The German Museum of Books and Writing of the German National Library is dedicating an exhibition to the achievements of the publisher Anton Philipp Reclam (1807-1896), in celebration of the 150th anniversary of the launch of the first Reclam Universal-Bibliothek (RUB) issue.
The oldest surviving German-language paperback series – still one of the publisher's brands – promised to "release all classic works of our literature" at a low price. Even today, the Universal Library series, founded in Leipzig, is considered the centrepiece of the Reclam publishing house. The low prices in combination with large print runs resulted in very wide distribution for the works and stood for the modern idea of offering "literature for all".
Politically influenced by the Age of Metternich, Reclam combined the educational tradition from the time of Goethe with an entrepreneurial publishing spirit. Anton Philipp Reclam took advantage of the revision of the copyright law from 1837 with the aim of keeping texts, once printed, available at permanently low prices: the Federal Assembly of the German Confederation had limited authors' rights to 30 years after their death. Their texts could therefore be reprinted from 9 November 1867 as public domain works; the law freed the publisher from the requirement to remunerate the authors. The first volume in the Reclam Universal Bibliothek (RUB) was sold on the very day on which the Act came into force.
At a time when copyright and exploitation rights have become an important subject of cultural discourse, it is instructive to consider the history of copyright law.
On the basis of selected exhibits, mainly from the collection of PD Dr. Hans-Jochen Marquardt, Halle, the exhibition highlights a handful of aspects, concentrating in particular on the book production in Leipzig. Starting from the "classic" year of 1867, the main focuses are on the design, technical production and innovative marketing techniques of the series.
The exhibition also explores the role which the Reclam Universal Library played in war time, including serviceman libraries and disguised publications. In addition, the gallery exhibition features Reclam's famous book vending machines, gives an impression of the thematic profile of the Universal-Bibliothek in the GDR, and shows how the publisher celebrated its numerous anniversaries.