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alter enlamln


Translated by Rodney Livingstone

and Others

Edited by Michael W. Jennings,

Howard Eiland, and Gary Smith


Cambridge, Massachusetts, and london, England
Old Toys . 99

from town and country, arranged in genre scenes. They were not manufac­
tured in Berlin until relatively late; in the eighteenth century it was the
ironmongers who stocked goods of this kind, made in southern Germany.
This itself is enough to tell us that actual toy sellers emerged only gradually
during a period in which there was a strict division of labor among trades­

Old Toys
The toy sellers' predecessors included, on the one hand, turners, iron­
mongers, paper merchants, and fancy-goods sellers, and, on the other hand,
door-to-door peddlers in towns and at fairs. There is even a special kind of
figurine in a niche labeled "Cakes and Pastries." Here one finds the gum­
The Toy Exhibition at the Markisches Museum resin doll familiar from Hoffmann's stories, together with parodies of monu­
ments made from sugar and old-fashioned gingerbread. This sort of thing
has vanished from Protestant Germany. In contrast, the attentive traveler in
France, even in the quieter suburbs of Paris, may easily come across two of
the main examples of old-style confectionery: babies in their cradles, which
used to be given to older children on the birth of a brother or sister; and
confirmation children, posed on blue or pink sugar pillows and holding a
candle and prayer book, performing their acts of devotion, sometimes in
front of a prayer stool made of the same icing. But the most fanciful
Over the past few weeks an exhibition of toys has been on view at the
specimens of this type seem to have been lost today. These were flat sugar
Markisches Museum in Berlin. It occupies only a medium-sized room; this
dolls (or hearts or similar objects) which could be easily divided lengthways
tells us that the curators' focus is not ·on the splendid or the monstrous:
so that in the middle, where the two halves were joined rogether, there was
life-size dolls for royal children, vast train sets, or giant rocking horses. Their
a little piece of paper with a brightly colored picture and a motto. An uncur
aim is to show, first, the sort of toys Berlin produced during the eighteenth
broadsheet is on display with examples of such confectioners' mottoes. For
and nineteenth centuries, and, second, what a well-stocked toy cupboard in
instance: "I have danced away I My weekly wage today." Or: "Here, you
an ordinary Berlin home might have looked like. They have therefore
little flirt, I This apricot won't hurt." Such lapidary two-liners were called
concentrated on pieces that can be shown to have survived in the possession
"devices" because you had to divide the figurine into two parts in order to
of old established Berlin families. Items owned by collectors are of secondary
uncover the motto. Thus, a Berlin advertisement from the Biedermeier
importance. period reads: "Zimmermann's Confectionery in Konigssttasse supplies a full
Let us start by explaining what is special about this exhibition: it includes
range of candy figures as well as confectionery of other kinds, together with
not just "toys," in the narrower sense of the word, but also a great many
devices, at a reasonable price."
objects on the margins. Who knows where one might otherwise find such
But you can also fin,d quite a variety of texts. Natke's great Baths-and­
a profusion of wonderful parlor games, building sets, Christmas pyramids,
Basins Theater Saloon, Palisadenstrasse 76, advertised "Entertainment
and peep shows, to say nothing of books, posters, and wall charts for
through humor and tasteful wit of well-known quality." Julius Linde's
teaching. All of this often inaccessible detail gives a far more vivid overall
mechanical marionette theater issued the following invitation to its latest
picture than a more systematically compiled exhibition ever could. And the
productions: "The Robber Knight Flayed Alive, or Love and Cannibalism,
same sure touch can be found in the catalogue. It is no dead list of objects
or Roast Human Heart and Flesh ... Concluding with a Great Ballet of
on display, but a coherent text full of precise references to the individual
Metamorphoses. In this ballet several dancing figures and metamorphoses,
exhibits as well as detailed information on the age, make, and distribution
very true to life, will entertain the public's eye very agreeably with their
of particular types of toys. delightful and skillful movements. In conclusion, Pussell the Wonder Dog
Of these, the tin soldier must be the most thoroughly researched, ever
will distinguish himself." The peep shows along with the dioramas, myrio­
since Hampe of the Germanisches Museum published a monograph on the
ramas, and panoramas, whose pictures were manufactured in Augsburg for
subject. Here you can see them posed in front of charming backdrops, such
the most part, lead the observer even more deeply into the mysteries of the
as handbills from Berlin puppet theaters; but there are also other tin figures
100 . ]928 Old Toys . 101

world of play than do the marionettes. "You can't find toys like that many old objects. On the contrary, they tend to show what adults under­
anymore" is what you often hear adults saying when they encounter old stand by toys rather than what children expect from them. They are curi­
toys. Actually, most adults just think this; in fact they have become indif­ osities. Here they are useful for purposes of comparison, but have no place
ferent to such things, whereas children notice them at every turn. But here, in the nursery.
gazing at the panoramas, they are right for once. Panoramas were products More captivating are the older curiosities, among them a wax doll from
of the 1800s; they vanished with the century and are inseparable from its the eighteenth century that strikingly resembles a modern character doll.
most curious features. But there is probably some truth in the suggestion made to me in the course
Today, old toys are important from a number of viewpoints. Folklore, of conversation by Mr. Stengel, the museum's director and the organizer of
psychoanalysis, art history, and the new education all find it a rewarding this special exhibition: that the doll's face should be seen as the wax portrait
subject. But this alone does not explain why the little exhibition room is of a baby. It took a long time before people realized, let alone incorporated
never empty and why, in addition to whole classes of schoolchildren, hun­ the idea into dolls, that children are not JUSt men and women on a reduced
dreds of adults have passed through it in recent weeks. Nor can its popu­ scale. It is well known that even children's clothing became emancipated
larity be due to the amazingly primitive specimens, even though these would from that of adults only at a very late date. Not until the nineteenth century,
be reason enough for a snob to attend the exhibition. in fact. It sometimes looks as if our century wishes to take this development
These include not only jumping jacks, woolen sheep clearly produced by one step further and, far from regarding children as little men and women,
poor domestic workshops remote from modern manufacturing, and Neu­ has reservations about thinking of them as human beings at aU. People have
ruppin broadsheets with their famous garishly colored scenes, 1 but also (to now discovered the grotesque, cruel, grim side of children's life. While meek
mention only one item) a set of pictures recently discovered in the attic of and mild educators still cling to Rousseauesque dreams, writers like Ringel­
a school in the Mark Brandenburg. They are the work of a certain Wilke, natz2 and painters like Klee have grasped the despotic and dehumanized
a deaf-mute teacher, and were intended to be used for instruc'ting deaf-mute element in children. Children are insolent and remote from the world. After
children. Their crude v.ividness is so oppressive that the normal person, all the sentimentality of a revived Biedermeier, Mynona is probably right in
seeing this airless world for the first time, runs the risk of losing his own his views of 1916: 3
hearing and voice for a few hours. There are painted carvings that were
If children are ever to grow up into first-rate people, they must not be spared
made in the mid-nineteenth century by a shepherd in the Altmark. The
the sight of anything human. Their innocence instinctively ensures that the
subjects are taken from both secular and biblical life, and in every case stand necessary boundaries are not crossed; and later, when these boundaries are
midway between miniature models of characters from Strindberg's Dance gradually extended, new experiences will encounter minds that have been
of Death and lifeless cloth figures of the kind seen at fairgrounds, where prepared. The fact that little children laugh at everything, even the negative
they perch in the rear of booths and act as targets for wooden balls. sides of life, is a glorious extension of radiant cheerfulness into all the spheres
As we have said, all this is enticing for adults, but it is not the only of life it had so shamefully neglected and that are so utterly dreary as a result
attraction. Or the decisive one. We all know the picture of the family ... Wonderfully successful little bomb plots, with princes who just fall apart
gathered beneath the Christmas tree, the father engrossed in playing with but are easily put back together again. Department stores with automatic
the toy train that he has given his son, the latter standing next to him in outbreaks of arson, break-ins, thefts. Victims who can be murdered in a
tears. When the urge to play overcomes an adult, this is not simply a multitude of ways and with every appropriate weapon ... My children would
regression to childhood. To be sure, play is always liberating. Surrounded not like to be without their guillotines and gallows, at the very least.
by a world of giants, children use play to create a world appropriate to their Such things should not be expected in this exhibition. But we must not
size. But the adult, who finds himself threatened by the real world and can forget that the most enduring modifications in toys are never the work of
find no escape, removes its sting by playing with its image in reduced form. adults, whether they be educators, manufacturers, or writers, but are the
The desire to make light of an unbearable life has been a major factor in result of children at play. Once mislaid, broken, and repaired, even the most
the growing interest in children's games and children's books since the end princely doll becomes a capable proletarian comrade in the children;s play
of the war. commune.
Not all the new impulses that have given fresh impetus to the toy industry
have been beneficial. The prissy silhouettes of the varnished wooden figures Published in the Frankfurter ZeitulIg, March 1928. Cesammelte Schri{ten, TV, 511-515.
that represent the modern age do not stand out to advantage among so Translated hy Rodney Livin~stolle.
102 . 1928

1. The popular Neuruppin prints appeared from 1831 in a series of single sheets
with humorous or sarcastic subject matter. The early ones were based on colored
woodcuts; the later sheets were lithographs.
2. Joachim Ringe1narz (pseudonym of Hans Bbtticher; 1883-1934) directed the
Berlin cabaret Schall und Rauch (Noise and Smoke) during the Weimar Republic. Hugo von Hofmannsthal's Der Turm

His satirical, scurrilous poems and songs brought attacks on middle-class con­
vention with a sharp political edge.
3. Mynona was the pseudonym of the German-Jewish philosopher Saloma Friedlan­
der (1871-1946). A collaborator on the important Expressionist journals Der
Sturm and Die Aktion, he published a nwnber of satires.

Written following its premieres in Munich and Hamburg.

In recent weeks Hugo von Hofmannsthal's Der Turm [The Tower] has begun
to make its way through Germany's theaters. The stage version differs
significantly from the original, which appeared in the Neue deutsche
Beitrdge in 1925; the fourth and fifth acts have been completely rewritten.
Bur this does not in itself justify a comparison of the two versions-not
here, at any rate. No, what justifies our taking a second look at the play,
even after Our notice in Die literarische Welt (vol. 15, no. 2), are the
extraordinary insights that his progress from one version to the other gives
us into the author's method of writing and the structure of his work. We
know that he took his subject from Calderon's La vida es sumo [Life Is a
Dream].! This formulaic title, which gave powerful expression to the dra­
matic impulses of the age, has a double meaning for Calderon. On the one
hand it means that life is nothing more than a dream, that its possessions
are like chaff in the wind. This is his secular wisdom. But he also asserts:
just as a mere nothing-this life-decides our salvation, and is weighed and
judged by God, we cannot escape God even when we dream, in the illusory
world of dream. Dreaming and waking-in God's eyes' they are no more
distinct from each other than life and death. The Christian dimension is
equally present in both. This second motif of the title-dream as a theologi­
cal paradigm-is one that a modern writer like Hofmannsthal could have
no desire to appropriate for himself. And with compelling logic, the com­
plete reworking of the dream motif seems to have resulted in an entirely
new drama. Tn the first version of Der Turm, the dream bore all the marks
voice of Kraus speaks, rather than sings, this inner music. It whistles bitingly
about the peaks of dizzying stupidity, reverberates shatteringly from the
abyss of the absurd, and in Frascata's lines hums, like the wind in the
chimney, a requiem to our grandfathers' generation.
Published in Die literarische Welt, April 1928. Gesammelte Schriften, IV, 515-517.
Translated by Rodney Livingstone. The Cultural History of Toys

1. Die Fackel (The Torch) was the satirical magazine edited by Karl Ktaus from
1899 to his death in 1936.
2. Kraus, whose satire focused on the defects in the language and style of his
opponents, always claimed to be the true servant of language, not its master.
3. Johann Schober (1874-1932), Austrian politician and Vienna's chief of police,
was responsible for the bloody suppression of workers' demonstrations. Alfred
Kerr (pseudonym of Alfred Klemperer; 1867-1948) was Berlin's most prominent
and influential theater critic. Karl Groher, Kinderspielzeug aus alter Zeit: Eine Geschichte des Spielzeugs [Chil­
4. La vie parisienlte, a farcical opera in four acts with music by Jacques Offenbach
dren's Toys .from Olden Times: A History of Toys] (Berlin: Deutscher Kunstvcrlag,
and libretto by Henri Meilhac and Ludovic Halevy, premiered at the Palais Royal
1928), 68 pages, with 306 black-and-white illustrations and 12 color plates.
in 1886.
5. Karl Kraus, "Offenbach Renaissance," Die Fackel 557-558 (April 1927): 47.
At the beginning of Karl Grober's book Kinderspiefzeug aus alter Zeit, we
find a self-denying ordinance. The author declares that he will not discuss
children's games, so as to be able to focus more on his physical material
and devote himself exclusively to the history of toys. The extraordinary
density not so much of his topic as of his own method has led him to
concentrate on the European tradition. If this meant Germany was at the
geographic center, then in this sphere it is also the spiritual center. For a
good proportion of the most beautiful toys that we still encounter in muse­
ums and bomes may be described as a German gift to Europe. Nuremberg
is the home of the tin soldier and the well-kept collection of animals from
Noah's ark. The oldest known dollhouse comes from Munich. Even people
who have no patience with claims to priority, claims that are of little
Consequence in this context anyway, will readily agree that they are pre­
sented with unsurpassable examples of simple beauty in Sonneberg's wooden
dolls (lllustration 192), the trees made of wood shavings from the Erzgebirge
(Illustration 190), the spice shops and bonnet shops (Illustrations 274 and
275, Plate Xl, and the harvest festival Sl:ene in pewter from Hanover.
Of course, such toys were not originally the invention of toy manufactur­
ers, but were produced in the workshops of wood carvers, pewterers, and
~ fonh. Not until the nineteenth century did toymaking become the prov­
1I1ce of a branch-industry of its own. The particular style and beauty of toys
114 . 1928 The Cultural History of Toys . 115

