Skip to main content

Judging a book by its cover

Illustrated book covers from the Weimar Era at the LBI library

In the early 20th century, book culture thrived in Germany. Emerging from the horrors of World War I, German speaking countries were fertile ground for writers, poets, and artists. Higher literacy rates from the emerging middle-class also meant more readers seeking information and entertainment. Improved printing technologies led to less expensive methods for mass producing books.

With more books on the market than ever before, publishers sought new ways for their books to stand out from the crowd (and thereby, to sell more copies). Publishers often hired artists to illustrate book covers or dust jackets, often intending the front of the book to be as eye-catching and appealing as "small posters". Book design in Germany came to reflect the greater artistic styles and culture of the vibrant Weimar era, featuring images inspired by Expressionism, the Bauhaus school, and Dada.

The Leo Baeck Institute library has a large collection of early edition German language literature from the Weimar era. This is a showcase of just a small sampling of books with striking cover illustrations, ranging from colorful to charming to creepy, from LBI’s collection.

Kafka, Franz. Die Verwandlung. Leipzig : Kurt Wolff Verlag ,[1916]. Cover illustration by Ottomar Starke. LBI Library, r 49.
Doeblin_PT 2607 O_35 R47
Döblin, Alfred. Reise in Polen. Berlin: S. Fischer, 1926. Cover illustration by unknown artist. LBI Library, PT 2607 O_35 R47.
Berend_PT 2603 E58 B7 1925
Berend, Alice. Die Bräutigame der Babette Bomberling; Roman. 7-11. Aufl. Berlin: S. Fischer, 1925. Illustrated by Karl Arnold. LBI Library, PT 2603 E58 B7 1925.
Jacob_PT 2619 A2 L4
Jacob, Heinrich Eduard. Das Leichenbegängnis der Gemma Ebria. Berlin: E. Reiss, 1912. Cover illustration by unknown artist. LBI Library, PT 2619 A2 L4.
Mynona_PT 2611 R65 M47
Mynona [pseud. of Salomo Friedlaender]. Mein Papa und die Jungfrau von Orleans, nebst anderen Grotesken. München: K. Wolff, 1921. Illustrated by Emil Preetorius. LBI Library, PT 2611 R65 M47.
Wolf_PT 2647 O_56 K7
Wolf, Friedrich. ... Kreatur, Roman der Zeit. Berlin: J. H. W. Dietz Nachfolger, 1926. Cover illustration by Will Faber. LBI Library, PT 2647 O_56 K7.
Ettlinger_PT 2609 T85 G73 1915
Ettlinger, Karl. Grandebouche und Lausikoff; Kriegsberichte. München: G. Müller, 1915. Cover illustration by Emil Preetorius. LBI Library, PT 2609 T85 G73 1915.
Moszkowski_PT 2625 O_62 F76
Moszkowski, Alexander. Fröhlicher Jammer: Zerrbilder und Schelmenstücke, ein Vortrags-Brevier. Berlin: Eysler, 1922. Cover illustration by Thér. LBI Library, PT 2625 O_62 F76
Rheinsberg_PT 2642 U38 R45
Tucholsky, Kurt. Rheinsberg : ein Bilderbuch für Verliebte. Berlin: Axel Junker Verlag, 1928. Illustrations by Kurt Szafranski. LBI Library, PT 2642 U38 R45.
Landsberger_PT 2623 A4 B28
Landsberger, Artur. Bankhaus Reichenbach; Roman. München: G. Müller, 1928. Cover illustration by Berz. LBI Library, PT 2623 A4 B28.
Kubin_r (f) 24
Kubin, Alfred. Die Blätter mit dem Tod / Totentanz. Berlin: bei Bruno Cassirer, 1918. Cover illustration by Alfred Kubin. LBI Library, r (f) 24.
Kisch_PT 2621 I_87 M3
Kisch, Egon Erwin. Der Mädchenhirt. Berlin: E. Reiss, 1914. Cover illustration by Gino von Finetti. LBI Library, PT 2621 I_87 M3.
Lasker-Schueler_PT 2623 A8 A5 1920
Lasker-Schüler, Else. Die gesammelten Gedichte. 2. Aufl. Leipzig: K. Wolff, 1920. Cover illustration by Else Lasker-Schüler. LBI Library, PT 2623 A8 A5 1920.
Elkan, Adele. Ein Prachtkerl: Erzählung für junge Mädchen. Berlin: Meidingers Jugendschriften-Verlag, [1929]. Illustrated by Kurt Lange. LBI Library, st 14751 Asper v. 1.
Brod_PT 2603 R68 A75
Brod, Max. Arnold Beer; das Schicksal eines Juden. Berlin : A. Junker, 1912. Cover illustration by Kurt Szafranski. LBI Library, PT 2603 R68 A75.
Roda_PT 2635 O_24 A15
Roda Roda [pseud. Sandor Friedrich Rosenfeld]. Roda Rodas Roman. München: Drei Masken, 1925. Cover illustration by Andreas Szenes. LBI Library, PT 2635 O_24 A15.
Meyrink_PT 2625 E92 L6
Meyrink, Gustav. Der Löwe Alois und andere Geschichten. Dachau: Einhorn-Verlag, 1920s. Cover illustration by Carl Olaf Petersen. LBI Library, PT 2625 E92 L6.
Roth_PT 2635 O_84 R4
Roth, Joseph. Die Rebellion. Berlin: Die Schmiede, 1924. Cover illustration by George G. Kobbe. LBI Library, PT 2635 O_84 R4.
birnbaum_NC 1509 B57 S33
Birnbaum, Uriel. Der Seelen-Spiegel; hundertundzwanzig Grotesken. Leipzig: Thyrsos-Verlag, 1924. Cover illustration by Uriel Birnbaum. LBI Library, NC 1509 B57 S33.
Wassermann_PT 2647 A92 A8
Wassermann, Jakob. Der Aufruhr und den Junker Ernst. Berlin: S. Fischer, 1926. Cover ill. by Rolf v. Hoerschelmann. LBI Library, PT 2647 A92 A8.
Werfel_PT 2647 E77 W44
Werfel, Franz. Der Weltfreund; Gedichte. Berlin-Charlottenburg: Axel Juncker-Verlag, 1911. Illustration by Kurt Szafranski. LBI Library, PT 2647 E77 W44.