06 Jun

Etwas von Dorothee

Dorothee sent me a most wonderful gift!

I love the end papers. They remind me of German Scherenschnitte. The book is “Etwas von den Wurzelkinder” written and illustrated by Sybille v. Olfers. It is a German family classic for people my age and older, about the seasons. And, of course, the autumn page has Fliegenpilze!

I’ve seen this book at friends’ homes, and certainly the aesthetic lives on in Jahresseitkinder and Waldorf toys. Here’s a link to an edition from 1913. You may also recognize it as the basis for Sieglinde Schön Smith’s prize winning “Mother Earth and her Children.” Smith’s quilt was also the impetus for an English translation of Olfers’ book using the quilt as the illustrations.

I have to interject here my mixed feelings about the new book. Smith’s quilt is undeniably beautiful, and made with love and skill. The original book is a classic in Germany and it is no wonder that Olfers’ beautiful images stayed with Smith. She has done a masterful job interpreting the original, but I am a bit saddened that in all the hoopla about the quilt and the recreation of the book, little to no credit is ever given to Olfers without who’s artwork Smith couldn’t have made her fantastic quilt, and who’s words support the story. Most of the references I’ve seen in the quilt world seem to assume that Smith made up the images out of her rich imagination. To their credit though, Quilter’s Newsletter Magazine has an article online that explains the whole story, and if you look closely enough at this review the original date is up at the top next to the translation credit.

That said, I do love Smith’s quilt and must say that her appliqué and embroidery is richer than Olfers’ original illustrations (although I suspect that much original detail and subtlety has been lost due to the limitations of early 20th century print reproduction). I am also giddy happy that I now own the Olfers book and can revel in it’s nostalgic German-ness whenever I want. The generosity of the people I have met while living in Germany amazes me and for it I am forever grateful. Thank you again, Dorothee, I will treasure this gift and everything that it reminds me of.

9 thoughts on “Etwas von Dorothee

  1. I grew up with this book – amongst many other books that still were in my grandmas bookshelf from back when my mom was a child…

  2. beautiful book. i agree with your concerns about credit. nice quilt though. not really fair though. you are right.

  3. I love the Wurzelkinder. My mother has the first edition of this book!
    I´m sure that one fine day I will do this quilt!!

  4. Oh, I am so glad you posted this. When I saw that quilt, I knew I had seen the imagery some place and I did not believe that it came out of the quilter’s imagination. Her work was impeccable, but it bothers me when this kind of work uses images from someone else and gives no credit. A few years ago someone won a big prize with images taken from ancient Egyptian illustrations.

  5. Kristin, I’m so happy I found something unique and originally German for you to take with you on your travels. On the same note, I am glad that I rediscovered this book as well because it reminds me of my roots.

  6. Fliegenpilze and roots on the same page! I have never seen this book, but I can tell by the bits you have posted that I would love it. It has a very Arts & Crafts look to it. My favorite period for illustration. What a thoughtful gift for you–someone who will really appreciate the beauty and cultural significance. I buy a lot of children’s books for the illustrations. They are such treasures. I think I’d much rather have the original illustrations like your book, than the new version with the quilt illustrations.

  7. Oh my gosh. That was my favorite book as a little girl. My Oma sent it for Christmas, sometime i the ’60’s. I get so homesick for Germany sometimes. Thank you for sparking a memory.

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