The Making and the Marketing of the Philosophische Fragmente (Part II)

The first installment of my investigation into the making and marketing of the Philosophische Fragmente — the preliminary version of Horkheimer and Adorno’s Dialectic of Enlightenment — closed with the ever-faithful and constantly over-worked Leo Lowenthal waiting for Max Horkheimer to give him permission to send the émigré bookseller Marianne Salloch a summary of the book she could include in a catalog that would announce its availability to the general public. At the beginning of August 1944, Horkheimer — annoyed by Lowenthal’s increasing anxieties and perplexed “why all this had to become the subject of a telegraphic message” — decided to postpone any action on the matter for a month. This left Lowenthal sweltering in the New York heat while, in Los Angeles, a “very tired and physiologically nervous” Horkheimer attempted “to do some work.”1

During the long hiatus between that post and this one I, like Horkheimer, have been trying to get some work done, most of it devoted to a further exploration of the confusions and reservations that various eighteenth-century Germans seem to have had about the newly popular term Aufklärung. But from time to time, depending on the caprices of location and time, I’ve slipped into various archives and done my best to pin down further details about the final arrangements for the distribution of the Philosophische Fragmente. While these efforts have not answered all of my questions, I’ve reached the point where I doubt (for reasons that will soon become clear) that I’m likely to learn anything beyond what I’ve been able to find out. This post might, then, best be regarded as a final report on an investigation that still has quite a few lacunae. I would, of course, welcome any further details that readers (especially those at universities with large collections of antiquarian book catalogues dating from the 1940s) might be able to contribute. But, at least for now, this is, as they say, a “cold case” and I have other fish to fry.

Horkheimer’s Reservations

Horkheimer’s letter to Lowenthal of August 5, 1944 suggests that he had multiple reasons for suspending the plan to sell copies of the Philosophische Fragmente though the émigré booksellers William and Marianne Salloch. As discussed at the close of my previous post, he had reservations about Lowenthal’s plan to solicit endorsements of the book from other members of the émigré community, endorsements that Lowenthal intended to use in the ultimate marketing of the book. In the telegram he sent to Lowenthal in advance of his August 5 letter, Horkheimer observed that the “names on your list are not the right ones.” The letter that followed explained what was wrong with them: “it seems to me that almost all the names you mentioned belong to persons who are definitely supposed to be the targets and not the sponsors of the book.”

It would appear, however, that Horkheimer’s misgivings went beyond whatever reservations he had about soliciting endorsements from the likes of Thomas Mann, Paul Tillich, Reinhold Niebuhr, and Charles Beard.

Seriously speaking, I thank you for the thought you have devoted to the subject, but I think it is really better to skip it for a couple of weeks. There is a chance, though only a slight one, that I might really make another trip to New York in September (please treat it very confidentially).

Horkheimer did, in fact, travel to New York and, in meetings with representatives of the American Jewish Committee, finalized plans for the research project that would produce the “Studies in Prejudice” series.

Beyond offering Horkheimer the opportunity to engage in the sort of interdisciplinary research project in which the Institute had been engaged prior to its exile, the project solved a number of the Institute’s more pressing concerns. The supporting grant from the AJC went a long way to addressing its continuing financial needs and the projected series of studies promised to rebut the increasing concern among some members of the Sociology department at Columbia that the Institute had failed to live up its promise since arriving in America.2 But the new project was not without its costs.

First, and most immediately, the increased demands that it placed on Horkheimer and Adorno posed a challenge to their continued collaboration on the revision and completion of the Philosophische Fragmente, a concern that would grow ever more intense over the next year. At the same time, it is conceivable that it may have heightened Horkheimer’s concern that, even with further censoring by Lowenthal, the publication of the uncompromisingly critical Fragmente might present the Institute and its Director in a rather different light from the image that was being carefully cultivated in the final weeks of September 1944.3The grant also weakened the chief rationale for taking the unusual step of “publishing” a mimeographed edition of what remained an unfinished work: the idea was to use the profits from its sales to cover the cost of producing the “deluxe” edition that would be distributed to select members of the Institute. Since the prospect of AJC funding increased the potential risks of following through with the plan while, at the same time, undercut the rationale for pursuing it, the ever-cautious Horkheimer might well have wondered whether the potential benefit still outweighed the potential risks. But, at the very moment when Horkheimer was entering into the final phase of negotiations with the AJC, the option of cancelling the distribution of the paperbound edition of Fragmente was taken out of his hands.

Enter Miss Rosenberg

When Margot von Mendelssohn laid out the general plan for the production to the mimeograph to Lowenthal in her letter to Lowenthal of May 2, 1944 she raised the possibility of “selling them through maybe Salloch or other agents.” While Marianne Salloch waited for Lowenthal to send her the blurb he had promised, one of these “other agents” announced the forthcoming publication of the book.