of the older kind can be understood only if wc realize that toys used to be birge. Anyone who has been following the statistics on wages knows that
a by-product of the many handicrafts that were all subject to the rules and these industries are heading toward their demise. This is doubly regrettable,
regulations of the guilds, so that each member could manufacture only particularly when you realize that of all the available materials none is more
products that fell within the definition of his own trade. In the course of suitable than wood, thanks to its resilience and its ability to take paint. And
the eighteenth century, when manufacturing began to be specialized, pro­ in general it is this external point of view-the question of technology and
ducers everywhere came up against the restrictions imposed by the guilds. l1laterials-that leads the observer most deeply into the world of toys.
The guilds forbade turners to paint their own dolls, and they compelled Grober brings this out in a highly illuminating and instructive way. If we
workers in various trades who made toys from all sorts of different materials look beyond the question of materials and glance at tbe child playing, we
to divide the simplest work among themselves and so made the goods more may speak of an antinomian relationship. It looks like this: On the one
expensive. hand, nothing is more suitable for children than playhouses built of harmo­
It obviously follows from this that sales, particularly retail sales in toys, nious combinations of the most heterogeneous materials-stone, plasticine,
were not the province of special toy sellers. You could find carvings of wood, and paper. On the other hand, no one is more chaste in the use of
animals at the woodworker's shop, tin soldiers at the boilermaker's, gum­ materials than children: a bit of wood, a pinecone, a small stone-however
resin figurines at the confectioner's, and wax dolls at the candlemaker's. The unified and unambiguous the material is, the more it seems to embrace the
picture was rather different at the wholesale level. Here too the middlemen, possibility of a multitude of figures of the most varied sort. And when adults
the so-called Verlag, originated in Nuremberg, where exporters began to give children dolls made of birchbark or straw, a cradle made of glass, or
buy up toys from the urban handicraft industry and above all from the boats made of pewter, they are attempting to respond in their own way to
homeworkers and distribute them among retailers. At around the same time, the children's feelings. In this microcosm, wood, bones, wickerwork, and
the advance of the Reformation forced many artists who had formerly clay are the most important materials, all of which were already used in
worked for the Church "to shift to the production of goods to satisfy the patriarchal times, when toys were still a part of the production process that
demand for craftwork, and to produce smaller art objects for domestic use, found parents and children together. Later came metals, glass, paper, and
instead of large-scale works." This led to a huge upsurge in the production even alabaster. The alabaster bosom that seventeenth-century poets cele­
of the tiny objects that filled toy cupboards and gave such pleasure to brated in their poems was to be found only in dolls, whose fragility often
children, as well as the collections of artworks and curiosities that gave such cost them their existence.
pleasure to adults. It was this that created the fame of Nuremberg and led A review like this can only hint at the riches of Grober's work, the
to the hitherto unshaken dominance of German toys on the world market. thoroughness of its underlying research, the beguiling objectivity of its
If we survey the entire history of toys, it becomes evident that the question presentation. This completely successful collection of illustrations is perfect
of size has far greater importance than might have been supposed. In the at the technical level, too. Anyone who fails to read it attentively will
second half of the nineteenth century, when the long-term decline in these scarcely know what toys are, let alone their importance. This last question
things begins, we see toys becoming larger; the unassuming, the tiny, and leads, of course, beyond the framework of the book to a philosophical
the playful all slowly disappear. It was only then that children acquired a classification of toys. As long as the realm of toys was dominated by a dour
playroom of their own and a cupboard in which they could keep books naturalism, there were no prospects of drawing attention to the true face of
separately from those of their parents. There can be no doubt that the older a child at play. Today we may perhaps hope that it will be possible to
volumes with their smaller format called for the mother's presence, whereas overcome the basic error-namely, the assumption that the imaginative
the modern quartos with their insipid arid indulgent sentimentality are COntent of a child's toys is what determines his playing; whereas in reality
designed to enable children to disregard her absence. The process of eman­ the opposite is true. A child wants to pull something, and so he becomes a
cipating the toy begins. The more industrialization penetrates, the more it horse; he wants to play with sand, and so he turns into a baker; he wants
decisively eludes the control of the family and becomes increasingly alien to to hide, and so he turns into a robber or a policeman. We are also familiar
children and also to parents. with a number of ancient playthings that were presumably once cult objects
Of course, the false simplicity of the modern toy was based on the but that scorn the function of masks: halls, hoops, tops, kites-authentic
authentic longing to rediscover the relationship with the primitive, to recu­ playthings; "the more authentic, the less they meant to adults." Because the
perate the style of a home-based industry that at this very time was locked 1Il0re appealing toys are, in the ordinary sense of the term, the further they
in an increasingly hopeless struggle for survival in Thuringia and the Erzge- are from genuine playthings; the more they are based on imitation, the
further away they lead us from real, living play. This is borne out by the
differenr kinds of dollhouses that Grober includes. Imitation (we may con­
clude) is at home in the playing, not in the plaything.
But of course, we would penetrate neither to the reality nor ro the
conceptual understanding of toys if we tried to explain them in terms of the
child's mind. After all, a child is no Robinson Crusoe; children do not
constitute a community cut off from everything else. They belong ro the
Toys and Play
nation and the class they come from. This means that their toys cannot bear
witness to any autonomous separate existence, but rather are a silent si.gni­
fying dialogue between them and their nation. A signifying dialogue to the Marginal Notes on a Monumental Work
decoding of which this work provides a secure foundation.
Published in the Frankfurter Zeitung, May 1928. Gesammelte Schriften, 1iI, 113-117.
Transla[ed by Rodney Livingstone.

-I Grober, Kinderspielzeug aus alter Zeit: Eine Geschichte des Spielzeugs [Chi!­
's Toys from Olden Times: A History of Toys] (Berlin: Deutscher Kunstverlag,
1~8), 68 pages, with 306 black-and-white illustrations and 12 color plates.

will be a while before you are ready to read this book, so fascinating is
sight of the endless variety of toys that its illustrated section unfolds
'e the reader. Battalions of soldiers, coaches, theaters, sedan chairs, sets
dishes-all in Lilliputian format. The time had to come when someone
d assemble the family tree of rocking horses and lead soldiers, and
the archaeology of royshops and dolls' parlors. This has been done
in a scholarly and conscientious manner and without any archival
.try in the book's text, which stands on a par with the illustrations.
book is cast in a single mold, and the reader can detect nothing of the
involved in producing it. Now that the book lies before us, it is hard
,gine how it could ever have heen otherwise.
it must be said that research of this kind is in tune with the age. The
Museum in Munich, the Toy Museum in Moscow, the roy depart­
,f the Musee des Arts Decoratifs in Paris-all creations of the recent
the present-point to the fact that everywhere, and no doubt for
on. there is growing interest in honest-to-goodness toys. Gone are
of character dolls, when adults pandered to childish needs under
of satisfying childlike ones. The schematic individualism of the
rafts movement and the picture of the child given by the psycho1­
individual-two trends that understood each other all too well­
ermined from within. At the same time, the first attempts were
118 . 1928 Toys and Play . 119

made to escape from the influence of psychology and aestheticism. Folk art the hideous features of commodity capital in the face need only recollect
and the worldview of the child demanded to be seen as collectivist ways of toyshops as they typically were up to five years ago (and as they still often
are in small towns today). The basic atmosphere was one of hellish exuber­
On the whole, the wotk under review corresponds to this latest state of ance. On the lids of the parlor games and the faces of the character dolls,
research, if indeed it is possible to tie a standard work of a documentary you found grinning masks; they gaped at you alluringly from the black
kind to a theoretical stance. For in reality the stage reached here must form mouth of the cannon, and giggled in the ingenious"catastrophe coach" that
a transition to a more precise definition of our knowledge of the subject. fell to pieces, as expected, when the train crashed.
The fact is that the perceptual world of the child is influenced at every point But scarcely had this militant viciousness made its exit than the class
by traces of the older generation, and has to take issue with them. The same character of this toy reappeared elsewhere. "Simplicity" became the fash­
applies to the child's play activities. It is impossible to construct them as ionable slogan of the industry. In reality, however, in the case of toys
dwelling in a fantasy realm, a fairy-tale land of pure childhood or pure art. simplicity is to be found not in their shapes but in the transparent nature
Even where they are not simply imitations of the tools of adults, toys are a of the manufacturing process. Hence, it cannot be judged according to an
site of conflict, less of the child with the adult than of the adult with the abstract canon but differs in different places, and is less a matter of formal
child. For who gives the child his toys if not adults? And even if he retains criteria, because a number of methods of processing---earving, in particu­
a certain power to accept or reject them, a· not insignificant proportion of lar---ean give free rein to their imagination without becoming in the least
the oldest toys (balls, hoops, topS, kites) are in a certain sense imposed on incomprehensible. In the same way, the genuine and self-evident simplicity
him as cult implements that became toys only afterward, partly through the of toys was a matter of technology, not formalist considerations. For a
child's powers of imagination. characteristic feature of all folk art-the way in which primitive technology
It is therefore a great mistake to believe that it is simply children's needs combined with cruder materials imitates sophisticated technology combined
that determine what is to be a toy. It is nonsense to argue, as does an with expensive materials-can be seen with particular clarity in the world
otherwise meritorious recent work, that the necessity of, say, a baby's rattle of toys. Porcelain from the great czarist factories in Russian villages pro­
can be inferred from the fact that" As a tule it is the ear that is the first vided the model for dolls and genre scenes carved in wood. More recent
organ to clamor for occupation"-particularly since the rattle has always research into folk art has long since abandoned the belief that "primitive"
been an instrument with which to ward off evil spirits, and this is why it inevitably means "older." Frequently, so-called folk art is nothing more than
has to be put in the hand of a newborn baby. And even the author of the the cultural goods of a ruling class that have trickled down and been given
present work is surely in error when he writes, "The child wants from her a new lease on life within the framework of a broad collective.
doll only what she sees and knows in adults. This is why, until well into the Not the least of this book's achievements is that Grober decisively shows
nineteenth century, the doll was popular only when dressed in grown-up how the economic and particularly the technological culture of the collective
clothing; the baby in swaddling clothes that dominates the toy market have influenced toys. But if to this day toys have been far too commonly
nowadays was completely absent." No, this is not to be laid at the door of regarded as objects created for childten, if not as the creations of children
children; for the child at play, a doll is sometimes big and sometimes little, themselves, then with play it is the other way around: play has been thought
and as an inferior being it is more often the latter. We may say instead that about altogether too exclusively from the point of view of adults, and has
until well into the nineteenth century the idea of an infant as a creature been regarded too much as the imitation of adults. And it cannot be denied
shaped by a spirit of its own was completely unknown; on the other hand, that we needed this encyclopedia of toys to revive discussion of the theory
the adult was the ideal in whose image the educator aspired to mold the of play, which has not been treated in this context since Karl Groos pub­
child. This rationalism, with its conviction that the child is just a little adult, lished his important work Spiele der Menschen [People at Play] in 1899. 1
makes us smile today, but it had the me-rit of declaring seriousness to be the Any novel theory would have to take account of the "Gestalt theory of play
child's proper sphere. Tn contrast to this, the inferior sense of "humor" gestures"-gestures of which Willy Haas recently listed (May 18, 1928) the
manifests itself in toys, alongside the use of larger-scale objects, as an three most important. 2 First, cat and mouse (any game of catch); second,
expression of the uncertainty that the bourgeois cannot free himself of in the mother animal that defends her nest and her young (for example, a
his dealings with children. The merriment that springs from a sense of guilt goalkeeper or tennis player); third, the struggle between two animals for
sits admirably with the silly distortions of size. Anyone who wishes to look prey, a bone, or an object of love (a football, polo ball, and so on). Going
120 . 1928
Toys and Play . 121
beyond that, one would have to investigate the enigmatic doubles of stick
Published in Die literansche Welt, June 1928. Gesammelte Schri(ten. In, 12 7-132. Trans­
and hoop, whip and top, marble and king-marble, as well as the magnetic lared by Rodney Livingstone.
attraction generated between the two parts. In all probability the siruation
is this: before we transcend ourselves in love and enter into the life and the
often alien rhythm of another human being, we experiment early on with Notes
basic rhythms that proclaim themselves in their simplest forms in these sorts
of games with inanimate objects. Or rather, these are the rhythms in which
1. Karl Groos (1861-1946), German philosopher, Wrore a number of pioneering
we first gain possession of ourselves. works on the psychology of human and animal play.
Last, such a study would have to explore the great law that presides over 2. Willy Haas (1891-1973), German-Jewish author and critic, founded the peri­
the rules and rhythms of the entire world of play: the law of repetition. We odical Die literarische Welt, which he edired until 1933.
know that for a child repetition is the soul of play, that nothing gives him 3. The German word Spielen means both "to play" and "games."
greater pleasure than to "Do it again!" The obscure urge to repeat things
is scarcely less powerful in play, scarcely less cunning in its workings, than
the sexual impulse in love. It is no accident that Freud has imagined he could
detect an impulse "beyond the pleasure principle" in it. And in fact, every
profound experience longs to be insatiable, longs for return and repetition
until the end of time, and for the reinstatement of an original condition
from which it sprang. "All things would be resolved in a trice / If we could
only do them twice." Children act on this proverb of Goethe's. Except that
the child is not satisfied with twice, but wants the same thing again and
again, a hundred or even a thousand times. This is not only the way to
master frightening fundamental experiences-by deadening one's own re­
sponse, by arbitrarily conjuring up experiences, or through parody; it also
means enjoying one's victories and triumphs over and over again, with total
intensity. An adult relieves his heart from its terrors and doubles happiness
by turning it into a story. A child creates the entire event anew and starts
again right from the beginning. Here, perhaps, is the deepest explanation
for the two meanings of the German word Spielen: the element of repetition
is what is actually common to them. 3 Not a "doing as if" but a "doing the
same thing over and over again," the transformation of a shattering expe­
rience into habit-that is the essence of play.
For play and nothing else is the mother of every habit. Eating, sleeping,
getting dressed, washing have to be instilled into the struggling litrle brat in
a playful way, following the rhythm of nursery rhymes. Habit enters life as
a game, and in habit, even in its most sclerotic forms, an element of play
survives to the end. Habits are the forms of our first happiness and our first
horror that have congealed and become deformed to the point of being
unrecognizable. And without knowing it, even the most arid pedant plays
in a childish rather than a childlike way; the more childish his play, the more
pedantic he is. He just does not recollect his own playing; only to him would
a book like this have nothing to say. But when a modern poet says that
everyone has a picture for which he would be willing to give the whole
world, how many people would not look for it in an old box of toys?
Children's literature . 251

