Die schönsten deutschen Bücher 2014
The Most Beautiful German Books 2014


2013. Anniversaries are often that time in a well-known person’s afterlife when he or she is finally casted in bronze, put on the shelf—and left there to gather dust. To prevent Georg Büchner from this destiny we created a book concept for Mathildenhöhe Darmstadt’s director Dr. Ralf Beil that allows readers to experience the view on the world of a man “out of time”—born too late for the French revolution and deceased too early for the German uproar of 1848.

Barbe Bleue, Bulldog, Bulldog Hunter

240 mm × 305 mm

612 pages


German edition

Published by Hatje Cantz


To reduce Büchner to a mere young social rebel would be far too short, the revolutionary essence of his works and thoughts lies in questioning the principles of life itself: “What is it in us that whores, lies, steals, and murders?” (Danton’s Death). This irrepressible thirst for knowledge, this impetus to turn everything upside down pushing forward to the very heart of it all is corresponded by the book’s basic principle of “revolution”. Taking the word literally as something rotating around its axis, the texts of the book lead righthandside in one way, while the images are revolved, and the other way round.

Intertitles with Büchner quotes at the beginning of each chapter function as a kind of junction, where you can possibly switch the book’s direction. The quotes we designed individually, using the scalpel-like forms of an alphabet we finally named Barbe Bleue. This is also a reference to the book’s leading color, blue, which, since it’s reinterpretation during the French revolution, is also seen as the color of liberté (freedom).

The visual dramaturgy and the composition of image details as well as the nesting of texts operate in analogy to Büchner’s use of cut-up methods, long before the term was coined. And, of course, there are typographical transcriptions of original Büchner manuscripts (thanks to the University of Marburg), the Lenz tunnel pages visualising all the voices in his head, and, last but not least, most of the miraculous exhibition pieces from Mathildenhöhe Darmstadt’s show to experience Büchner’s world by Büchner’s senses.

“... in Darmstadt a significant anniversary exhibition opens, accompanied by an artistical catalog of 600 pages; both are displaying Büchner for all senses: seeing, hearing, feeling.”
DIE ZEIT, Elisabeth von Thadden,
October 10, 2013

“Accompanying the exhibition the responsible Institute Mathildenhöhe Darmstadt published a gorgeous catalog, a stroke of genius on its own . . . Büchner's life and work are narrated artfully, elegant and vividly on the basis of architectural models, manuscripts, anatomical paintings, preparations, physical and optical instruments, as well as movie stills, ennobling the 612 pages strong volume “Georg Büchner—Revolutionary With Pen and scalpel” (Hatje Cantz Verlag, 65 Euros) to one of the most beautiful art books of the year, also providing plenty of reading material, with numerous texts of literary prominent figures such as Johann Wolfgang Goethe, Wilhelm Grimm, Hans Magnus Enzensberger, Durs Grünbein, Robert Musil, Elfriede Jelinek and Elias Canetti.”
Offenbach-Post, Christian Riethmüller,
December 21, 2013

Many thanks to Rainer Metzger (artmagazine.cc), who named “Georg Büchner” as one of his five books of the year 2013.