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Subversive Publications: Edition Mariannenpresse

Exhibition in University Library of Freie Universität Berlin

№ 348/2013 from Nov 11, 2013

Books published by writers living in East Berlin before Germany was reunited, some of them written and published under subversive circumstances, will be on display in the University Library of Freie Universität Berlin as of Wednesday. The books are a selection of works published in the Edition Mariannenpresse series. The publishing company was founded in 1979 in the Bethanien printing company at Mariannenplatz in Berlin-Kreuzberg. The books will be on display until January 6, 2014, during the opening hours of the library. There is no admission charge.

Artists' books and press prints have a long tradition in Berlin, beginning with the Rabenpresse (Raven Press) in the 1930s and including the Rixdorfer prints of the 1960s and 1970s as well as the subversive artists' books which gave artists and writers in East Berlin an opportunity to publish without being censored. Around Mariannenplatz in Kreuzberg there were numerous private and public artists' studios utilizing every conceivable printing technique from letterpress with hand set, engraving, silkscreen, lithography, and offset printing of experimentally processed films and plates.

In 29 years 129 books were published in the Edition Mariannenpresse as first editions of books by writers living in Berlin. Original graphics of visual artists were also published in bibliophile editions. The edition was funded through 2001 by the Berlin Senate as a public arts project through the Neue Gesellschaft für Literatur (New Society for Literature) and was subsequently supported by foundations and private sponsors. In 1999 the Mariannenpresse received the V. O. Stomps Award in recognition of its diversity in supporting public and private art projects. Drops in sales forced the initiator and editor Dr. Hannes Schwenger to end the series in 2008.

By utilizing subsidies and project funding the Edition Mariannenpresse aimed to give writers and artists an opportunity to publish books, portfolios, posters, etc. according to their wishes. The writers and artists also participated in the production. A board of artists, writers, and experienced book producers selected which works would be published. The editions were limited (up to 250 copies), and all the books were numbered and signed by the artist.

From 1965 to 1994 the University Library of Freie Universität Berlin (UB) was – just like the Amerika-Gedenk-Bibliothek (America Memorial Library, now the Berlin Central and Regional Library) – a compulsory deposit library of the State of Berlin and required to archive a copy of every book produced in the region. For this reason the UB acquired books produced by Berlin hand presses as well as artists' books that do not necessarily belong in the collections of an academic university library. In 2012 the UB was given about 30 volumes from the last years of the Edition Mariannenpresse to complete the collection. The UB took this gift as an opportunity to show a selection of the Edition Mariannenpresse.

Time and Location

  • University Library, Freie Universität Berlin, Foyer, Garystraße 39, 14195 Berlin; subway station: Thielplatz (U3), 2nd floor
  • November 13, 2013, through January 6, 2014, Monday through Friday, 9 a.m. to 8 p.m.

Further Information

Dr. Susanne Rothe, University Library, Freie Universität Berlin, Tel.: +49 30 838–53359, Email: rothe@ub.fu-berlin.de