the illustra tion; the Sh comes from a woman shooing the hens in another
picture; the R is a dog growling; and the S is a hissing snake. But this
onomatopoeia soon gave way to other things. After the Counter-Reforma­
tion, we find primers in which the stanled child is presented with the majesty
of script, full of clouds of arabesques and high falutin phrases. This was
followed by the fans and the caste system of the eighteenth century, in which
the words to be read were placed grimly together in military rank-and-file
and the capital letters were sergeants issuing orders to their nouns. From
Children's Literature
this period date primers with covers that hold out the promise of 248
pictures. When you look at them more closely, you find that the whole book
has only eight pages and the pictures stand packed together in tiny frames.
Of course, no primer can be so eccentric as to prevent a child from taking
what it needs from it, as Jean Paul shows in his delightful description of his
schoolmaster Wuz: "He wrote the alphabet in beautiful copperplate, merrily
and without interruption. Between all the black letters he put red ones, so
as to attract attention; this is why most German children can still remember
die pleasure with which they fished the ready-cooked red letters out from
among the black ones like boiled crabs, and enjoyed them." 1
Of course, schoolteachers soon discovered that not only did children have
Iroblems with the primer, but the primer had problems with children. The
Dear invisible listeners!
You've all heard people say, "Lord! In my childhood, we weren't so Ivious solution was to separate the visual as far as possible from the word,
off! We were all afraid of getting poor marks. We weren't even aUowed d even more from the letter. In 1658 the first attempt of this sort appeared:
walk on the beach barefoot!" But have you ever heard anyone say, .. Ie Orbis Pictus of Amos Comenius. 2 It displays all the objects of daily
When I was young, we didn't have such nice games to play!" Or, "Wb ~induding the abstract ones-simply and crudely, in several hundred
was little, lhere weren't such wonderful story books!" No. Whatever P d-size illustrations. The text was restricted to a German-Latin table of
read or played with in their childhood not only seems in memory to Intents. This work is one of the rare great successes in the field of educa­
been the most beautiful and best thing possible; it often, wrongly, se' nal children's books; and if you think about it, you can see that it stands
unique. And it is very common to hear adults complaining about the beginning of two and a half centuries of. development-a process that
disappearance of toys they used to be able to buy without difficultY in by no means concluded. Today less than ever. The extraordinary contem­
nearest shop. Remembering these things, everyone becomes a laudator 'ary relevance of a visually based method of instruction stems from the
paris acti, a reactionary. So there must be something special about that a new, standardized and nonverbal sign system is now emerging in
And without going into this for the moment, we should bear in mind most varied walks of life-transport, art, statistics. At this point, an
for children books, like everything else, can contain very different tionaI problem coincides with a comprehensive cultural one, which
be summed up in the slogan: Up with the sign and down with the
from what adults see in them.
How much one could say-to start with the first reading book-a d! Perhaps we shall soon see picture books that introduce children to
the child's relationship with the ABC's! From the earliest stages, when new sign language of transport or even statistics. Among the older
sign is a yoke under which hand and tongue have to humble themsel\,1 s, the milestones are Comenius' Orbis Pictus, Basedow's Elemen­
the biter stages, when the child masters the sounds with ease and crea'be 'k [Elementary Work], and Bertuch's Bilderbuch fur Kinder [Picture
first secret society in the playground jungle of the language of rob for Children]. The latter consists of twelve volumes, each with a
games counting peas. There can be no doubt that no pirate stories or ed colored engravings; it appeared under Bertuch's direction from
stories will grip the adolescent boy as powerfully as his ABC-book did. to 1847. The care lavished on its production shows the dedication
he was little. It is true that the earliest reading primers approached ch
Oi whieh books were produced for children at the time. To provide a
with naive pedagogic skill. These "voice books" were based on on 'e book with text, to give it a basic textual form without turning it
poeia. The 0 rang out in the mouth of a drayman urging his horses
252 J929 Children's Literature . 253

into a primer, is a difficult, almost impossible task. It has seldom "What day is it today?"
solved. All the more remarkable is the brilliant picture book by Johann p, "I think it is Tuesday."
Wich, Steckenpferd und Puppe [Hobbyhorse and Doll], which appeared "You are mistaken, child. Yesterday was Sundav."
Nordlingen in 1843. It contains the following verses: "In that case it is Monday." .
"Correct: Monday. How many days are there in a week?"
Before the little tOwn there sits a little dwarf,
Behind the little dwarf there stands a little hill,
"And how many in a month?-Do you know?"
From the little hill there flows a little stream,
"How many?-I think you have told me several times that, with respect to
Upon the little stream there swims a little roof,
the days, the months are not all alike."
Beneath the little roof there is a little room,
"That is so. Four months have thirty days, seven thirty-one, and a single one
In the little room there sits a little boy,
has twenty-eight and sometimes twenty-nine days."
Behind the little boy there stands a little bench,
"Thirty days is a very long time."
Upon the little bench there stands a little chest,
"Can you count as far as that?"
In the little chest there lies a little box,
In the little box there sits a little nest,
"How many fingers do you have?"
Before the little nest there sits a little cat,
"Ten. "
For certain I'll remember to note the little spot.
"Count yout fingers three times and that gives you thirty, as many as there
are days in four of the months of the year. "
If there is any field in the whole world where specialization is bound "That's a century."
fail, it must be in creating things for children. And the beginning of "A century?-Where did you pick that word up?-Do you know what a
decline in children's literature can be seen at the moment it fell into century is?"
hands of the specialists. I mean the decline of children's literature, not "No, I do not."
children's books. For it was a stroke of good luck that for a long time "Yet you use a word you do not understand?-That smacks of boasting! You
educational experts paid only cursory attention to the books' illustrati, wish to be thought cleverer than you are. A century consists of one hundred
or at least proved unable to set valid norms for them. So in this sphere years, each year consisting of twelve months. The months, as I have already
told you, have either thirty or thirty-one days, with one exception. A day has
see maintained something that became increasingly rare in literaturl
twenty-four hours, the hours are divided into minutes, and these are divided
namely, the pure seriousness of mastery and the pure playfulness of
into seconds. There are sixty minutes in an hour."
dilettante, both of which create for children without doing so deliberatel "A second is very small, isn't it?"
Rochow's Kinderfreund [The Child's Friend] of 1772, the first reader, is "A second flies away like lightning-it is a moment."
the same time the beginning of "literature for young people." It is import, "So a person's life consists of an infinite number of seconds?"
to distinguish two phases: the edifying, moral Age of Enlightenment, wID< "And it still flies past very quickly. And quick as it is, we should never forget
came to meet the child, and the sentimental period of the nineteenth cen our transition into the next world. In other words, we should always be mindful
which insinuated itself into his mind. The first was certainly not as bo . of our duty toward God, our fellow human beings, and ourselves, so that when
and the second not as mendacious as the upstart educational theory of 0 1 the Creator and Ruler of the universe resolves in His wisdom to summon us
own day claims, but both are characterized by a sterile mediocrity. from here, we shall be found worthy to enter Heaven, where we will find our
delightful, linguistically catastrophic example that stands on the frontiers reward for having been pious and righteous here on earth."
"What will happen to little girls who have been naughty?"
both genres will illustrate the point:
"They will go to Hell."
Having arrived home, Emma at once set to work, for she had promised "Will they be unhappy there?"
Auguste to embroider the !erters A. v. T. on six handkerchiefs ... Auguste and "Of course! They experience the torments of remorse for their offenses
Wilh'elmine sat on either side of her; Charione and Sophie, who had brought forever. "
their own sewing with them, did likewise. It was most agreeable to see the four "Forever?"-Oh, I shall take good care not to be naughty!"
young girls so diligently at work, each eager to surpass the others. Auguste saw full well that Emma could not understand this as dearly as she,
Ai; they sat working, Auguste wished to make use of the time for further since she had read it in her catechism and had had it thoroughly explained to
instruction. So she asked Emma: her. She would have been better advised to frighten her young pupil by telling
Children's Literature . 255
254 . 1929
her about caning or about Ruprecht the farmhand, instead of explaining to her
Strand." And how close other typical figures in his films are to the gloomy
about Hell.,,3
London of Oliver Twist or David Copperfield: "the shy, young, winsome
girl; the burly lout who is always ready to use his fists and then to take to
While this could scarcely be surpassed in absurdity, there are many works his heels when he sees that people aren't afraid of him; the arrogant gentle­
that are superior in quality. Nevertheless, it is significant that despite Jo­ man who can be recognized by his top ha t."
hanna Spyri's beautiful and justly famous Stories for Children and Those But it must not be imagined that young people growing up can obtain
Who Love Children, subsequent trends in children's literature have pro­ substantial, healthy sustenance only from the masterpi.eces of Cervantes,
duced no masterpiece. Yet we do possess a masterpiece of morally edifying Dickens, Swift, or Defoe. It is also available in certain, tbough by no means
literature that is also a masterwork of the German language. This is Hebel's all, works of cheap literature, of that colportage which emerged si.multane­
Treasure Chest. 4 Of course, strictly speaking, it is not intended for young ously with the rise of technological civilization and the leveling of culture
people as such but is a product of the Philanthropist interest in the masses, which was not unconnected with it. The dismantling of the old, hierarchical
particularly the rural reading public. s If we may attempt briefly to define spheres of society had just been completed. This meant that the noblest and
this incomparable prose stylist who combines in an almost unfathomable most refined substances had often sunk to the bottom, and so it happens
unity the expansiveness of the epic writer with the brevity of the legislator, that the person who can see more deeply can find the elements he really
we might say that the crucial feature of Hebel is the way in which he needs in the lower depths of writing and graphic art rather than in the
overcomes the abstract morality of the Enlightenment through a political, acknowledged documents of culture. Quite recently Ernst Bloch wrote a
theological morality. Yet since this is never done in general terms but always charming essay along these lines in which he attempted a vindication of the
case by case, it is scarcely possible for us to give an idea of it except in much disparaged Karl May. And one could mention many other books that
concrete terms. To use a metaphor: when he tells hi~ stories, it is as if a one was almost ashamed to ask for on borrowing day in the school library,
clockmaker were showing us his clock, explaining the springs and the or even in the local paper shop: Die Regulatoren in Arkansas, Unter dem
cogwheels individually. Suddenly (Hebel's moral always comes suddenly), Aquator, Nena Sahib. 6 And if these books tend to transcend the horizon of
he turns it around and we see what the time is. And these stories further their young readers, that only made them more exciting and impressive. For
resemble a clock in that they arouse our earliest childhood astonishment such concepts and turns of phrase seemed to contain the talisman that would
and never cease to accompany us our whole life long. guide young people as they successfully crossed the threshold from child­
Some years ago a literary magazine hit upon the idea, as happens from hood into the Promised Land of adulthood. And this is why everyone has
time to time, of asking a number of well-known people what their favorite always devoured them.
childhood book had been. The answers undoubtedly included children's "Devouring books." A strange metaphor. One that makes you think. It
literature. But what was remarkable was that the great majority named is true that in the world of art no form is so affected in the course of
works like the Leather-Stocking Tales, Gulliver's Travels, Treasure Island, enjoyment, is so deformed and destroyed, as narrative prose. Perhaps it
Baron Munchhausen, the 1001 Nights, Andersen, Grimm, Karl May, and really is possible to compare reading and consuming. Above all, we should
Worishoffer. Many of them named forgotten works whose authors they no bear in mind that the reasons we need nourishment and the reasons we eat
longer knew. But when we try to put some sort of order into their varied are not perhaps identical. The older theory of nourishment is perhaps so
responses, it turns out that hardly any of the books mentioned were ex­ instructive because eating is its starting point. It claimed that we obtain
pressly written for children or young people. Almost all of them are great nourishment by absorbing the spirits of the things we have eaten. Now, it
works of world literature, cheap novels, or fairy tales. Among the respon­ is true rhat we do not obtain nourishment in that way, but we do eat via a
dents was Charlie Chaplin. His choice was David Copperfield. This provides process of absorption that is rather more than a matter of absorbing what
us with a great example to study just what a children's book-or rather, a we need to live. And our reading, too, involves such a process of absorption.
book that is read by a child~an mean. David Copperfield paved the way That is to say, not to increase our experience, our store of memories and
for that great man's intuition. A French critic has in fact made a very acute experiences. Such psychological substitution theories are the theories of
comparison between the art of Dickens and that of Chaplin. And Chaplin nourishment which maintain that from the blood we consume we obtain
himself "has told us that the idea of creating his stock character-the fellow our blood, from the bones we devour come our bones, and so forth. But
with the bowler hat, jerky walk, little toothbrush moustache, and walking matters are not as simple as that. We do not read to increase our experiences;
stick-first occurred to him on seeing office workers walking along the we read to increase ourselves. And this applies particularly to children who
256 . 1929
always read in this way. That is to say, in their reading they absorb; they
do not empathize. Their reading is much more closely related to their growth
and their sense of power than to their education and their knowledge of the
world. This is why their reading is as great as any genius that is to be found
in the books they read. And this is what is special about children's books.

