Emanuel Querido and his publishing house
'EMANUEL QUERIDO was a portuguese jew' is how more than one account
of his life begins, but it is surely ironic that this should be considered
the most significant feature of a person who as a young man turned his
back with such determination on Jewish religion and the Amsterdam Jewish-Portuguese
community. In his novel Het Geslacht der Santeljanos he described
the milieu and family, and the protagonist's shedding of the old traditions
and culture. Jewish emancipation and integration into the artistic and
intellectual life of Amsterdam, of the Netherlands, and even into that
of the larger world was the theme that dominated his whole life. If, therefore,
his life and work cannot properly be considered part of the history of
Jewish culture of Amsterdam, they certainly belong to a chapter of its
A grandfather will always be a grandfather; at least, that is how I experience it. Even though he was a publisher and I am bibliographer, I still feel no real temptation to marshal the memories that linger in my mind into the coherence of comprehensive lists, formal descriptions, tabulation and statistics, and all the other paraphernalia of a detached and academic approach. I prefer my memories to remain fragmentary, capable of expansion and contraction, stimulated sometimes by the work of others, in particular A. L. Sötemann's and F. H. Landshoff's recent books. Both are excellent, both stir up deep memories and recollections, and I refer to both for accurate and affectionate accounts of my grandfather's place among the publishers of his time.
I have memories of him as a grandfather, which is what he was for me,
but I also remember him in relation to his work, his life as a publisher,
and his intense love of books which he began to share with me as soon as
I could read. I remember him surrounded by books, arranged on shelves in
his study, displayed on a large, flat table, or filling the air with the
scent of fresh paper and print in his office.
Best of all, I remember him, the image of concentration, immersed in the making of books, in proofs, in illustrations and layouts. The titles which I still recall from my earliest years must have been of books that were among the last with which he was actively involved: J.W.F. Werumeus Buning's Ik zie ik zie wat gij niet ziet (what child could forget such a title?), the Cervantes translation, and above all Jane de Iongh's Regentessen der Nederlanden, the illustrations for which he saved from my inquisitive hands while explaining what he was doing with them.
It has often been observed that he attracted remarkable names for the typography and graphical work in his publications. Before starting on his publishing career (which did not begin properly until 1915), he used a device with the letters EmQ designed by Berlage. It can be seen in A. Schopenhauer's Pererga en Paralegomena, translated by H.W.P E. van den Bergh van Eysinga, published in 1908 as an idealistic venture into popular education. In the first successful years after the firm was established, until about 1930, a striking house-style was developed of bold typography combined with the heavy woodcut illustrations and jackets by J. B. van Heukelom and Fré Cohen and with bindings in matching style. It was a personal and extreme interpretation of the 'New Art of the Book' of the first quarter of the twentieth century. In the late 1920s there were some exquisite designs by Raoul Hynckes, exceptional both in lettering and illustration. Querido Verlag, the branch of the firm that published German authors in exile from 1933 to 1940 was fortunate to attract Henri Friedlaender, who designed no fewer than 51 books for them. In the same period many of the bindings, jackets and title-pages of Dutch books show the unmistakable flourishes of Jan van Krimpen, who first designed a book for Em. Querido in 1926. Yet, despite the diverse and personal style of each of these designers, there are common factors in these books (except the German list, which was largely left in Landshoff's competent hands). With hindsight I can only ascribe this to a constant interaction between publisher and designer. From what I recall of the goings on in that warm household where I spent a great deal of time, my grandfather's participation was always lively. Contact with designers was no less intense than that with authors.
I do not remember my grandfather as a particularly talkative man, but rather as one who chose his words carefully, and often savoured their pronunciation with obvious enjoyment. The Salamander series owes its name not to any symbolism attached to the creature, but to the satisfaction of enunciating the word. Words were important to him, and like his brother Israël, like his own son, he could draw on a rich well of language. For each of them, this never-ending source was sometimes a dangerous gift. As a novelist my grandfather's prose was overcontrived, at times impenetrable in its verbose descriptions, over-conscious as he was of constructing images with words. It is different to use words for giving actual, physical shape. When using words to construct, for example, a title-page, they are harnessed within set spaces, with the effect of enhanced value and emphasis. Typography is a medium that imposes constraints, and the balance thus found between language and actual shape can be deeply satisfying. Language can be found to express ideas together with the means to support them physically. I think that the pleasure in arranging words, using them to good visual effect, can be sensed even in the title-page of the Schopenhauer translation of 1908. It can be followed over the years, for example, on the cover of Margot Vos, Meiregen, 1925, designed by Raoul Hynckes. Even when the words were entirely dictated by the formulas of an academic occasion, as with my father's doctoral thesis (1926), they seemed to acquire exceptional significance on the title-page on which they were arranged by a proud and grateful father.
With Jan van Krimpen an entirely new style was introduced which contained new elements of lightness. I do not doubt that he soon became my grandfather's favourite designer. The elegant forms that lent emphasis as effectively as the heavy styles used hitherto drew on calligraphic traditions of Dutch high culture. In the final years of my grandfather's activity, this was even turned into playfulness. We see this in some publications of works by J.W.F. Werumeus Buning, who had a command of rhetorical language used with a light hand that greatly appealed to both my grandfather and Jan van Krimpen. ln their sensitivity to language and its ornaments, the three were well matched. Buning's half-ironical title-page combined with Jan van Krirnpen's layout became a near pastiche of Dutch seventeenth-century printing which was fully appropriate to the anthology Lof van Nederland (1941?). I have some mementos of the friendship between my grandfather and Werumeus Buning in the form of little dedicatory poems and jokes ('Queer I did / Queer I do / May it please / Querido'), but no traces of personal contact with Van Krimpen. Yet I think that Van Krimpen more than anyone else knew how to transform emphasis, which ran the risk of being oppressive, into joy in words and language, and that he had interpreted my grandfather's underlying ideas and qualities to perfection. In fact, with the transformation from a heavy style to the more light-footed Van Krimpen style, not only Em. Querido's Uitgevers-Maatschappij moved with its time, but Emanuel Querido (1871-1943) evolved towards an integration of personal style and expression into the larger tradition of Dutch culture.
A.L. Sötemann, Querido van 1915 tot 1990: een uitgeverij.
(Amsterdarn 1990) (Jaarboek van Querido, no. 42).
F.H. Landshoff. Amsterdam, Keizersgracht 333. Querido Verlag. Erinnerungen eines Verlegers. Mit Briefen und Dokumenten. Auswahl der Briefe und Fotos: Isolde Schloesser. Anmerkungen, Bibliographie, Auswahl der Abbildungen im Text und Register: Christa Streller (Berlin 1991).