In a letter dated September 22 that, for the most part, was devoted to summarizing the agreement that had been reached with the AJC, Lowenthal offered the following aside:

By the way I did wrong to Miss Rosenberg. Her new catalogue contains an announcement of your book. I have not seen it yet but was told so by her. I shall write a prospectus in the next days. Don’t you think we could now send the copies to Mrs. Salloch? Sales will start without and before a prospectus will have been released.

With the publication of the book now announced, the question of whether or not to publicize the book had been rendered moot: “Miss Rosenberg” had taken the decision out of Horkheimer’s hands.

Mary S. Rosenberg had arrived in New York in November 1939.4 The daughter of the Bavarian bookseller Georg Rosenberg, she had begun working in her parents’ store as a teenager and assumed responsibility for the firm after his death in May 1933. The store’s stock was almost immediately confiscated by the National Socialist regime as part of its actions against Jewish-owned business. Permitted to sell books to Jewish customers only, she continued to operate a mail order business from her home until the outbreak of hostilities, at which point she escaped to England and then to the United States, where she opened an antiquarian bookstore in her apartment in January 1940, buying books from émigrés in need of money and selling them to émigrés with a need for books. She went on to become one of the more successful émigré booksellers and, by 1944, had established a close working relationship with the Los Angeles émigré publishers Felix Guggenheim and Ernst Gottlieb.

Like Rosenberg, Guggenheim and Gottlieb were German Jews who fled Germany in 1939. They met after having made their way to Los Angeles, where their common interest in book collecting led to the establishment of the Pazifische Presse, an independent publisher that,  in 1942, launched an unusual and ambitious publishing program. Drawing on the contacts they had established with émigré authors who had settled in Los Angeles (e.g., Gottlieb, who had been making a living as a portrait photographer, had become Thomas Mann’s photographer of choice) they solicited subscribers for a series of books, in German, by Thomas Mann, Franz Werfel, Bruno Frank, Leonhard Frank, Alfred Neumann, Friedrich Torberg, Alfred Doblin, and Lion Feuchtwanger.

Subscribers received “deluxe” editions, which were numbered, published in a limited run of 250 copies, bound with leather around the spine, and signed by their authors. Arrangements were made with authors for a subsequent “trade edition” of at least 750 volumes. The books were printed by the Plantin Press, a small firm that had been established in 1931 by the Polish émigrés Saul and Lillian Marks and had made its reputation by producing fine quality antiquarian book catalogs. The total cost for the first seven volumes was $12.75.5 Guggenheim and Gottlieb handled the distribution of the deluxe editions, but sent the trade editions to German booksellers in New York for distribution, with Rosenberg becoming the sole distributor of the series in 1944.

The arrangements for publication of the Philosophische Fragemente, with its production of both a “deluxe” edition to be distributed to friends and associates of the Institute and a cheaper paper-covered edition to be sold on the open market, mimics — albeit at a considerably lower level of quality — the practice at the Pazifische Presse. The similarity does not appear to have been accidental: Guggenheim was in contact with Herbert Herz, the printer responsible for producing the Fragmente and Adorno was in contact with Guggenheim.6 The Fragmente had at least one other thing in common with the Pazifische Presse series: the overriding concern in both cases was to establish a clear copyright claim for German texts.  Under the regulations in force at this point, copyright could be granted to German language publications only if they had been  “manufactured in the United States.”7 The Philosophische Fragmente may have been a “message in a bottle,” but its authors made sure that, prior to tossing into the sea, they had secured its copyright.

Lowenthal’s Prospectus

As Lowenthal noted in his letter to Horkheimer of September 22, Rosenberg’s announcement of the availability of the Philosophische Fragmente had created a somewhat awkward situation for Marianne Salloch, who was now responsible for selling a book whose publication she had not announced in her own catalog, but which had been mentioned in Rosenberg’s. Matters may have been further complicated by what would seem (at least as far as I have been able to determine) to be the considerably smaller circulation of Rosenberg’s catalogs: at this point Salloch’s customers were regularly receiving substantial paper bound topical catalogs as well as printed newsletters. The only surviving materials dating from this period produced by Rosenberg’s firm were mimeographed sheets (in some cases single-page, in others multipage). With Salloch having been left waiting for the prospectus of a book that Rosenberg had already announced, Lowenthal was finally given permission to send a brief description of the book.

Lowenthal’s summary (which can be examined via the online Horkheimer Archive at Frankfurt) was based on Horkheimer and Adorno’s own Preface and began by explaining,

This is the first publication of fragments of a philosophical Work in Progress the completion of which may still take several years. While the basic aim is a critical analysis of civilization in today’s phase of large-scale industrial combines, manipulative control, technification and standardization, it seeks the roots of the blatant crisis of modern culture in its pre-history and in the formative process through which mankind established control over nature. The poles in which the movement of thought is centered are the concepts of mythology and enlightenment.