Radio talk broadcast by Siidwestdeutschen Rundfunk, August 1929. Gesammelte

Schriften, VII, 250-257, Translated by Rodney Livingstone.
Robert Walser

1. Jean Paul Richter (1763-1825) wrote a series of wildly extravagant, highly
imaginative novels that combine fantasy and realism. The story "Das Leben des
vergniigten Schulrneisterlein Maria Wutz in Auenthal" (The Life of the Satisfied
Little Teacher Maria Wutz in Auenthal) appeared in 1793. It recounts the search
for happiness of the pleasantly eccentric teacher named in the title.
2. The ful1 title is Orbis Sensualium Pictus (The Visible World in Pictures).
3. Wie Attguste und Wilhelmine ihre Puppe erzogen: Von einer Kinderfreundin
(How Auguste and Wilhelmine Educated Their Doll: By a Children's Friend) was We can read much by Robert Walser, but nothing about him. 1 What in fact
published in Berlin in 1837. do we know about the few people among us who are able to take the cheap
4. Johann Peter Hebel's Schatzkastlein des rheinischen Hausfreunds (Tl'easure Chest satirical gloss2 in the right way-in other words, who do not behave like
of the Rhenish Family Friend) is a compendium of his poetry and prose published the hack who tries to ennoble it by "elevating" it to his own level? For the
in the Badischer Landkalendar, an annual publication not unlike the American real challenge is to take advantage of the contemptible, unassuming poten­
Old Farmer's Almanac. tial of this form to create something which is alive and has a purifying effect.
5. PhiJanthropism was a pedagogical reform movement of the late eighteenth cen­ Few people understand this "minor genre," as Alfred Polgar 3 termed it, or
tury. Its main theorist was Johann Bernhard Basedow (1723-1790), whose realize how many butterflies of hope are repelled by the insolent, rock-like
school-the Philanthropin, in Dessau-became the model for a number of similar
fac;:ade of so-called great literature, seeking refuge instead in its unpreten­
institutions throughout Germany and Switzerland.
6. Die Regulatoren in Arkansas (The Pendulums in Arkansas) and Unter dem
tious calyxes. And others never guess the extent of their debt to a Polgar, a
Aquator (Under the Equator) are by Friedrich Gerstacker. Nina Sahib is by Sir Hessel,4 or a Walser for the many tender or prickly blooms that flourish in
Juhn Retcliffe (Hermann Ottomar Friedrich Goedsche). the barren wastes of the journalistic forests. In fact, the name Robert Walser
is the last that would occur to them. For the first impulse of their meager
stor'e of cultural knowledge-their sole asset in literary matters-tells (hem
that what they regard as the complete insignificance of content has to be
compensated for by their "cultivated," "refined" attention to form. And in
this respect what we find in Robert Walser is a neglect of style that is quite
extraordinary and that is also hard to define. For the idea that this insig­
nificant content could be important and that this chaotic scatteredness could
he a sign of stamina is the last thing that would occur to the casual observer
of Walser's writings.
They are not easy to grasp. For we are accustomed to ponder the mysteries
of style through the contemplation of more or less elaborate, fully intended
works of art, whereas here we find ourselves confronted by a seemingly
quite unintentional, but attractive, even fascinating linguistic wilderness.
• •
alter enlamln



Edited by Marcus Bullock

and Michael W. Jennings


Cambridge, Massachusetts
London, England
The Metaphysics of Youth 7

But even if he revives an empty past through orgiastic excitement, the

listener hears not words but the silence of the present. For despite the flight
of spirit and the emptiness of words, the speaker is present; his face is open
to the listener, and the effortS made by his lips are visible. The listener holds
true language in readiness; the words enter him, and at the same time he

The Metaphysics of Youth

sees the speaker.
Whoever speaks enters the listener. Silence, then, is hom from the con­
versation. Every great man has only one conversation, at whose margins a
silent greatness waits. In the silence, energy was renewed; the listener led
the conversation to the edge of language, and the speaker creates the silence
The Conversation of a new language, he, its first auditor.

Where are you, Youth, that always wakes me III

Promptly in the morning? Where are you, Light?
-Friedrich Holderlin, "The Blind Singer" Silence is the internal frontier of conversation. The unproductive person
never reaches that frontier; he regatds his conversations as monologues. He
exits the conversation in order to enter the diary or the cafe.
Silence has long reigned in the upholstered rooms. Here he may make as
much noise as he wants. He goes amongst the prostitutes and the waiters
like a preacher among the faithful-he, the convert of his latest conversa­
Daily we use unmeasured energies as if in our sleep. What we do and think
tion. Now he has mastered two languages, question and answer. (A ques­
is filled with the being of our fathers and ancestors. An uncomprehended
tioner is someone who hasn't given a thought to language in his entire life,
symbolism enslaves us without ceremony.-Sometimes, on awakening, we
but now wants to do it right. A questioner is affable even toward the gods.)
recall a dream. In this way rare shafts of insight illuminate the ruins of our
The questions of the unproductive person break in on the silence, troubling
energies that time has passed by. We were accustomed to spirit [Geist] just
the active, thinkers and women: he inquires about revelation. At the end he
as we are accustomed to the heartbeat that enables us to lift loads and digest
feels exalted, he remains unbowed. His eloquence escapes him; enraptured,
our food.
he listens to his own voice. He hears neither speech nor silence.
Every conversation deals with knowledge of the past as that of our yomh,
But he saves himself by fleeing into the erotic. His gaze deflowers. He
and with horror at the sight of the spiritual masses of the rubble fields. We
wishes to see and hear himself, and for that reason he wishes to gain control
never saw the site of the silent struggle our egos waged with au r fathers.
of those who see and hear. Therefore, he misspeaks himself and his greatness;
Now we can see what we have unwittingly destroyed and created. Conver­
speaking, he flees. But he always sinks down, annihilated by the humanity
sation laments lost greatness.
of the other; he always remains incomprehensible. And the gaze of the silent
passes searchingly through him, toward the one who will silently draw
Greatness is the eternal silence after the conversation. It is to hear the
Conversation strives toward silence, and the listener is really the silent rhythm of one's own words in the empty space. The genius [Genie] has
partner. The speaker receives meaning from him; the silent one is the unap­ utterly cursed his memory in giving it shape. He is forgetful and at a loss.
propriated source of meaning. The conversation raises words to his lips as His past was already fate and is now beyond recall. In the genius, God
do vessels, jugs. The speaker immerses the memory of his strength in words speaks and listens for the contradictions of language.
and seeks forms in which the listener can reveal himself. For the speaker The windbag thinks the genius is an evasion of greatness. Art is the best
speaks in order to let himself he converted. He undetstands the listener remedy for misfortune. The conversation of the true spirit [Genius], how­
despite the flow of his own speech; he realizes that he is addressing someone ever, is prayer. As he speaks, the words fall from him like cloaks. The words
whose features are inexhaustihly earnest and good, whereas he, the speaker, of the true spirit strip him naked, and are covers in which the listener feels
blasphemes against language. clothed. Whoever listens is the past of the great speaker, his object and his
8 The Metaphysics of Youth The Metaphysics of Youth 9

dead strength. The speaking spirit is more silent than the listener, just as the to me. Through her I've learned not to know people. In my eyes, all were
praying man is more silent than God. mothers. All women had given birth to me; no man had p1layed a part in
my conception.

IV The Prostitute: This is the complaint of all the men who sleep with me.

When they look at their lives through my eyes, they see nothing but a

The speaker is always obsessed with the preselJt. That is his curse: he can thick column of ash that reaches their chin. No one engendered them,

never utter the past, which is, after all, his aim. And what he says has long and they come to me in order not to engender.

since taken hold of the unspoken question of the silent, and their gaze asks
him when he will stop speaking. He should, rather, entrust himself to the The Gemus: All the women I go to arc like you. They gave birth to me

and I was stillborn, and all wish to receive dead things from me.

listener so that she may take his blasphemy by the hand and lead it to the
abyss in which the speaker's sou] lies, his past, the lifeless field to which he
The Prostitute: But I am the one who has least fear of death. [They go to
is straying. But there the prostitute has long been waiting. For every woman bed.]
possesses the past, and in any case has no present. This is why she protects
meaning from understanding; she wards off the misuse of words and refuses
to let herself be misused. VI
She guards the treasures of daily life, but also of the night, the highest
good. This is why the prostitute is a listener. She rescues the conversation \Voman is the guardian of conversation. She receives the silence, and the
from triviality; greatness has no c1alm upon her, for greatness comes to an prostitute receives the creator of what has been. But no One watches over
end when confronted by her. She has seen every man's desire fail and now the lament when men speak. Their talk becomes despair; it resounds in the
the stream of words drains away into her nights. The present that has been muted space and blasphemes against greatness. Two men together are a~­
eternally will come again. The other conversation of silence is ecstasy. ways troublemakers; they finish by resorting to torch and axe. They destroy
women with their smutty jokes; the paradox violates greatness. Words of
the same gender couple and inflame each other with their secret desire; a
v sou lIess double entendre arises, barely concealed by the relentless dialectic.
The Genius: I've come to you for a resr. Laughing, revelation stands before them and compels them to fall silent.
The dirty joke triumphs-the world was built of words.
The Prostitute: Sit down, then. Now they have to rise and smash their books and make off with a woman,
The Genius: I'd like to sit down with you-I touched you just now, and it's since otherwise they will secretly strangle their souls.
as if I'd already been resting for years.
The Prostitute: You make me uneasy. If I were to lie next to you, I
wouldn't be able to sleep.

How did Sappho and her women-friends talk among themselves? How did
The Genius: Every night people come to your room. I feel as if I'd received women come to speak? For language extinguishes their soul. Women receive
them all, and they'd given me a joyless look and gone on their way.
no sounds from it and no salvation. Words waft over women who are sitting
The Prostitute: Give me your hand-your sleeping hand makes me feel that together, but the wafting is erucle and toneless; they lapse into idle chatter.
you've forgotten all your poems. Yet their silence towers above their talk. Language does not bear women's
souls aloft, because they do not confide in it; their past is never resolved.
The Genius: I'm thinking only of my mother. May I tell you about her?

She gave birth to me. Like you, she gave birth-to a hundred dead
The words fumble around them and some skill or other ena bles them to
poems. Like you, she didn't know her children. Her children have gone
make a swift response. But only in the speaker does language appear to
whoring with strangers.
them; tortured, he squeezes the bodies of the words in which he has repro­
duced the silence of the beloved. The words are mute. The language of
The Prostitute: Like mine. women has remained inchoate. Talking women are possessed by a demented
The Genius: My mother always looked at me, asked me questions, wrote language.
The Metaphysics of Youth 11
10 The Metaphysics of Youth
at whose heart an inscrutable death lies in wait. Throughout his life the
emptiness of time surrounds him, but not immortality. Devoured by the
How did Sappho and her women-friends talk among themselves?-Lan­ countless demands of the moment, time slipped away from him; the medium
guage is veiled like the past; like silence it looks toward the future. The in which the pure melody of his youth would swell was destroyed. The
speaker summons the past in it; veiled by language, he conceives his wom­ fulfilled tranquillity in which his late maturity would ripen was stolen from
anly past in conversation-but the women remain silent. Listen as they may, him. It was purloined by everyday reality, which, with its events, chance
the words remain unspoken. They bring their bodies close and caress one occurrences, and obligations, disrupted the myriad opportunities of youthful
another. Their conversation has freed itself from the subject and from time, immortal time, at which he did not even guess. Lurking even more
language. Despite this it marks out a terrain. For only among them, and menacingly behind the everyday reality was death. Now it manifests itself
when they are together, does the conversation come to rest as part of the in little things, and kills daily so that life itself may go on. Until one day
past. Now, finally, it has come to itself: it has turned to greatness beneath the great death falls from the clouds, like a hand that forbids life to go on.
their gaze, just as life had been greatness before the futile conversation. Silent From day to day, second to second, the self preserves itself, clinging to that
women are the speakers of what has been spoken. They leave the circle; instrument: time, the instrument that it was supposed to play.
they alone perceive the perfection of its roundness. 10 despair, he thus recalls his childhood. In those days there was time
None of them complai.n; they gaze in wonderment. The love of their without flight and an "I" without death. He gazes down and down into the
bodies does not procreate, but their love is beautiful to see. And they venture current whence he had emerged and slowly, finally, he is redeemed by losing
to gaze at one another. It makes them catch their breath, while the words his comprehension. Amid such obliviousness, not knowing what he thinks
fade away in space. Silence and voluptuous delight-eternally divorced in and yet thinking himself redeemed, he begins the diary. It is the unfathom­
conversation-have become one. The silence of the conversations was future able document of a life never lived, the book of a life in whose time
ddight; delight was bygone silence. Among the women, however, the con­ everything that we experienced inadequately is transformed into experience
versations were perceived from the frontier of silent delight. In a great burst perfected.
of light, the youth of mysterious conversations arose. Essence was radiant. A diary is an act of liberation, covert and unrestrained in its victory. No
unfree spirit will understand this book. When the self was devoured by
yearning for itself, devoured by its desire for youth, devoured by the lust
The Diary for power over the years to come, devoured by the yearning to pass calmly
through the days to come, darkly inflamed by the pleasures of idleness but
The next place might be so near at hand
cursed and imprisoned tn calendar time, clock time, and stock-exchange
That one could hear the cocks crowing in it, the dogs barking;
time, and when no ray of immortality cast its light over the self-it began
But the people would grow old and die
to glow of its own accord. I am myself (it knows), a ray of light. Not the
Without ever having been there.
murky inwardness of the self which calls me "I" and tortures me with its
-Lao Tzu, crans. Arthur Waley intimacies, but the ray of light of that other self which appears to oppress
me but which is also myself: the ray of time. Trembling, an "I" that we
know only from our diaries stands on the brink of an immortality into which
it plunges. It is time after all. In this self, to which events occur and which
We wish to pay heed to the sources of the unnameable despair that flows encounters human beings-friends, enemies, and lovers-in this self courses
in every soul. The souls listen expectantly to the melody of their youth-a immortal time. The time of its greatness runs out in it; it is the glow that
youth that is guaranteed them a thousandfold. But the more they immerse radiates from time and nothing else.
This believer writes his diary. He writes it at intervals and will never
themselves in the um:ertain decades and broach that part of their youth
complete it, because he will die. What is an interval in a diary? It does not
which is most laden with future, the more orphaned they are in the empti­
occur in Jevelopmental time, for that has been abrogated. It does not occur
ness of the present. One day they awake to despair: the first day of the diary.
in time at all, for time has vanished. Instead it is a book of time: a book of
With hopeless earnestness it poses the question: In what time Joes man
days. This transmits the rays of his knowledge through space. A diary does
live? The thinkers have always known that he does not live in any time at
not contain a chain of experiences, for then it would exist without intervals.
all. The immortality of thoughts and deeds banishes him to a timeless realm
12 The Metaphysics of Youth The Metaphysics of Youth 13

