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Weihnachts-Krippen Aus Papier
Christmas Paper Cribs, by Norbert Langenbach
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Christmas Paper Cribs by Norbert Langenbach; paperback, 84 pages; 12.95 Euro; Husun Verlag
Emperor Joseph II of Austria-Hungary (1741-1790) banished crèches from churches.
Weihnachts-Krippen aus Papier (Christmas Paper Cribs) by Norbert Langenbach; paperback, 84 pages; 12.95 Euro; Husun Verlag, Verlagsgruppe Husum, Postfach 1480, 25804, Husum, Germany; www.verlagsgruppe.de.

Remember the amiable emperor in Peter Schafer's Amadeus?

Here his is, at left, looking like a double of the actor who embodied him in the eponymous film.

But maybe he wasn't so amiable, after all: Joseph II of Austria-Hungary is remembered—by crèche anthusiasts, at least—as having abolished depictions of The Nativity from churches in his empire.

"His prohibition of setting up Christmas cribs in church," writes Norbert Langenbach in his delightful new book Weihnachts-Krippen aus Papier (Christmas Paper Cribs), "had unintended consequences: the burghers—in villages and towns—took the church cribs home."

But not everyone, Herr Langenbach informs us, was able to afford the work of those gifted fresco artists, carpenters, and stone-cutters. But paper, brushes, and paints were a different matter. And so, Herr Langenbach continues, "in the 17 century, demmand for home nativities—and lack of money for three-dimensional cribs—accelerated creativity: a cottage industry developed up, painting familiar church cribs on paper for the home. Church figures, however, may have measured a meter high; household cribs were 10-15 cm or smaller.

"In the 18 century, well-to-do aristocrats commissioned cribs in oil or tempera on paper, cardboard, wood, or sheet metal that sometimes numbered over 100 krippenfiguren that could be displayed as dioramas.

"The advent of photolithography in the second half of the 19th century made possible high-quality editions of paper cribs. And the development of the railway opened up new markets all over Europe. The Scholz Publishing House in Mainz offered in 1912 thirty-five different paper cribs in its catalog that could be assembled from nativity sheets.

"Publishing House J.F. Schreiber in Esslingen, in 1878, popularized crib paper modeling beyond the borders of Southern Germany. And, in 1907, Burckhard Company in Elsass offered approximately 42 different crib sheets. In Austria, the Brothers Trentsensky for many decades ran, in Vienna, one of the largest publishing houses. Their crib sheet series included "The Birth of Christ" that included the Holy Family, choirs of angels, the Three Kings and their stately attendants, numerous animals, and buildings.

"Hand-painting of black-and-white printed sheets was done by women and children at home, for small wages. Even convicts got into the act, and around 1850 were paid 2.50 marks for 500 sheets. Still, the paper cribs were not affordable for everyone: in 1910, a large Schreiber crib cost .20 marks. For comparison, a loaf of bread cost between 13-17 pfennig. Daily worker wages amounted to 3.50 marks.

"These cribs are especially common in the areas of Bohmens and Mahrens, where they were endowed by their creators with a breath of poetry and originality. In these cribs, the whole multi-colored community can be found: the chimney sweet beside the miller; the farmer beside the pharmacist; the teacher beside the shoemaker—a wonderful depiction of village and town life."

Weihnachts-Krippen aus Papier is a wonderful depiction of paper nativities as well: 69 great examples of crèche sheets, die-cut, fold out, and table-top crèches the Herr Langenbach has collected and also lovingly photographed.

Having spent a considerable amount of time behind a camera myself, I can especially appreciate the author/photographer's efforts in bringing these lovely nativities to the printed page.

Thank you, Herr Langenbach, for sharing this wonderful collection, and your love of crèches, with us.

Emperor Joseph II of Austria-Hungary (1741-1790) banished crèches from churches.
Neuruppiner Bilderbogen
New Crèche Sheets

As if the collection of crèches inWeihnachts-Krippen aus Papierwasn't enough, the book also contains a tempting page (see image at left) of crèche sheets and pull-figures.

Also published by Husum Verlag and available from the publisher's Verlagsgruppe Husum Shop, or, perhaps, at your local bookshop.

(From top, left) Krippenboggen und Ziehfiguren—Crib Sheet with figures.

A Heilige Drei Könige—The Three Kings.

Krippel Bilder—Crib pictures.

Acht verschiedene ziehfiguren—Eight pull figures.

Vier Ruprechte und Nikoläuse, ziehfiguren—Santa Claus and St. Nick, pull-figures.

Nikolaus ziehfiguren—St. Nick, pull-figure.

I'm sure you'll want them all.

—Alexis



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