The good books

Looking more like an exhibition than a book display, the new Taschen corners in Steimatzky’s bookstores offer real gems.

Taschen Corners 370 (photo credit: Courtesy)
Taschen Corners 370
(photo credit: Courtesy)
If every person talked about their work the way that the international sales staff of publishing house Taschen do, the world would be a much happier place. The joy with which international sales director Jean-Jacques Baudouin-Gautier and export sales manager Ian Murphy describe their daily adventures in the book trade burst forth with every description, every detail. The two were in Israel to launch the Taschen corners in five of Steimatzky’s bookstores. The two representatives glanced over their catalogue, pointing to their newest favorites. Amongst the art books were a smattering of catchy titles such as Modernist Cuisine, 36 Hours and The Book Of Symbols.
“You see,” explained Baudouin-Gautier, pointing to the Taschen corner, “The display differs from a regular bookstore, it’s like an exhibition. The covers are facing you, drawing you in, whereas, the rest of the store is designed like a library.” The stark white shelves of the Taschen stand present a clean backdrop from which the multicolored jacket covers of their books leap out. Almost subconsciously, the customer’s hand is drawn towards one gorgeous book or another. “Taschen is all about selling differently,” says Boudouin-Gautier.
These pieces of pop eye-candy range in size and price and cover a vast array of topics from photography to erotica to children’s stories. The connecting thread between them is their beauty. Regardless of the content, Taschen books are distinguishable by their superb and flawless aesthetic.
The company was founded in 1980 by an 18-year-old comics fan. Initially, Benedikt Taschen wanted only to dispense of his enormous collection of comic books. Only four years later, Taschen purchased a large collection of works by René Magritte, selling them off for a very reasonable price. Taschen was thus convinced of his calling, to bring art to the masses, regardless of class or pocket size.
In 1985, Taschen published his first original book, which featured the life and work of Picasso. In the nearly three decades since, Taschen has collaborated with the biggest names in fashion, art and movies. Taschen books are published in 20 languages and are sold worldwide in Taschen stores and by international distributors such as Steimatzky.
One of the most recent editions to hit Taschen corners is the illustrated version of The Fairy Tales of the Brothers Grimm, which was printed to celebrate the 200th anniversary of Children’s and Household Tales. “I was really impressed by this book,” says Baudouin-Gautier. “The illustrations are so different from the ones we grew up with, they are extraordinary.”
“In the beginning,” says Baudouin-Gautier, who joined the Taschen team 17 years ago, “we focused only on art. We have recently printed a series of cookbooks and have begun to enter the field of children’s books. Times have changed and we must go to where the needs are, which means considering a new range of subjects.” At present, Taschen carries items with costs ranging from 10 euros to half a million euros.
Seven years ago, Taschen released the limited edition version of GOAT – Greatest Of All Time, a celebration of former boxer Muhammad Ali. The original price of the limited edition of GOAT was 15,000 euros. “I shiver when I think of this book,” says Murphy. “We had the release party in Frankfurt and Muhammad Ali was there. It was truly amazing.” Last year, Taschen re-released GOAT at a much-reduced price of 150 euros.
“Our books have many lives,” says Baudouin- Gautier. “We will publish a new book starting with a limited edition, which is an expensive book for a happy few. Limited editions are investments; their value goes up as the years go by. Then we re-publish a less expensive version, making that same book available and affordable for all.”
One item that may be of particular interest to the Israeli buyer is the facsimile of The Esther Scroll, based on the original copy of this historic text, which is housed in the Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz Library in Hannover. After years of research, author Falk Wiesemann discovered that this unusual version of the megila’s scribe was German-Jewish artist Wolf Lieb Katz Poppers. The limited edition of The Esther Scroll will be available in early summer and is priced at 600 euros.
“Every year at Taschen is different. We made a very successful book about the CCCP (Cosmic Communist Constructions Photographed) at the same time we published a book on American pornographic actress Vanessa Del Rio. It’s very eclectic, which is what is so wonderful about Taschen. There is real freedom in what Taschen makes, and people need freedom,” beams Baudouin-Gautier. “It’s about free style, free topics and having no taboos.”