Instead t.ime is overcome, and overcome, roo, is the self that acts in time: I in their midst. The landscape transports us into their midst, the trembling
am entirely transposed into time; it irradiates me. Nothing further can treetops assail uS with questions, the valleys envelop us with mist, incom­
happen to this self, this creation of time. Everything else on which time prehensible houses oppress us with their shapes. We, their midpoint, impinge
exerts its effect yields to it. For in the diary our self, as time, impinges on on them. But from all the time when we stand there quivering, one question
everything else, the "1" befalls all things, they gravitate toward our self. But remains: Are we time? Arrogance tempts us to answer yes-and then the
time no longer impinges on this self, which is now the birth of immortal landscape would vanish. We would be citizens. But the spell of the book
time. The self experiences timelessness, all things are assembled in it. It lives bids us be silent. The only answer is that we set out on a path. As we
all-powerful in the interval; in the interval (the diary's silence), the "I" advance, the same surroundings sanctify us. Knowing no answers but form­
experiences its own time, pure time. It gathers itself in the interval; no thing ing the center, we define things with the movement of our bodies. By
pushes its way into its immortal juxtaposition of events. Here it draws the drawing uigh and distancing ourselves once again on our wanderings, we
strength to impinge on things, to absorb them, to misrecogoize its own fate. single out trees and fields from their like and flood them with the time of
The interval is safe and secure, and where there is silence, nothing can befall. our existence. We give firm definition to fields and mountains in their
No catastrophe finds its way into the lines of this book. That is why we do arbitrariness: they are our past existence-that was the prophecy of child­
not believe in derivations and sources; we never remember what has befallen hood. We are their future. Naked in this futurity, the landscape welcomes
us. Time, which shines forth as the self that we are, impinges on all things us, the grownups. Exposed, it responds to the shudder of temporality with
around us as they become our fate. That time, our essence, is the immortality which we assault the landscape. Here we wake up and partake of the
in which others die. What kills them lets us feel our essential nature in death morning repast of youth. Things perceive us; their gaze propels us into the
(the final interval). future, since we do not respond to them but instead step among them.
Around us is the landscape where we rejected their appeal. Spirituality's
thousand cries of glee storm around the landscape-so with a smile the diary
11 sends a single thought in their direction. Permeated by time, the landscape
Inclining her head, the beloved of the landscape shines in time, breathes before us, deeply stirred. We are safe in each other's care, the
But the enemy broods darkly above the center. landscape and I. We plunge from nakedness to nakedness. Gathered to­
His wings are poised in slumber. The black redeemer of the lands gether, we come to ourselves.
Breathes out his crystal No, and decides our death. The landscape sends us our beloved. We encounter nothing that is not in
landscape, and ill it we find nothing but future. It knows but one girl, and
On rare occasions the diary emerges hesitantly from the immortality of its she is already a woman. She enters the diary along with the history of her
intervals and writes itself. Silently it rejoices and surveys the fates that lie future. Together we have already died once. We were once entirely identical
within it, clearly entailed by its time. Thirsting for definition, things draw with that story. If we impinge on it in death, it impinges on us in life,
near in the expectation of receiving their fate at its hands. Tn their impotence countless times. From the vantage point of death, every girl is the beloved·
they approach its sovereign majesty; their amorphousness seeks definition. woman who encounters us sleepers in our diary. And her awakening takes
They give limits to humanity through their questioning existence and lend place at night-invisibly, to the diary. This is the shape of love in a diary;
depth to time. And as time at its extremity collides with things, it quivers it meets us in the landscape, beneath a very bright sky. Passion has slept its
with a hint of insecurity, and, questioning, replies to the questions posed by fill between us, and the woman is a girl, since she girlishly gives us back our
those things. In the interchange of such vibrations, the self has its life. This unused time that she has collected in her death. The plunging nakedness
is the content of our diaries: our destiny declares its faith in us because we which overwhelms us in the landscape is counterbalanced by the naked
have long since ceased to relate it to ourselves-we who have died and who beloved.
are resurrected in what happens to us. When our time expelled us from our isolation into the landscape and our
There is, however, a place reserved for the resurrections of the self, even beloved strode toward us on the protected path of thought, we could feel
when time disperses it in ever widening waves. That is the landscape. As how time, which sent us forth, flooded back toward us. This rhythm of time,
landscape all events surround us, for we, the time of things, know no time. which returns home to us from all corners of the earth, lulls us to sleep.
Nothing but the leaning of the trees, the horizon, the silhouetted mountain Anyone who reads a diary falls asleep over it and fulfills the fate of its writer.
ridges, which suddenly awake full of meaning because they ha vc placed us Again and again the diary conjures up the death of its writer, if only in the
14 The Metaphysics of Youth The Metaphysics of Youth 15

sleep of the reader: our diary acknowledges only one reader, and he becomes Once upon a time the things fell across his path, instead of coming to meet
the redeemer as he is mastered hy the book. We ourselves are the reader, or him; they assailed him from all sides while he took. flight. Never did the
our own enemy. He has found no entry into the kingdom that flowered noble spirit taste the love of the defeated. He felt mlstrust about whether
around us. He is none other than the expelled, purified "I," dwelling he was meant by the things. "Do you mean me?" he asked of the victory
invisibly in the unnameable center of time. He has not abandoned himself that had fallen to him. "Do you mean me?" to the girl who has cuddled up
to the current of fate that washed around us. As the landscape rose up to him. Thus did he tear himself away from his consummation. He had
toward us, strangely invigorated by us, as our beloved flew past us, she appeared as victor to his victory, as the beloved to the woman who loves
whom we had once wooed, the enemy stands in the middle of the stream, him. But love had come to him and victory had fallen at his feet while he
as upright as she. But more powerful. He sends landscape and beloved was sacrificing to the Penates of his privacy. He ran past his fate, unable
toward us and is the indefatigable thinker of the thoughts that come only ever to encounter it.
to us. He comes to meet us in total clarity, and while time conceals itself in But when, in the diary, the sovereignty of the self withdrew and the raging
the silent melody of the diary intervals, he is busily at work. He suddenly against the way things happen fell silent, events showed themselves to be
rears up in an interval like a fanfare, and sends us off on an adventure. He undecided. The ever more distant visibility of this self that relates nothing
is no less a manifestation of time than we are, but he is also the most more to itself weaves the ever more imrllinent myth of things that storm
powerful reflector of ourselves. Dazzling us with the knowledge of love and on, endlessly attracted to the self, as a restless questioning, thirsting for
the vision of djstant lands, he returns, bursting in on us, inciting our definition.
immortality to ever more distant missions. He knows the empires of the The new storm rages in the agitated self. Dispatched in the shape of time,
hundred deaths that surround time, and wishes to drown them in immor­ things storm on within it, responding to it in their humble, distancing
tality. After every sight and every flight from death, we return home to movement toward the center of the interval, toward the womb of time,
ourselves as our enemy. The diary never speaks of any other enemy, since whence the self radiates ourward. And fate is: this countermovement of
every enemy fades away when confronted by the hostility of our illustrious things in the time of the self. And that time of the self in which the things
knowledge; for he is an incompetent compared to us, who never catch up befall us-that is greatness. To it all future is past. The past of things is the
with our own time, who are always lagging behind it or precociously future of the "I"-time. But past things have futurity. They dispatch the time
overtaking it. We are always putting our immortality at risk and losing it. of the self anew whcn they have entered into the diary interval. With the
Our enemy knows this; he is the courageous, indefatigahle conscience which events our diary writes the history of our future existence. And thereby
spurs us on. Our diary writes what it must, while he remains active when prophesies our past fate. The diary writes the story of our greatness from
it breaks off at intervals. In his hand rest the scales of our time and of the vantage point of our death. For once, the time of things is really
immortal time. When will they come to rest? We shall befall ourselves. overcome in the timc of the self; fate is overcome in greatness; and intervals
in the interval. One day the rejuvenated enemy will confront us with his
boundless love, he who has gathered together all our dazzled weakness in
III his strength, bedded down all our nakedness in his bodjlessness, and
The cowardice of the living, whose manifold self is present in every adven­ drowned our all our silence with his speechlessness. He brings all things
ture and constantly hides its features in the garments of its dignity­ home and puts an end to all men, since he is the great interval: death. In
this cowardice must ultimately become unbearable. For every step we took death we befall ourselves; our deadness releases itself from things. And the
into the kingdom of fate, we also kept looking back-to see whether we time of death is our own. Redeemed, we become aware of the fulfillment
were truthful even when unobserved. So the infinitely humiliated sover­ of the game; the time of death was the time of our diary; death was the last
eign will in us finally became weary; it turned away, full of endless contempt interval, the first loving enemy, death which bears us with all greatness and
for the self that had been given to it. It mounted a throne in the imagina­ the manifold fate of our wide plain into the unnameable centerpoint of time.
tion and waited. In large letters the stylus of its sleeping spirit wrote the Death, which for one instant bestows immortality upon us. Simple and
diary. multifold, this is the content of our diaries. The vocation that we proudly
These books, then, arc concerned with the accession to the throne of an ~smissed in our youth takes us by surprise. Yet it is nothing but a call to
abdicating self. Abdicating from the experience for which he holds his self lnunorrality. We enter into the time that was in the diary, the symbol of
to be neither worthy nor capable, and from which he ultimately retreats. yearning, the rite of purification. With us things sink toward the center, with
16 The Metaphysics of Youth The Metaphysics of Youth 17

us they await the new radiance. For immortality can be found only in death, house without windows, a ballroom without world. Flights of stairs lead
and time rises up at the end of time. up and down, marble. Here time is captured. It sometimes resists, moves its
weary breath in us, and makes us restless. But a word, uttered in the night,
summons someone to us; we walk together, we did not really need the music
but could lie together in the dark, even though our eyes would flash, just
The Ball like a sword between people. We know that all the merciless realities that
For the sake of what prelude do we cheat ourselves of our dreams? With a have been expelled still flutter round this house. The poets with their bitter
wave of the hand we push them aside into the pillows, leave them behind, smiles, the saints and the policemen, and the waiting cars. From time to
while some of them flutter silently about our heads. How do we dare carry time, music penetrates to the outside world and submerges them.
them into the brightness of day, as we awake? Oh, into the brightness! All
Written in 1913-1914; unpublished in Benjamin's lifetime. Translated hy Rodney Living­
of uS carry invisible dreams around with us; how deeply veiled the girls' stone.
faces are, their eyes are secret [heimliche] nests of the uncanny [der Unheim­
lichen], of dreams, quite inaccessible, luminous from sheer perfection. The
music elevates us all to the level of that bright strip of light-you have all
seen it-that shines from beneath the curtain when the violins tune up in
the orchestra. The dance begins. Our hands slide off one another; our
glances meet, laden, emptying themselves our and smiling from the ultimate
heaven. Our bodies make careful contact; we do not arouse each other from
our dreams, or call each other homeward into the darkness-out of the
night of nights which is not day. How we love each other! How we safeguard
uur nakedness! We have bound everything in gay colors, masks, alternately
withholding and promising naked flesh. In everything there is something
monstrous that we have to keep quiet about. But we hurl ourselves into the
rhythm of the violins; never was a night mote ethereal, more uncanny, more
chaste than this.
Where we stand alone, on a cartload of fanfares, alone in the bright night
of nights which we conjured up, our fleeing soul invites a woman to come-a
girl who stands at the end of a distant room.
She walks regally across the parquet floor that lies so smoothly between
the dancers, as if it reflected the music; for this smooth floor to which people
do not belong creates a space for Elysium, the paradise that joins the isolated
into a round dance. Her stately step creates order among the dancers; she
presses some to leave; thcy break into fragments at the tables where the din
uf the lonely holds sway, or where people move along corridors, as if on
tightropes through the night.
When did night ever attain brightness and become radiant, if not here?
When was time ever overcome? Who knows whom we will meet at this
hour? Otherwise (were there an "otherwise") we would be JUSt here, but
already complete; otherwise we would perhaps just pour away the dregs of
the day and start to taste the new one. But now we pour the foaming day
over intu the purple crystal of the night; it becomes peaceful and sparkling.
The music transports our thoughts; our eyes reRect our friends around
us, how they all move, surrounded hy the flowing night. We are truly in a
A Child's View of Color 51

which to create the interrelated totality of the world of the imagination. The
imagination can be developed only by contemplating colors and dealing with
them in this fashion; only in this way can it be both satisfied and kept within
bounds. Wherever it applies itself to the plastic arts, it becomes overly lush;

