Small 4°:  title page, 79 pp. with illustrated title page with colour initials; 3 colour initials and 5 vignettes within text, 8 colour illustrations interleaved through text done by a pierced silk paper technique, original grey silk binding with colour illustrated cover, endpapers with illustrations in green (pages with minor age-toning, endpapers with light foxing, binding age-toned with light water-staining around the spine, spine with tears in joints and small pieces of silk missing).
This beautifully produced book of children’s stories was made in the press shop run by German internees at the Bando POW Camp, Japan, during World War I. The book includes three stories: 1. ‘Hans Wunderlich im Schützengraben’ [Hans Wunderlich in a Trench]; 2. ‘Der Glückstaler’ [The Chinese Money Plant]; and 3. ‘Die Sprechende Nactigall!’ [The Talking Nightingale!]. The entertaining stories are admittedly a touch harsh by today’s sensibilities, as they were inspired by the ongoing war.
The stories are illustrated with magnificent colour images done on silk paper, executed by a unique technique developed at the Bando Camp. The endpapers feature Art Nouveau designs of green salamanders and mushrooms. As there were no children resident at the Bando Camp, Drei Marchen was specifically made to be sent home to be read by children in Germany. It would have been a touching and reassuring gesture to receive such a lovely book from a relative in the camp so far away. The books were probably also sold in Germany, as the Bando POW camp was known for its especially fine printing technique in Europe and the prisoners were allowed to trade with the outside world.
The present 1918 issue is the second (of 2) editions of the book. The first edition was issued in 1917 and is extremely rare, seemingly produced in only a very small print run (The first edition is recorded in 2 German institutions, plus an example at the Princeton University Library). The first edition was met with great favour, resulting in the second edition being produced in a larger print run. It is mentioned that 1,500 to 1,600 examples of the 1918 edition were printed; however, this is likely a joke, or a gross exaggeration, as the printing technique employed could generally not produce more than a few hundred copies. Moreover, the rarity of the 1918 edition today suggests that is was made in a much small print run than these stated figures.
The Extraordinary Printing of the Bando Press
Some of the most unique, beautifully designed and technically innovative printing made anywhere during the early 20th Century was created within the Bando Camp, at the ‘Lagerdruckerei’. The camp fostered a unique environment which saw the synergy of the German apprenticeship system with Asian printing techniques and materials.
The printers at the Bando camp created a press shop with the blessing and active support of Toyohisa Matsue. It helped that the camp included 10 inmates who were professionals in publishing and the book trade.
Printing at Bando played major role in the daily life of the camp, as the press shop was very prolific, responsible for 50 separate titles (out of the total of 70 titles produced by all World War I POW camps in Japan). The range of publications was diverse, including newspapers, magazines, short novels, language books, economic tracts, as well as posters, flyers and invitations. Many of the books were sold outside the camp, with some even exported abroad. In the first year of its operation, the Bando press used 350,000 sheets of paper, in the second year 550,000 (an average of 1,500 sheets per day, or around 550 sheets per camp inmate!).
The works of the Bando Press gained the attention of fine printing aficionados the world over, and many titles were ordered from abroad. These sales were encouraged by Toyohisa Matsue, who was proud of his camp’s products. Indeed, one of the Bando printers recalls receiving numerous letters from abroad (including a note from Frankfurt in a Red Cross box) that opined, that of all the contemporary presses across the globe, Bando was the best!
The colour printing technique employed by the Bando Press is highly unusual, and this has led many to erroneously describe it as some form of lithography. In truth, the Bando printers devised their own ingenious and gorgeous, yet labour intensive, technique that was a unique melding of German and Asian printing techniques and materials. It seems that while the technique was devised at Bando, the German printers likely benefited from having had some acquaintance with Asian papers and inks from their time in Qingdao.
In the April 1919 edition of the camp’s magazine Die Baracke , the Bando printer K. Fischer explains how the press’s colour printing technique was executed. He was eager to record this unique method for posterity, as Bando was shortly to be closed and the prisoners repatriated to Germany. He recalls how many of his compatriots entered the press shop in its final days, referring to his printing equipment, asking him how he expected to get “all this stuff” home? Fischer was also quite annoyed that many ignorant people referred to the Bando technique as chromolithography. He eloquently called their printing technique “a child of a prison of war” (“ein Kind der Kriegsgefangenschaft”), a procedure which could only be invented in the extremely unusual circumstances of the Bando Camp.
Fischer describes the colour printing technique in exacting detail, such that it could conceivably be revived today by a highly skilled professional. While he never used the term, the technique could perhaps be described as ‘pierced silk paper colour printing’.
First, the text or drawing was to be impressed upon a sheet of silk paper, that was first coated in a waterproof film, or layer, by making microscopic, strategically placed superficial perforations with a steel pin, in a stipple-like manner. The colour was then applied on the verso of the paper, before being impressed with a custom made press. The colour then bled out through the tiny holes on the front, leaving impressions on the white paper.
As the different pigments of colour possessed variable structures, they had to be applied separately in different stages: first yellow, then blue, purple, green and black. Each individual sheet of paper had to be run through the press on multiple occasions, each time to add a single colour via a signature impression from a different stencil through the silk paper.
(Please see our catalogue Far from Home, pp. 37ff. for more details)
References: OCLC: 245852679.