Am Beispiel Günther Wagner – Pelikan
by Heinz Rings
Görres-Druckerei und Verlag GmbH, Neuwied, 2015, 292 pages
A great new book about Pelikan has become available and I wanted to highlight it now that I’ve completed my first read through. Published last year, the title of this book roughly translates to “History of German Advertising by the Example of Günther Wagner – Pelikan.” This tome is 292 pages with 600 sensational illustrations of Pelikan ephemera taken from Mr. Rings’ collection as well as Pelikan’s own archives. You learn in the first few pages that Mr. Rings is an expert in the advertising history of Germany and has been collecting ephemera for decades. Deutsche Werbegeschichte takes a look at how Pelikan’s advertising evolved from 1880 through the year 2000. The book is available in an unassuming plain blue hard cover and is written in both German and English with translation provided by Tamara E. Koch. Work on this volume began in 1997 and has taken many years to come to fruition. This is perhaps the most extensive catalogue of the brand’s advertising across a wide variety of mediums that one could hope to find available today.
It appears that this first edition was privately printed and therefore may be quite limited in number. Hopefully successful sales will ensure another edition some time in the future. Like many of the other great text that exist about the brand, the preface lists Jürgen Dittmer (Pelikan’s archivist) and the Pelikan archives as indispensable resources for the completion of the book. While this tome does not focus on fountain pens themselves, it provides a very insightful look at the advertising and ephemera that backed up many of the product lines over the years. From pocket knives to ash trays and sculptures to posters, anyone serious about collecting Pelikan writing instruments should find the contents of this book interesting.
It seems that every book about Pelikan starts with a history of the company and this one is no exception. One difference here though is that Mr. Rings tries to look at the history from an advertising perspective. In fact, every detail of this book is looked at through the lens of advertising which provides a unique experience for the reader. One of the things that I enjoyed most about the book is that many of the advertising posters of the past and their sometimes obscure motifs are explained. The last 80+ pages are a nice recap of so many of Pelikan’s iconic advertising posters, a great number of which were created by famous artists. Also, many of the items that you see come up for sale at auction are included in this volume which provides a nice back story and helps one to really understand where these pieces fit in the broader scheme of Pelikan’s marketing strategy. If you follow the secondary market, you are likely familiar with the transition Pelikan’s packaging has made over the years and I found the discussion about the role that the bold, vibrant reds of the 1960’s played in Pelikan’s consumer appeal interesting.
You clearly get a sense that this is a well researched book. The list of references includes over 40 different sources. Deutsche Werbegeschichte is nicely laid out but there is no table of contents or index and that makes going back to find an obscure passage difficult. Also, the English text is done in a light blue while the German text is black. This makes the English passages just slightly more difficult to read. Speaking of those passages, the translation trips up in a few spots but not enough to detract or significantly obscure the text’s meaning. Despite these few quibbles, I think that this is a great resource, one that will be well received by the community. It is welcome not only for its sheer volume of content but also for the historical perspective on advertising in general. This volume expands nicely upon the previously available Pelikan -The Brand which had been published in 2013. That work was put out by the company itself and focuses mainly on the evolution of the brand by way of print media. Some overlap with Mr. Rings’ book does exist but Deutsche Werbegeschichte branches out to include so many other items used to promote the company over the years which means there is no shortage of fresh content.
Mr. Rings does not speak much English and I have to thank fellow enthusiast Dominic Rothemel of Pelikan Collectibles for bridging the language barrier and securing permission for me to use these photos of the text. It is unclear just how many copies have been produced in this first run and how widely available the book will be. The only outlet that I’m aware of right now is via an account on German eBay. The asking price is 60 euros (~$65.59) which I think is quite reasonable given the amount of information contained within. Shipping to the USA is steep at 35.99 euros (~$39.34) but this book is heavy and oddly shaped resulting in the increased shipping cost. Even at $105 total investment, I found the collection of information contained within worth the money. If you’d like to get a copy for yourself, you can check out the available auctions from German eBay user Pelikaner2.
If you’re interested in this and other books specifically about Pelikan, check out “Books About Pelikan” in The Aviary.
*Photos reproduced from Deutsche Werbegeschichte with the kind permission of Mr. Heinz Rings