A Child's View of Color

the same applies to history, and in music it is sterile. For the fact is that the
imagination never engages with form, which is the concern of the law, but
can only contemplate the living world from a human point of view creatively
in feeling. This takes place through color, which for that reason cannot be
single and pure, for then it remains dull. Instead, wherever it is not confined
to illustrating objects, it must be full of light and shade, full of movement,
arbitrary and always beautiful. In this respect, coloring-in has a purer
pedagogical function than painting, so long as it makes transparent and
fresh surfaces, rather than rendering the blotchy skin of things. Productive
adults derive no support from color; for them color can subsist only within
law-given circumstances. Their task is to provide a world order, not to grasp
innermost reasons and essences but to develop them. In a child's life, color
is the pure expression of the child's pure receptivity, insofar as it is directed
at the world. It contains an implicit instruction to a life of the spirit which
Color is something spiritual, something whose clarity is spiritual, so that is no more dependent on accidental circumstances for its creativity than
when colors are mixed they produce nuances of color, not a blur. The color, for all its receptivity, is capable of communicating about the existence
rainbow is a pure childlike image. In it color is wholly contour; for the of dead, causal reality.
person who sees with a child's eyes, it marks boundaries, is not a layer of Children's drawings take colorfulness as theIr point of departure. Their
something superimposed on matter, as it is for adults. The latter abstract goal is color in its greatest possible transparency, and there is no reference
from color, regarding it as a deceptive cloak for individual objects existing to form, area, or concentration into a single space. For a pure vision is
in time and space. Where color provides the contours, objects are not concerned not with space and objects but with color, which must indeed be
reduced to things but are constituted by an order consisting of an infinite concerned with objects but not with spatially organized objects. As an art,
range of nuances. Color is single, not as a lifeless thing and a rigid individu­ painting starts from nature and moves cumulatively toward form. The
ality but as a winged creature that flits from one form to the next. Children concern of color with objects is not based on their form; without even
make soap bubbles. Similarly, games with painted sticks, sewing kits, decals, touching on them empirically, it goes right to the spiritual heart of the object
parlor games, even pull-out picture books, and, to a lesser extent, making by isolating the sense of sight. It cancels out the intellectual cross-references
objects by folding paper-all involve this view of color. of the soul and creates a pure mood, without thereby sacrificing the world.
Children like the way colors shimmer in subtle, shifting nuances (as in Colorfulness does 1I0t stimulate the animal senses because the child's uncor­
soap bubbles), or else make definite and explicit changes in intensity, as in rupted imagi1l3tive activity springs from the soul. But because children see
oleographs, paintings, and the pictures produced by decals and magic lan­ with pure eyes, without allowing themselves to be emotionally disconcerted,
terns. For them color is fluid, the medium of all changes, and not a symptom. it is something spiritllal: the rainbow refers not to a chaste abstraction but
Their eyes are not concerned with three-dimensionality; this they perceive to a life in art. The order of art is paradisiacal because there is 110 thought
through their sense of touch. The range of distinctions within each of the of the dissolution of boundaries-from excitement-in the object of expe­
senses (sight, hearing, and so on) IS presumably larger in children than in rience. Instead the world is full of color in a state of identity, innocence, and
adults, whose ability to correlate the different senses is more developed. The harmony. Children are not ashamed, since they do not reflect but only see.
child's view of color represents the highest artistic development of the sense
Fragment written in 1914-1915; unpublished in Benjamin's liferime. Translared by Rod­
of sight; it is sight at its purest, because it is isolated. But children also elevate
ney I.ivingsrone.
it to the spiriruallevel because they perceive objects according to their color
content and hence do not isolate them, instead using them as a basis from
Colored Illustrations in Children's Books 265

d regret, and this tension with the messianic is the exclusive effect of
, uine art, whose recipient learns not from memory alone but from the
rning that it satisfies too soon and therefore too slowly.
If our painters nowadays again evoke these colors in their aquarelles, this
Notes for a Study of the Beauty of Colored ould not seduce us into too great a pleasure, too liberated a joy, in looking
them; and where this does happen, it is rare for the painter (Richard
Illustrations in Children's Books wald) to be quite without guilt. A complete renunciation of the spirit of
,e art is the precondition for the imaginative use of color. Incomparable,
,owever, is the feeling of calm that steals over us when we see such pictures
odestly and namelessly dedicated to children. Paradise is as far removed
Reflections on Lyser1
m the apocalypse (though this apocalypse is a hesitant one) as the latter
. from art.
For adults, the yearning for paradise is the yearning of yearnings. Not the
yearning for fulfillment, but the yearning to be without yearning.
The gray Elysium of the imagination is, for the artist, the cloud in which
he rests and the wall of cloud on the horizon of his visions. This wall opens
up for children, and more brightly colored walls can be glimpsed behind it.
Motto: A soft green glow in the evening red.
Compare the dialogue on the rainbow. 2 The paint applied in watercolo:
-Fritz Heinle
there differs from the colors of painting, which make marks. What appea
in the shape of marks addresses through the act of perception the entiJ
metaphysical nature of man, and the imagination speaks in it inseparabl
1. Pure color and mark
from the authentic and morally tinged yearning of mankind. By the sa
token, where the color, the transparent or glowing brightness of the colors' 2. Space, color, and imagination
impairs its relation to the surface, painting, however delightful it may be, 3. Pure color and memory
always verges on the empty effect, in which the imagination is unharnessed. 4. Paradise
from the heart and races around aimlessly (a picture by Dosso Dossi springs,
to mind).-In the pictures in children's books, the object and the great 5. Children and the memory of paradise
autonomy of the graphic medium (woodcut or engraving) ensures that there Aspects of style in Heinrich Hoffmann's books for children:
can be no question of the ki.nd of synthesis of heart and imagination which Fantasy and irony, both thoroughly Romantic. But the imagination of
painting achieves with marks. On the contrary, here the imagination may Jean Paul, not that of Tieck; extreme exuberance. 3 Furthermore, rejection
and even must be allowed to roam free, so that it can produce in its own of every synthetic principle. The strictest individualization through color.
medium what the spirit of the drawing has in mind. Garres' critique of bouquets. 4 (Unable to find it!)
Children's books do not serve to introduce their readers directly into the See the "background" in the watercolor illustrations in children's books,
world of objects, animals, and people, into so-called life. Rather, if anything in COntrast to those of pictures in "Signs and Marks."5
remotely similar to the Platonic anamnesis actually exists, it would take
place in the lives of children, for whom picture books are paradise. By Fragment written in 1918-1921; unpublished in Benjamin's lifetime. Translated by Rod­
ney Livingstone.
remembering, they learn; what you put into their hands should have, insofar
as human hand can impart it to paper, the color of paradise, just as a
butterfly's wings have their patina. Children learn in the memory of their
first intuition. And they learn from bright colors, because the fantastic play
of color is the home of memory without yearning, and it can be free of 1. Johann Peter Lyser (1ll04-1870), author, graphic artist, and music critic. Ben­
yearning because it is unalloyed. In that sense, the Platonic anamnesis is not jamin admired his illustrations for children's books; sec his remarks in "Old
quite rhe form of memory specific to children. For it is not withom yearning Forgotten Children's Books," below.-Trans.
"Old Forgotten Children's Books" 407

dren's books were just so much waste paper. He was the first to provide
them with a haven where, for the foreseeable future, they could feci safe
from the paper mill. Of the several thousand that fill his shelves, there may

be hundreds of which he possesses the only surviving copy. Even though he
is the first archivist of children's books, he does not step before the public
with a sense of dignity and official rank. He does not solicit respect for his
Id Forgotten Children's Books"
work, but only invites us to share the beauty that it has revealed to him.
The scholarly apparatus, in particular a bibliographic appendix of some two
hundred of the most important titles, is secondary. It will be welcome to the
collector without distracting the nonscholar. Children's literature in German
(the author tells us in his introduction to its history) began with the Enlight­
enment. With their emphasis on education, the Philanthropists put their
great humanitarian cultural program to the test. 2 If man was pious, good,
and sociable by nature, it had to be possible to transform children, who
were creatures of nature in its purest form, into the most pious, the best,
and the most sociable beings of all. And since, in all forms of education
inspired by theory, a grasp of practical technique tends to be discovered only
at a late stage and the beginnings tend to be full of problematic admonitions,
"Why do you collect books?"-Have the bibliophiles ever been invited to we find that children's books are likewise edifying and moralistic, and that
reflect on their own activities? How interesting the replies would be-the they modulate the catechism, along with its interpretations, in the direction
honest ones, at least! For only the uninitiated outsider could imagine that of deism. Hobrecker takes a stern view of these texts. It cannot be denied
there is nothing worth hiding or glossing over here. Arrogance, loneliness, that they are often dryas dust, and even incomprehensible to children. But
bitterness-those are the dark sides of many a highly educated and con­ these faults, which have long since been overcome, are trifling compared to
tented collector. Now and then, every passion lifts the veil on its demonic the follies fashionable today, thanks to supposed insights into the child's
aspect; the history of book collecting might tell a few tales about this with psyche-follies such as the depressingly distorted jolliness of rhyming stories
the best of thern.-There is no sign of that in the collector's credo of Karl and the pictures of grinning babies' faces supplied by God-forsaken, child­
Hobrecker, whose great collection of children's books is now placed before loving illustrators. Children want adults to give them clear, comprehensible,
the public with the appearance of this work.! Even a reader who might miss but not childlike books. Least of all do they want what adults think of as
the evidence which is in this man's warm and refined character, or which is childlike. Children are perfectly able to appreciate serious matters, even
revealed on every page of his book, will see from a single moment's reAection when these may seem remote and indigestible, so long as they are sincere
that only a person who has held on to a childlike delight in this field-chil­ and come straight from the heart. For this reason, there may still be some­
dren's books-wonld have chosen it as the subject of a collection. That thing to be said for some of those old-fashioned texts. At the beginnings of
childlike pleasure is the origin of his library, and every such collection must children's literature, we find-in addition to primers and catechisms-illus­
have something of the same spirit if it is to thrive. A book, even a single trated lexicons and illustrated alphabet books, or whatever name we wish
page or a mere picture in an old-fashioned volume handed down from to give to the Orbis pictus of Amos Comenius. This genre, too, is one that
mother and grandmother, may suffice as the support around which the first the Enlightenment appropriated after its own fashion, as exemplified by
tender shoots of this passion entwine. It doesn't matter if the cover is loose, Basedow's monumental Elementarwerk. 3 This book is a pleasure in many
or if pages are missing, or if clumsy hands have colored in some of the respects, even textually. For next to long-winded, encyclopedic learning
woodcuts. The search for a beautiful copy has its place, but is more likely which, in the spirit of its age, emphasizes the "utility" of all things-from
here than elsewhere to break the neck of the pedant. And it is good that the mathematics to tightrope walking-we find moral stories that are so graphic
patina that has been deposited by unwashed children's hands will keep the that they verge, not unintentionally, on the comic. Together with these two
book snob at a distance. works, the later Picture-Book for Children deserves a mention. Published
Twenty-five years ago, when Hobrecker started his collection, old chi)­ in Weimar between 1792 and 1847 under the editorship of E J. Bertuch, it
408 "Old Forgotten Children's Books"
"Old Forgotten Children's Books" 409
consists of twelve volumes, each with a hundred colored copperplate illus_

ucts of that era: their illustrations. These were beyond the reach of philan­

trations. The care lavished upon the production of this picture encyclopedia

thropic theories, so artists and children swiftly came to an understanding

shows the dedication with which people worked for children in those days.

over the heads of the pedagogues. Yet it is not as if the artists had worked

Nowadays most parents would be horrified at the suggestion that such

exclusively with children in mind. The collections of fables show that related

preciolls books should be given to children. Yet in his preface Benuch does

formulas recur in the remotest places with larger or smaller variations. In

not hesitate to invite children to cut the pictures out. Finally, fairy tales and

like fashion, picture-books go back even further, as we can see from the

songs-and, to a lesser degree, chapbooks and fables as well-provide

way in which, for example, illustrations of the Seven Wonders of the World

children's literature with its sources. Only the purest sources, of course.

