capital, turning it into a center for the development of Hebrew culture, resulting in dozens of publishing companies which in a very short period of time published hundreds of titles, many of which became milestones in the history of the Hebrew book and Hebrew typography.

 Most of the Hebrew book publishers were East European Jews, of Russian-Jewish origin, who during the early 1920s managed to print a large number of bibliophile publications of an extraordinary quality. Those first modern bibliophile Hebrew publications were produced by using the most advanced printing and binding techniques. These books caused a revolution in the Hebrew book world, changing the whole cultural concept of the Hebrew book design and book trade. Many of these books were published simultaneously in Russian and in Hebrew, and some of them had become best known for their influence on the history of Russian bibliophile book art.

 Though the role of Hebrew book publishing as a main factor in the Hebrew cultural revival is well known, very little research exists on this important topic and even less that deals specifically with the history of the Hebrew book in the 20th century and its connection to the Russian culture. Very little was written, if ever, about the collaboration between the Jewish and non-Jewish Russian émigré publishers in Weimar Germany.

 This work plans to concentrate on the fascinating Hebrew-Russian cultural universe that existed for only a few years in Berlin, during the great inflation of the 1920s The impressive range of leading Jewish cultural figures, such as Bialik, Dubnow, Tchernicowsky, L. Pasternak and many others, who lived and worked in Berlin at that time presents some engaging paradoxes: on the one hand they maintained a deep obligation to the importance of Hebrew culture, yet they communicated in Russian; They managed to become citizens of three capital cities at the same place and time: The capital of Hebrew culture, of “Russia Abroad” and of the Weimar republic.

 This research is supervised by Prof. Richard I. Cohen.

 Gil Weissblei – PhD student (approved research program) at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, The Mandel Institute of Jewish Studies. Chief curator of the Haim Hazaz Memorial Foundation historical archive and archivist at the National Library of Israel.