Karl Koetschau Bookplate by Adolf Uzarski
Rare Books and Special Collections Division
McGill University Libraries

Karl Koetchau Bookplate by Ernst Liebermann
Rare Books and Special Collections Division
McGill University Libraries


Bookplates (Ex Libris) and Signatures in Books from Karl Koetschau's Library

Most of the books that came into Max Stern's book collection from Karl Koetschau's library (except for the ones he wrote) have one of two bookplates in them. Many books are signed C. Koetschau. (SEE ALSO Max Stern's Library; Stern and Koetschau)

One ex libris is by the painter Ernst Liebermann (1869-1960; no relation to the famous Max Liebermann) and signed "Ernst Liebermann Mchn." This probably means that the artist was living in Munich when he designed it. It is undated and has "Buecherzeichen" (bookplate) across the top and "Karl Koetschau" across the bottom, both in full capital letters. The two men may have met at the Veste Coburg, where Koetschau was the director of the Ducal Collection of Art and Antiquities (Herzogliche Kunst- und Altertumssammlung) in 1897-1902 and where Liebermann stayed around 1900. An undated "Portrait Sketch of a ca. Six-year-old Girl in a Red Hat" by the artist is dedicated to Koetschau's wife, the girl probably being the Koetschaus' daughter (shown at the "Von Friedrich bis Liebermann: 100 Meisterwerke deutscher Malerei aus dem Museum für Kunst und Kulturgeschichte der Stadt Dortmund" exhibition held at the Veste Coburg, 31 January-25 July 1999).

The ex libris shows a bearded Renaissance scholar in a hat and fur-lined coat seated at a table, with an open book and a statuette of a nude girl before him. He is looking up at the statuette. The window beside him opens onto an extensive view of a gently rolling landscape with a river winding through it. This is the view from the Veste Coburg, a huge fortified castle on a steep hilltop, which has survived to this day and still houses the museum. It features two-pane window units exactly as depicted here.
The ex libris is printed with two colours: the sky and river are blue, the rest greenish-gold. The clouds, their reflection in the river, the statuette and the books are white. Sharp black lines create outlines and shading, giving a woodcut effect. The bookplate was made in two sizes: 160 mm x 95 mm and 40 mm x 25 mm.

The other ex libris is by the painter, graphic artist, illustrator and writer Adolf Uzarski (1885-1970), signed "Uzarski 17". It was probably made in 1917. Both men were living in Düsseldorf at the time. In 1919 Koetschau published an article on him in Das Plakat, a journal specialized in poster art. The bookplate shows a pile of books and portfolios topped by an open book, with a pair of reading glasses and an inkpot with a quill in it lying on them, beside a bust of Goethe. This is a reference to Koetschau's scholarly research. In particular it points to his work on Goethe (beginning in 1897) and his term as the director of the Grand Ducal Museums (Grossherzogliche Museen) and the Goethe National Museum in Weimar, where he reorganized the collections, as well as Goethe's house and Tiefurts Palace (1907-09). On top of a small bookshelf behind these objects is a Gothic statue of the Madonna (the figure's pose, drapery and hands suggest it was part of a Crucifixion ensemble) next to a drooping tulip in a glass. This refers to Koetschau's lifelong interest in late medieval art beginning with his doctoral research. His writings include articles on, e.g., a Madonna forgery (no date), Swabian Madonnas (1934), and an essay on Goethe's attitude towards Gothic art in a Festschrift for his friend (and Max Stern's thesis advisor) Paul Clemen (1926). The ex libris is printed in olive green ink. "EX LIBRIS" is written across the spines of books in two rows on the shelf, "Karl Koetschau" at the lower left. It measures 232 mm x 175 mm and was usually laid in Koetschau's books; it was pasted in only once. A smaller version, 130 mm x 95 mm, of which there are fewer, was not pasted in either.

Paul Horn's book on graphic art in Düsseldorf: Düsseldorfer Graphik in alter und neuer Zeit, of which a presentation copy inscribed to Dr Max Stern dated 18 October 1928 is in the Collection, includes a section on Uzarski and an illustration of this bookplate.

Hanns Schreiner Bookplate in Julius Stern's Books

Four of the books previously owned by Max Stern's father Julius contain the ex libris of Hanns Schreiner (who is as yet unidentified). It is dated 1909 and has the artist's monogram F. P. (unidentified). The bookplate shows a man in black knee britches, stockings, buckled shoes and jacket with a fitted waist and white neck ruffle and wearing a big black hat. He has a moustache and wears glasses. Walking away from the viewer with big strides, he is carrying three huge books under his arms. Other books and papers are scattered on the ground. In the frame, in each top corner on either side of EX LIBRIS in capital letters, is a coat of arms with three crests on it and surrounded by a laurel wreath. A Greek tragic mask, one smiling and one frowning, is in each of the lower corners. Above each is an owl in three-quarter profile. Between the masks is the owner's name. Printed in black, the bookplate measures 100 mm x 65 mm.