can be traced back to the copper engravings of the seventeenth century, and

Recent novelistic writings for the young, writings that resemble a rootless

perhaps to earlier times. We may perhaps venture to surmise that the

excrescence full of more-than-dubious sap, have been inspired by a thor­

illustrations of these works have some connection with the emblem books

oughly modern prejudice. According to this prejudice, children are such

of the Baroque period. These are not such very different worlds as might

esoteric, incommensurable beings that One needs quite exceptional ingenuity

be supposed. At the end of the eighteenth century, a type of picture-hook

in order to discover ways of entertaining them. It is folly to brood pedan­

appeared: such books show, on each page, a motley collection of objects

tically over the production of objects-visual aids, toys, or books-that are

without any pictorial connection between them. These are objects that begin

supposed to be suitable for children. Since the Enlightenment, this has been

with the same letter of the alphabet-apple, anchor, atlas, and so forth-and

one of the mustiest speculations of the pedagogues. Their infatuation with

are accompanied by their equivalents in one or more foreign languages. The

psychology keeps them from perceiving that the world is full of the most

task of the artist in this situation is not unrelated to the problems faced by

unrivaled objects for children's attention and use. And the most specific. For

the graphic artists of the Baroque in designing pictographic combinations

children are particularly fond of haunting any site where things are being

of allegorical objects; both epochs produced ingenious and highly significant

visibly worked on. They are irresistibly drawn by the detritus generated by

solutions. Nothing is more striking than the fact that the nineteenth century,

building, gardening, housework, tailoring, or carpentry. In waste products

which was compelled to sacrifice so much of the cultural capital of the

they recognize the face that the world of things turns directly arid solely to

preceding age in order to accommodate the huge growth in universal knowl­

them. In using these things, they do not so much imitate the works of adults

edge, nevertheless retained so many of the texts and illustrations of children's

as bring together, in the artifact produced in play, materials of widely

books. It is true that after 1810 such sophisticated works as the Viennese

differing kinds in a new, intuitive relationship. Children thus produce their

euition of Aesop's Fables (second edition, Heinrich Friedrich MUlIer, Vienna,

Own small world of things within the greater one. The fairy tale is such a

n.d.), a book I consider myself fortunate to be able to add to Hobrecker's

waste product-perhaps the most powerful to be found in the spiriruallife

list, cease to be produced. In general, refinement in drawing and coloring is

of humanity; a waste product that emerges from the growth anu decay of
not a feature in which the children's books of the nineteenth century are
the saga. Children are able to manipulate fairy stories with the same ease
able to compete with their predecessors. Their charm lies partly in their
and lack of inhibition that they display in playing with pieces of cloth and
primitive nature, in the fact that the documents of the time show how the
bUilding blocks. They build their world out of motifs from the fairy tale,
old forms of production have to engage with the early stages of more
combining its various elements. The same is true of songs. And the fable­
modern techniques. After 1840 lithography hecame dominant, whereas
"The fable in its proper form can be a spiritual product of wonderful
earlier, in copper engravings, eighteenth-century motifs are still frequently
profundity, but its value is seldom recognized by children." We may also
encountered. In the Biedermeier of the 1820s and 1830s, only the coloring
question whether young readers admire the fable for the moral tagged on
is characteristic and novel.
at the end, or whether they use it to school their understanding, as was the

traditional wisdom and, above all, the desire of people who were strangers It seems to me that in that Biedermeier period, there is a preference fot carmine,

to the nursery. Children enjoy the spectacle of animals that talk and act like orange, and ultramarine; a brilliant green is also used. When set beside these
people far more than they enjoy any text burdened with good thoughts. glittering clothes, this sky-blue azure, the vivid flickering flames of volcanoes
"Literature intended spe<.:ifically for the young," we read elsewhere, "began and great conflagrations, what is left of the simple black-and-white copper
with a great fiasco-this much is certain." And, we may add, this situation engravings and lithographs which had been good enough for boring grown-ups
still obtains to this day in a great many instances. in the past? Where shall we again see such roses in bloom, where are such
rosy-cheeked apples and faces to be found, where will we see such hussars in
One thing redeems even the most old-fashioned and self-conscious prod-
their green dolmans and madder-red uniforms with yellow bands? Even the
410 "Old Forgotten Children's Books" "Old Forgotten Children's Books" 411

plain, mouse-gray top hat of the noble father and the pale-yellow headscarf of lithographs. This is an opportunistic hodgepodge of fairy tale, saga, local
the beautiful mother elicit our admiration. legend, and horror story, which was assembled from dubious sources and
published in Meissen in the 1830s by F. W. Goedsche. The most uninterest­
This resplendent, self-sufficient world of colors is the exclusive preserve of ing towns of central Germany-Meissen, Langensalza, Potschappcl,
children's books. When in paintings the colors, the transparent or glowing Grimma, and Neuhaldensleben-appcar to the collector in a magical topo­
motley of tones, lllterfere with the design, they come perilously close to graphic combination. Schoolteachers may often have acted as writers and
effects for their own sake. But in the pictures in children's books, the object illustrators at the same time, and it is easy to imagine the sort of book that
depicted and the independence of the graphic design usually exclude any introduces the gods and goddesses of the Edda to the youth of langensalza
synthesis of colot and drawing. In this play of colors, the imagination runs in thirty-two pages and eight lithographs.
riot. After all, the role of children's books is not to induct their readers For Hobrecker, however, the focal point of interest is not so much here
directly into the world of objects, animals, and people-in other words, into as in the 1840s to 1860s, especially in Berlin, where thc graphic artist
so-called life. Very gradually their meaning is discovered in the outside Theodor Hosemann applied his charming talents above aU to the illustration
world, but only in proportion as they are found to correspond to what of writings for young people. Even the Icss worked-on sheets have been
children already possess within themselves. The inward nature of this way given an identity by the cool, graceful coloring and a sympathetic astrin­
of seeing is located in the color, and this is where the dreamy life that objects gency in the expressions of the figures, which will warm the heart of any
lead in the minds of children is acted out. They learn from the bright native Berliner. Admittedly, the earlier, less schematic and less numerous
coloring. For nowhere is sensuous, nostalgia-free contemplation as much at works of the master will rank higher in the eyes of the connoisseur than the
home as in color. better-known ones, which can be recognized by their uniform format and
But the most rema rkable publications emerged in the 1840s, toward the the trademark of their publisher, Winckclmann and Sons of Berlin, and can
end of the Biedermeier period, concurrently with the growth of technical be found in every secondhand bookshop. An example of the former can be
civilization and that leveling of culture which was not unrelated to it. The found in the charming illustrations to Puppe Wunderhold [Wunderhold the
dismantling of the hierarchical society of the Middle Ages was now com­ Doll], an outstanding jewel of the Hobrccker collection. Alongside Hose­
plete. In the course of this process, the finest and best substances often sank mann, other artists active at the time include Uohann Heinrich] Ramberg,
to the bottom, and so it comes to pass that the keener observer is often able [Adrian Ludwigl Richter, [Otto] Speckter, and [Franz Graf von] Pocci, not
to rediscover them in the lower reaches of printed and graphic publications, to mention lesser talents. For children, a whole new world opcns up in their
such as children's books, when he might search for them in vain in the black-and-white woodcuts. The original value of these woodcuts is not
generally recognized documents of culture. The merging of all intellectual inferior to that of the colored prints; they are, in fact, their polar comple­
classes and modes of action becomes particularly clear in a bohemian figure ment. The colored picture immerses the child's imagination in a dream state
from those days who unfortunately finds 110 place in Hobrecker's account, within itself. The black-and-white woodcut, the plain, prosaic illustration,
even though some of the most perfect children's books (albeit some of the leads him out of himself. The compelling invitation to describe, which is
rarest) owe their existence to him. I am thinking of Johann Peter lyser, the implicit in such pictures, arouses the child's desire to express himself in
journalist, poet, painter, and musician. The fabelbuch [Book of Fables] by words. And describing these pictures in words, he also describes them by
A. L. Grimm, with illustrations by Lyser (Grimma, 1827), the Buch der enactment. The child inhabits them. Their surface, unlike that of colored
Mdhrchen fiir Tochter und S6hne gebildeter Stande [Book of Fairy Tales pictures, is not a Noli me tangere-either in itself or in the mind of the child.
for the Sons and Daughters of the Educated ClassesJ (Leipzig, 1834), text On the contrary, it seems incomplete and so can readily be filled out.
and illustrations by lyser, and Linas Mahrchenbuch [Lina's Book of Fairy Children fill them with a poetry of their own. This is how it comes about
Tales], text by A. L. Grimm, illustrations by Lyser (Grirnma, n.d.)-these that children inscribe the pictures with their ideas in a more literal sense:
are three of his finest books for children. The color of their lithographs they scribble on them. At the same time as they learn language, they also
contrasts with the vivid coloring of Biedermeier books and fits much bctter learn how to write: they learn hieroglyphics. The true meaning of these
with the careworn, emaciated features of many of its characters, the shad­ simple illustrated children's books is very different, then, from the tedious
owy landscape and the fairy-talc atmosphere, which is not without an ironic, and absurd reasons that induced rationalist pedagogues ro recommcnd them
satanic streak. The cheap sensationalism that forms the background against in the first place. Yet here, too, we see the trutb of the 01<.1 saying, "Philistines
which this original art developed can be seen most strikingly in the many are often right about something, but never for the right reasons." For no
volumes of the Thousand and One Nights ot the West, with its original other pic'tures can introduce children to both language and writing as these
"Old Forgotten Children's Books" 413
412 "Old Forgotten Children's Books"
2. Philantbropism was a pedagogical reform movement of the late eighteenth cen­
can-a truth that was expressed in the old primers when they first provided
tury. Its main theorist was Johann Bernhard Basedow (1723-1790), who derived
a picture to illustrate the words. Colored picture-books as we now know many of his ideas from Rousseau. Basedow's school, the "Philanthropin" in
them are an aberration. In the kingdom of monochrome pictures, children Dessau, hecame the model for a number of similar institutions throughout Ger­
awaken, just as they dream their dreams in the realm of color. many and Switzerland.-Trans.
The debates about the most recent past are the most acrimonious in all 3. Basedow's Elementarwerk [Elementary Work] of 1774 is his fundamental treatise
of historiography. This holds true even in the harmless history of children's on education.-Trans.
literature. Opinions will differ most when it comes to judging the children's 4. Jean Paul Richter (1763-1825) is remembered for a series of wildly extravagant
books from the last quarter of the nineteenth century on. Although Ho­ novels that are indebted to Sterne. He was one of's favorite authors.
brecker castigated the older literature for its hectoring didactic tone, he Levana (1807) is a treatise on educatian.-Trans.
perhaps tended to overlook less obvious defects in more recent books. They
were also perhaps further removed from his own concerns. A pride in our
psychological insight into the internal life of the child, which can Ilowhere
compete with the older pedagogical methods contained in such books as
Jean Paul's Levana,4 has engendered a literature whose complacent courting
of the modern public obscures the fact that it has sacrificed an ethical
content which lent dignity even to the most pedantic efforts of neoclassical
pedagogy. This ethical content has been replaced by a slavish dependence
on the slogans of the daily press. The secret understanding between the
anonymous craftsman and the childlike reader has vanished. Both writers
and illustrators increasingly address children via the impure medium of
acute contemporary anxieties and fashions. Cloying gestures, which are
directed not at children but at decadent conceptions of children, have made
their home in the illustrations. The format has lost its unpretentious refine­
ment and has become too insistent. Amid all this kitsch, precious documents
of cultural history are to be found, but they are still toO new for our pleasure
in them to be unalloyed.
However that may be, Hobrecker's book itself, both in its contents and
its appearance, is suffused with the charm of the best Romantic children's
books. Woodcuts, full-page color illustrations, silhouettes, and delicately
colored pictures in the text make it a delightful family book which can give
pleasure to adults, while even children could take it up in order to attempt
to spell out the old texts or to use the pictures to copy. Only the collector
will see a shadow fall over his pleasure: he fears that prices will rise. In
exchange, he will be able to hope that a few volumes which might otherwise
have been heedlessly destroyed will owe their survival to this work.

Written in 1924; published in the lllustrierte Zeitung, 1924. Translated by Rooney


1. Karl Hobrecker, Alte vergessene Kinderbucher (Berlin: Mauritius-Verlag, 1924),
160 pages.
434 Johann Peter Hebel (II)

humor collects huge sums in pennies. He is exemplary in his storytelling as

a whole, as well as inexhaustible in every detail. One of his stories opens
with the words, "It is well known that once upon a time an old mayor of
Wasselnheim complained to his wife that his French would bring him to an
early grave." This expression "well known" is enough to fill in the sterile
gulf that separates history from private life in the mind of every philistine.
To say nothing of that twenty-line historical excursus in "Unverhofftes
Wiedersehen" [Unexpected Reunion] which contains the whole of Hebel in
a nutshell. Hebel's artistry is as nondescript as emperors and victories appear
A Glimpse into the World of Children's Books
to be in those twenty lines of world history. It is all difficult to evaluate, A soft green glow in the evening red.
right down to the level of linguistic detail, for the use of dialect seems to -C. F. Heinle
swathe its power in a veil of mystery rather than provide a source of energy.
The minute scale of his work is the guarantee of his survival in even the
most alien environment. A bishop's crozier that is handed down in a family
from one generation to the next may one day be thrown away because it
has become as great an embarrassment as a Jacobin's bonnet rouge. But no
one will throwaway that inconspicuous brooch on which a crozier is crossed
with a bonnet rouge.
Tn one of Andersen's tales, there is a picture-book that cost "half a king­
Written in 1926; published in Die literarische Welt, 1926. Translated by Rodney Living­
dam." In it everything was alive. "The birds sang, and people came out of
the book and spoke." But when the princess turned the page, "they leaped
back in again so that there should be no disorder." Pretty and unfocused,
like so much that Andersen wrote, this little invention misses the crucial
Notes point by a hair's breadth. The objects do not corne to meet the picturing
1. Johann Peter Hebel (1760-1826) was a Journalist and author; he was much
child from the pages of the book; instead, the gazing child enters into those
esteemed for the use of dialect in hiS writings, a practice that had fallen prey to pages, becoming suffused, like a cloud, with the riotous colors of the world
eighteenth-century enlightened universalism. As editor and chief writer of the of pictures. Sitting before his painted book, he makes the Taoist vision of
Badischer Landkalendar, an annual publication not unlike the American Old perfection come true: he overcomes the illusory barrier of the book's surface
Farmer's Almanac, Hebel produced an enormous volume of prose and poetry. A and passes through colored textures and brightly painted partitions to enter
typical calendar would include a cosmology embellished with anecdotes and a stage on which fairy tales spring to life. Hoa, the Chinese word for
stories, practical advice for the homeowner and farmer, reports on crime and "painting," is much like kua, meaning "attach": you attach five colors to
catastrophe, short biographies, riddles, and, finally, political observations on the the objects. In German, the word used is anlegen: you "apply" colors. In
year just past. Hebel's narrative persona, the "Rhenish Family-Friend," narrates such an open, color-bedecked world where everything shifts at every step,
and comments; Steme-like ironic interjections are not infrequent.-Trans.
the child is allowed to join in the game. Draped with colors of every hue
2. Adalbert Stifter (1805-1868), Austrian writer whose short prose aod novels are
that he has picked up from reading and observing, the child stands in the
characterized by an unusually graceful style and a reverence for natural proc­
ess.-Trans. center of a masquerade and joins in, while reading-for the words have al1
3. Jean Paul Richter (1763-1825) is remembered for a series of wildly extravagant come to the masked ball, are joining in the fun and are whirling around
novels that are indebted to Sterne. He, like Goethe, was one of Benjamin's favorite together, like tinkling snowflakes. "'Prince' is a word with a star tied to it,"
allthorsj Schiller, on the otber hand, plays virtually no role in Benjamin's canon.­ said a boy of seven. When children think up stories, they are like theater­
Trans. producers who refuse to be bound by "sense." This is easily proved. If yOll
give children four or five specific words and ask them to make a shorr
sentence on the spot, the most amazing prose comes to light: thus, not a
glimpse into but a guide to children's books. At a stroke, the words throw
436 The World of Children's Books The World of Children's Books 437

