Kahn, Fritz | Das Leben des Menschen [with the poster] Der Mensch als Industrialpalast

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  • First editions, first impressions of all five volumes of Fritz Kahn's modernist magnum opus, a rare complete set including the famous poster "Der Mensch als Industriepalast", the poster "Stammbaum des Menschen" (Man’s Family Tree), the eight page explanatory text accompanying the posters, the publisher’s prospectus, 3D glasses for viewing some of the illustrations, and a broadside apologising for delays in publishing.

    Kahn, a German gynaecologist, was "arguably one of the most successful popular science writers internationally between 1920 and 1960" (Borck, "Communicating the Modern Body", Canadian Journal of Communications, Vol. 32, No. 3, p. 495). His heavily illustrated books combined science with the zeitgeist of Weimar Germany: new technologies, rapid industrialisation, and the Bauhaus and Dada movements.

    Das Leben des Menschen was Kahn's greatest achievement, a copiously illustrated five-volume set on human anatomy and physiology which took nearly a decade to complete. "Prolonged by the inflation crisis of 1923 and the economic depression at the end of the 1920s, but also by the difficulties of containing the increasingly extensive material in the initially planned volumes, the book finally amounted to more than 1,600 pages, with the last of its fifty binders issued and distributed in 1931, a decade after the start of the project. More than a thousand illustrations were included in the five volumes, and almost 150 colour plates" (Borck, pp. 501-502).

    Das Leben “fascinated laymen as well as scientists with its visual analogies and metaphors and their unusually expressive and contemporary design. To pique his reader’s curiosity for the sciences and anthropology, Kahn tried to be up-to-date in both content and form. The predominant and more conventional illustrations were created in the publisher’s design department, following Kahn’s instructions. For more complex images, Kahn commissioned freelance painters, architects, and graphic designers who implemented his ideas in their own styles. A famous example was the almost life-sized poster 'Der Mensch als Industriepalast' (Man as Industrial Palace) of 1926. This conceptual way of illustration became Kahn’s trademark and is now considered as a pioneer work of information design” (Debschitz, fritz-kahn.com).

  • ...Eine volkstümliche Anatomie, Biologie, Physiologie und Entwicklungsgeschichte des Menschen. Stuttgart: Kosmos, Gesellschaft der Naturfreunde, 1922, 24, 26, 29, & 31.

    5 volumes, large octavo. Original blue half cloth, light blue cloth sides, titles to spine gilt and to front boards in blue, patterned endpapers, top edges dyed blue. Illustrations throughout. The posters "Der Mensch als Industrialpalast" and "Stammbaum des Menschen" are loosely inserted in volume V, as issued. Some spotting and partial toning of the boards, light spotting to the edges of the text block, contents tanned as usual. An excellent set, the cloth fresh and bright