From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to navigation Jump to search
Reclam Universal-Bibliothek edition of Henrik Ibsen's Peer Gynt

Reclam Verlag or just Reclam is a German publishing house, established in Leipzig in 1828 by Anton Philipp Reclam (1807–1896). It is particularly known for the "little yellow books" of its Universal-Bibliothek ("universal library"), simple paperback editions of literary classics for school and education.


In 1802 Charles Henri Reclam (1776–1844), whose family originated from Savoy, had moved to Leipzig where he established a bookselling business. His son Anton Philipp completed his apprenticeship as a book printer and bookseller and borrowed money to purchase the Literarisches Museum, a lending library in Leipzig's inner city. During the Restoration period and under the terms of the Carlsbad Decrees, it quickly evolved to a centre of intellectual and literary circles of the pre-revolutionary Vormärz era.

Literarisches Museum bookshop in Leipzig, c. 1830

On 1 October 1828 Anton Philipp Reclam founded his own publishing house, first named Verlag des literarischen Museums. When he sold the library in 1837, the company was renamed Philipp Reclam jun. Two years later, he also acquired a Leipzig print shop and became able to market his publishing programme in large numbers. However, the democratic tendencies earned him a sales ban in the lands of the Austrian Empire and a prison sentence by a Leipzig court for publishing a German translation of Thomas Paine's The Age of Reason (Das Zeitalter der Vernunft).

After the German revolutions of 1848–49 had ultimatively failed, Reclam changed his policies and concentrated on the mass distribution of literary classics. From 1858 to 1865 he edited the complete works of William Shakespeare. When according to an 1856 resolution of the German Federal Convention the literary works of numerous German authors was declared public domain (gemeinfrei) in 1867, Reclam started his Universal-Bibliothek with Goethe's Faust I, followed by Faust II, Lessing's Nathan the Wise and numerous other plays and novels, predominantly of the Weimar Classicist period.

Made accessible in affordable separate paperback editions, the issues of the Universal-Bibliothek gave a wide range of literary texts the widest possible publicity. Thereby, Reclam contributed significantly to popular education and promotion of the Classicist cultural heritage. Beside German authors, Reclam also published works of European literary culture as well as classical and philosophical texts. The house strongly relied on the latest production methods and professional marketing strategies for a consistent lowprice sales policy. When Anton Philipp Reclam died in 1896, his Universal-Bibliothek comprised about 3,500 books. Title No. 5,000 was edited in 1908.

Reclam publishing house in Leipzig, 1928

In 1912 Reclam became the first company to introduce book vending machines, designed by Peter Behrens, which soon became a great success and were found at train stations, hospitals and army barracks all over Germany. After World War I, it promoted the works of contemporary authors of the Weimar Republic, such as Klabund, Thomas Mann, Arthur Schnitzler, Hugo von Hofmannsthal, Gerhart Hauptmann, Franz Werfel, Stefan Zweig, Arnold Zweig, and Ricarda Huch. The publishing house celebrated its centenary in 1928, with Nobel laureate Thomas Mann delivering the main speech.

During Nazi rule in Germany, Reclam was forbidden to publish books by Jewish authors, including Heinrich Heine and Ferdinand Lassalle, and works of 'politically unreliable' writers like Thomas Mann, Stefan Zweig, and Franz Werfel. Reclam adjusted to this, to the satisfaction of Nazi cultural politics. In an allied bombing raid on Leipzig in World War II on 4 December 1943, the publishing building was severely damaged and 450 tons of books were destroyed.

After the partition of Germany in the aftermath of the war, the publishing house was divided after the current owner Ernst Reclam was partly dispossessed in Leipzig, then part of the Soviet occupation zone. In September 1947, Reclam established a subsidiary in Stuttgart (then in the American occupation zone, later part of West Germany), which finally became the new main office in 1950. The original parent house in Leipzig remained there, but was nationalized by the Communist regime of East Germany until German reunification.

Both the West and the East German branch continued the edition of affordable paperback books for a mass audience. In 1970 Reclam in Stuttgart introduced the distinctive yellow colour code for German classics works of their Universal-Bibliothek edition. Since 1980, the house's West German head office has been moved to a new production plant in nearby Ditzingen. After German reunification and reprivatisation of the East German branch, the Leipzig location was finally given up in 2006. The house has always been family property up to today.

Publishing programme[edit]

Complete editions of Reclams Universal-Bibliothek (2009)

The most popular yellow books contain classic works of the German language and other languages translated into German (e.g. Lady Windermere's Fan by Oscar Wilde), classics in their original foreign language with lexical and vocabulary help are red (in English, French, Spanish, Italian, Latin, and Russian), bi-lingual books (German and the original language) are in orange, blue is the colour for study guides, green for original historical sources with explanations, and magenta for non-fiction: politics, history, society, natural sciences, art, music or religion.

The popularity of the publishing house, especially the Universal-Bibliothek, is largely due to its particularly inexpensive prices. Thus they are fairly widespread all over the German-speaking countries.


External links[edit]