on their costumes and in the twinkling of an eye they are caught up in a legs between tree branches, and use a house roof as a coat. These carnivals
battle, love scenes, or a brawl. This is how children write their stories, but overflow even into the more serious space of ABC-books and reading
also how they read them. And there are rare, impassioned ABC-books that primers. In the first half of the last century, [Paul] Renner in Nuremberg
playa similar sort of game in pictures. Under Plate A, for example, you will published a set of twenty-four sheets in which the letters were introduced
find a higgledy-piggledy still-life that seems very mysterious until you realize in disguise, as it were. F appears as a Franciscan, C as a Clerk, P as a Porcer.
what is happening and what Apple, ABC-book, Ape, Airplane, Anchor, Ark, The game was so popular that variations on these old motifs have survived
Arm, Armadillo, Aster, and Ax are all doing in the same place. Children to this day. Last, the rebus rings in the Ash Wednesday of this carnival of
know such pictures like their own pockets; they have searched through them words and letters. It is the unmasking: from the midst of the resplendent
in the same way and turned them inside out, without forgetting the smallest procession, the motto-the gaunt figure of Reason-gazes aLIt at the chil­
thread or piece of cloth. And if, in the colored engraving, children's imagi­ dren. The rebus (a word that, curiously, was formerly traced back to rever
nations can fall into a reverie, the black-and-white woodcut or the plain instead of to res) has the most distinguished origins: it descends directly
prosaic illustration draws them out of themselves. Just as they will write from the hieroglyphics of the Renaissance, and one of its most precious
about the pictures with words, so, too, will they "write" them in a more books, the Hypnerotomachia Poliphili, may be described as its letters patent.
literal sense: they will scribble on them. Unlike the colored pictures, the It was perhaps never so widely known in Germany as in France, where
surface of the black-and-white illustration seems to be incomplete and hence around 1840 there was a fashion for charming picture collections in which
in need of additions. So children imaginatively complete the illustrations. the text was printed in the form of picture writing. Even so, German
At the same time as they learn language from them, they also learn writing: children, too, had delightful "educational" rebus books. By the end of the
hieroglyphics. It is in this spirit that the first words learned are supplemented eighteenth century at the latest, we see the publication of Sittenspruche des
with line drawings of the objects they refer to: "egg," "hat." The genuine Buchs Jesus Sirach fur Kinder und junge Leute aus allen Standen mit Bildern
worth of such straightforward picture-books is far removed from the ra­ welche die vornehmsten Worter ausdrucken [Moral Sayings from the Book
tionalist crudeness that caused them to be recommended in the first place.­ of Ecclesiasticus for Children and Young People of All Classes, with Pictures
"The way the child makes itself a little home," explores its picture landscape that Express the Most Important Words]. The text is delicately engraved in
with its eyes and finger, can be seen in this paradigmatic nursery rhyme from copper, and wherever possible all the nouns are represented by small,
an old picture-book, Steckenpferd und Puppe [Stick-Horse and Doll], by beautifully painted illustrative or allegorical pictures. As late as 1842,
J. P. Wich (Nbrdlingen, 1843): IBenedictus Gotthel£] Teubner published a Kleine Bibel fur Kinder [Little
Bible for Children], with 460 illustrations. And in children's books, even
In front of the little town, there sits a little dwarf,

children's hands were catered to just as much as their minds or their

Behind the little dwarf, there stands a little mountain,

From the little mountain, there flows a little stream,

imaginations. There are the well-known pull-out books (which have degen­
On the little stream, there floats a little roof,
erated the most and seem to be the most shore-lived as a genre, just as the
Beneath the little roof, there stands a little room,
books themselves never last for long). A delightful example was the Livre
Inside the little room, there sits a little boy,
imt-jou, which was published by Janet in Paris, presumably in the 1840s. It
Behind the little boy, there stands a little bench,
is the story of a Persian prince. All the incidents of his adventures are
On the Jjttle hench, there rests a little chest,
illustrated, and each joyful episode where he is rescued can be made to
In the little chest, there stands a little box,
appear with the wave of a magic wand, by moving the strip at the side of
In the little box, there lies a little nest,
the page. Similar to these are the books in which the doors and curtains in
In front of the little nest, there stands a little cat,
the pictures can be opened to reveal pictures behind them. And finally, just
That's a lovely little place, I'll make a note of that.

as a novel has been written about the doll you can dress up (Isabellens
In a less systematic, more whimsical and boisterous way, children play with Verwandlungen oder das Madchen in sechs Gestalten: Ein Unterhaltendes
puzzle-pictures in which they set out in pursuit of the "thief," the "lazy Buch fur Madchen mit sieben kolorierten beweglichen Kupfern [Isabella's
pupil," or the "hidden teacher." Though such pictures may seem related to Transformations, or The Girl with Six Outfits: An Entertaining Book for
those drawings full of contradictions and impossibilities which nowadays Girls, with Seven Colored Pictures that Move]; published in Vienna), so,
are used for tests, these are likewise really only a masquerade: exuberant, too, you now find in books those beautiful games in which little cardboard
impromptu games in which people walk upside down, stick their arms and figures can be attached by means of invisible slits in the board and can be
438 The World of Children's Books The World of Children's Books 439

l' ;: l!

~ .. " .' • \:.., p •

\"t lICr_''I(\.tutr'l _~Clll( ,..:vutcr put

lIi,h 1'1c1l1ld11' ~lntt.

~ li n\ll.\lclt

,uif ~t l'
... • j'. ....
~ U \lltllf llllih


('~lr: X", IS ~'.':~

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Figure 1 Aesop's Fables, second edition. Published by Heimich Friedrich Muller, ~""*"--."' ••.p"'''' .ttll!
Bookseller, Kohlmarkt 1218, Vienna, no date. Collection of Walter Benjamin. l~lJlC ~\t\tI}\llIrrtt ~td(n tell\ .

rearranged at will. This means that you can change a landscape or a room
according to tbe different situations that arise in the course of the story. For
those few people who as children---or even as collectors-have had the great Figure 2 Moral sayings from the book by Jesus Sirach, Nuremberg. Collection
good fortune to come into possession of magic books or puzzle books, all of Walter Benjamin.
of the foregoing will have paled in comparison. These magic books were
ingeniously contrived volumes that displayed different series of pictures
accorc.ling to the way one flickec.l through the pages. The person in the know
can go through such a book ten times, and will see the same picture on page
after page, until his hanc.l slips-and now it is as if the entire hook were
transformec.l, and completely different pictures make their appearance.
440 The World of Children's Books The World of Children's Books 441

1/;1''1 ';///t

Figure 3 The Book of Tales for Daughters and Sons of the Educated Classes,
by Johann Peter Lyser. With eight copperplate illustrations. leipzig: Wigand'sche
Verlags-Expedition, 1834. Collection of Walter Benjamin.

Books such as these (like the quarto from the eighteenth century in the hands
of the present writer) seem to contain nothing but a flower vase, or again
a grinning devil, or some parrots, followed by all black or all white pages,
windmills, court jesters, or pierrots. Another one has a series of toys, sweets
for a well-behaved child, or, again, when you turn it round, a series of
punishments and frightening faces for the child who has been naughty.
The heyday of children's books, in the first half of the nineteenth century,
was not just the product of an educational philosophy (which was in some
respects superior to that of today), but also emerged simply as an aspect of Figure 4 The Magical Red Umbrella: A New Tale for Children. Neuruppin
the bourgeois life of the day. In a word, it was created by the Biedermeier Primers, and Verlag von Gustav KUhn. Collection of Walter Benjamin.
period. Even the smallest towns contained publishers whose most ordinary
products were as elegant as the modest house furniture of the time, in the
drawers of which their books lay untouched for a century. This is why there
are children's books not just from Berlin, Leipzig, Nuremberg, and Vienna;
for the collector, works published in Meissen, Grimma, Gotha, Pirna,
Plauen, Magdeburg, and Neuhaldensleben have a much more promising
ring. Illustrators were at work in almost all of those towns, though the
442 The World of Children's Books The World of Children's Books 443

majority have remained unknown. From time to time, however, one of them arise anew, and vanish, it is like taking breath in great pauses from one eternity
is rediscovered and receives a biographer. This was the case with Johann to the next, from the greatest light down to the solitary and eternal silence in

Peter Lyser, the painter, musician, and journalist. A. L. Grimm's Fabelbuch the deepest shades. The opaque colors, in contrast, are like flowers that do not
[Book of Fables] (Grimma, 1827), with Lyser's illustrations, the Buch der dare to compete with the sky, yet are concerned with weakness (that is to say,
Mahrchen fur Tochter und Sohne gebildeter Stande [Book of Fairy Tales for white) on the one side, and with evil (that is to say, black) on the other side.
It is these, however, that are able ... to produce such pleasing variations and
Da ughters and Sons of the Educa ted Classes] (Leipzig, 1834), with text and
such natural effects that ... ultimately the transparent colors end up as no
illustrations by Lyser, and Linas Mahrchenbuch [Lina's Book of Fairy Tales] more than spirits playing above them and serve only to enhance them. 2
(Grimma, n.d.), with text by A. L. Grimm and illustrations by Lyser, Contain
his most beautiful work for children. The coloring of these lithographs pales With these words, the "Supplement" to the Theory of Color does justice to
heside the fiery coloring of the Biedermeier period, and matches better the the sensibilities of these worthy colorists and hence to the spirit of children's
haggard and often careworn figures, the shadowy landscape, and the fairy­ games themselves. Just think of the many games that are concerned with
tale atmosphere which is not without an ironic, satanic streak. The crafts­ pure imaginative contemplation: soap bubbles, parlor games, the watery
manship in these books was fully committed to the ordinary life of the petty color of the magic lantern, watercoloring, decals. In all of these, the color
bourgeoisie; it was not there to be enjoyed but was to be used like cooking seems to hover suspended above the ohjects. Their magic lies not in the
recipes or proverhs. It represents a popular, even childlike variant of the colored object or in the mere dead color, but in the colored glow, the colored
dreams that assumed their most exaggerated forms in the works of the brilliance, the ray of colored light. At the end of its panorama, the glimpse
Romantics. This is why Jean Paul is their patron saint.! The central-German into the world of children's books culminates in a rock covered with Bied­
fajry-world of his stories has found expression in their pictures. No writing ermeier flowers. Leaning on a sky-blue goddess, the poet lies there with his
is closer to their unpretentiously colorful world than his. For his genius, like melodious hands. What the Muse whispers to him, a winged child sitting
that of color itself, is based on fantasy, not creative power. When you look next to him puts into a drawing. Scattered around are a harp and a lute.
at colors, the intuitions of fantasy, in contrast to the creative imagination, Dwarves fiddle and toot in the depths of the mountain, while in the sky the
manifest themselves as a primal phenomenon. All form, every outline that sun is setting. This is how Lyser once painted the landscape, and the eyes
man perceives, corresponds to something in him that enables him to repro­ and cheeks of children poring over books are reflected in the glory of the
duce it. The body imitates itself in the form of dance, the hand imitates and sunset.
appropriates it through drawing. But this ability finds its limits in the world
Written in 1926; published in Die literarische Welt, 1926. 'Translated by Rodney Living­
of color. The human body cannot produce color. It does relates to it not
creatively hut receptively: through the shimmering colors of vision. (Anthro­
pologically, too, sight is the watershed of the senses because it perceives
color and form simultaneously. And so, on the one hand, the body is the
organ of active relations: the perception of form and movement, hearing Notes
and voice. On the other hand, there are the passive relations: the perception 1. Jean Paul Richter (1763-1825) lS remembered for a series of wildly exu'avagant,
of color helongs to the realms of smell and taste. Language itself synthesizes highly imaginative novels that combine fantasy and realism; they are indebted to
this group into a unity in words like "looking," "smelling," "tasting," which Sterne.-Trans.
apply intransitively to objects and transitively to human beings.) In short, 2. Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, Parbenlehre, ed. Hans Wohlbold (Jena, 1928),
pure color is the medium of fantasy, a home among clouds for the spoiled pp.440-442.-Trans.
child, not the strict canon of the constructive artist. Here is the link with its
"sensuous, moral" effect which Goethe understood entirely in the spirit of
the Romantics:

In their illumination and their obscurity, the transparent colors are withollt
limits, just as fire and water can be regarded as thei.r zenith and nadir ... The
relation of light to transparent color is, when you come to look into it deeply,
infinitely fascinating, and when the colors flare up, merge into one another,