Leipziger Messscenen. Erstes (-Zweites, -Drittes) Heft.
Leipziger Messscenen. Erstes (-Zweites, -Drittes) Heft.
Leipziger Messscenen. Erstes (-Zweites, -Drittes) Heft.

Leipziger Messscenen. Erstes (-Zweites, -Drittes) Heft. Leipzig: E. Z. Steinacker, 1804-1805.

3 parts, small oblong 4to (178 x 219 mm.). 20; 18; “19” (recte 20) pp. Each part with half-title only, titles supplied on the wrappers. 12 plates of oval hand-colored tinted aquatints by Geissler. Occasional light foxing to text. Publisher’s original pale green printed wrappers (some wear and creasing, sewing loose in part 1). ***

Only Edition of a high spot of nineteenth-century German book illustration, a fine copy in the original wrappers. In impressionistic prose an anonymous author delivers a dozen diverting vignettes of salesmen and their customers at the annual Leipzig trade fair, weaving stories around Geissler’s masterly hand-colored aquatints. This delightlful and rare suite was issued in parts, published to coincide with the two 1804 Leipzig fairs, at Easter and Michaelmas, and the 1805 Easter fair. Together Geissler’s aquatints and the text portray fortunetellers, a peep show and its barker, performing jugglers and musicians, Russian dancers, Transylvanian and Greek traders in their native dress, shoemakers, Jewish clothing vendors, processions of horses for sale, horsetrading, and peddlers and fraudsters of every ilk. One of the oldest trade fairs in Europe, by the eighteenth century the Leipzig fair had become the main venue for trade with Eastern Europe, a perfect artistic subject for Geissler, who had spent most of his twenties traveling through Russia and the Ukraine.

Geissler’s first subject (part 1, Scene 1) is a second-hand bookseller. Surrounded by trunks of dusty books and pictures, this poorly dressed oddball is a master of patter. His efforts to sell two popular 17th-century prayerbooks (Arndt’s Paradies-Gärtlein, and Michael Cubach’s Gebetbuch) to a couple of wary customers is rendered verbatim. Other than the fact that the books are recommended for their usefulness, the tactics of persuasion have not changed in two centuries. Meanwhile, in the background two street urchins (”two sons of the Vorstadt [poorer outlying areas of town], from the Order of the Barefoot”) steal a defective copy of a red-bound issue of the Taschenbuch, “wishing to return it to precisely the place mentioned in the title”(pocket). A poor celibate book collector arrives; he is given credit. The inimitable scene is completed by two more characters, a French emigré (hoping to find a “La Fontainesque novel” for a few pennies) and a poet for hire, shown from the back in the aquatint, whose tragi-comic portraits are gleaned from their clothing, hairstyles, and gestures, as rendered by Geissler. Illustrations and text complement each other seamlessly.

Equally astute and more moving are the portraits of Russians and Eastern Europeans, who appear in five scenes. In the final chapter in part 2, the writer – an “unnamed Leipzig man of letters, a friend of Geissler’s who worked for a Modemagazin [fashion magazine], probably Baumgartner’s” (Wustmann, p. 23) – quotes his companion Geissler’s comments on the wild Russian dancing and singing of the last night of the fair, in a moving paean to Slavic soulfullness (sharply contrasted with Germanic stiffness).

The son of a Leipzig goldsmith and mineral dealer, Geissler had trained at the Art Academy there, though his major influence was the illustrator Johann Salomo Richter, from whom he learned the taste for hand-colored aquatint portraits of the common people and genre scenes of everyday life. Geissler spent 1790 to 1798 in Russia, serving as the expedition artist with the German scientist Peter Simon Pallas on his travels in the Caucasus and southern Russia. On his return to Leipzig Geissler published the Pallas works as well as his own illustrated accounts of Russian customs and costumes. Creatively gifted, Geissler was also skilled at marketing his works. He established close relations with Leipzig publishers, for whom he produced numerous children’s books. The present “Scenes from the Leipzig Fair” is considered his most important and characteristic achievement of the period between his return from Russia and the Napoleonic wars. He later produced illustrated reportages of the Battle of the Nations (Völkerschlacht) in Leipzig, and individual war images for newspapers, almanacs, and even peep shows.

OCLC lists copies at Brown, Rice University, and University of Wisconsin. Lipperheide 828 (DfG 5); G. Wustmann, C. G. H. Geissler, der Zeichner der Völkerschlacht (Leipzig 1912), pp. 23-24 and 115, note 24;; Rümann, Die illustrierten deutschen Bücher des 19. Jahrhunderts (1926), 504; Thieme Becker 13:351-2. Item #2612

Price: $9,500.00