A brief summary of the individual chapters followed. It is, perhaps, notable that, after initially employing the term “culture industry”, Lowenthal crossed it out and replaced it with the words “modern industrialized culture.” In a formulation that hews closely to a passage in the Preface that later, less careful readers, have tended to overlook, he took pains to stress that

the general aim of this whole philosophy to defend and fortify enlightenment by bringing to the fore its own pernicious implications. While remaining thoroughly faithful to the humanistic ideals of enlightenment, this philosophy incorporates all those critical elements which were formerly used in order to disavow those ideals for reactionary purposes.

Frankly acknowledging the unfinished character of the manuscript while offering prospective readers a clear account of its aims, Lowenthal crafted a faithful and concise précis of a difficult book. But there are reasons for questioning whether it was ever used.

Dead Ends

Over the last several months I have spent a few idle hours tracking down and browsing through the catalogs published by William Salloch Booksellers for the period in question and have been unable to find an announcement of the availability of the Philosophische Fragmente. The most fruitful collections that I consulted were at the New York Public Library and at the Yale’s Beinecke Library (while Columbia University also has a large collection of Salloch catalogs, their collection begins after the date in question).

During this period, Salloch produced both paper-bound thematic catalogs and mimeographed lists of newly available books. The former contained extensive information about rare books and incunabula from a particular period or on a particular topic that were available for purchase from the firm.  These catalogs have survived because they provided a resource that library acquisition departments preserved for further reference. But, their thematic focus makes them an unlikely venue for publicizing a mimeographed edition of a recently published philosophical text. For example, the only catalog dating from 1944 that I have been able to track down resides at the Beinecke.  It is devoted to books from “The Middle Ages” and (of course) contains no announcement of the availability of the Philosophische Fragmente.

Though the periodic mimeographed flyers produced by the Sallochs were generally not the sort of publication that library acquisition departments were likely to preserve, the New York Public Library has quite a few of them (it seems that, at some point, the various catalogs and announcements that had been housed in the acquisitions department were sent, en masse to a storage facility in New Jersey).  But none mention the availability of the Philosophische Fragmente. Finally, even if Salloch did place an announcement for the work in one of the many flyers that I have not been able to track down, it is unlikely that Lowenthal’s prospectus would have appeared in it without considerable editing: the announcements in the flyers that I have consulted were typically were limited to three or four sentences.

Nor have I been able to confirm Lowenthal’s claim that Mary Rosenberg announced the availability of the book in one of her catalogs. As far as I can tell, during this period Rosenberg limited herself to producing flyers of varying size and printed on varying media.  For example, one of the lists at the Beinecke is a typed carbon copy on onionskin and others appear to be mimeographed, some on paper that is now stiffed with age and quite fragile. While a fair number of these flyers do contain sections announcing of recently available German books, none of the ones that I was able to examine included an announcement of the Philosophische Fragmente. This, of course, does not rule out the possibility that she did, in fact, place an announcement in one of the flyers that was not preserved, but in the absence of a complete inventory of her flyers (which, at this point, is probably an unlikely prospect), there is no way of knowing what I might have missed. Finally, it is also possible that Rosenberg was content to notify her customers of the availability of Horkheimer and Adorno’s work in the same way that she seems to have publicized the availability of the Pazifische Presse volumes: though direct contact with individuals with whom she had been doing business. Were this the case, the likelihood that the flyer announcing the Philosophische Fragmente survives is slim indeed.

Summing Up: What We Know and What We Don’t Know

A search on WorldCat for the title Philosophische Fragmente with the keyword “mimeographed” indicates that there are 24 copies currently residing in libraries around the world. One of the three library copies that I’ve been able to examine (yes, I know, I’m a bit obsessive about such things — everyone needs a hobby horse and I spend a lot of time visiting libraries) may have been one of the “deluxe” editions. The other two have been rebound by the libraries that hold them and might have been among the 280 copies that were allegedly shipped to William Salloch Booksellers in the autumn of 1944. Other copies are likely reside in private collections or individual archives or were never cataloged by World Cat (I have no idea what percentage of the world’s book have actually made it onto WorldCat). We can also assume that at least some owners of the mimeographed edition subsequently traded up to the Querido edition and disposed of the 1944 mimeograph. From time to time copies of the 1944 mimeograph show up on the used book market — indeed, earlier this year, I nabbed one of them. This is enough to convince me that Salloch must have received at least some of the 280 copies that she was supposed to get. But what happened to them after their arrival is anyone’s guess.

It is likely that she shared them with Rosenberg (there is a thesis to be written on the ways in which émigré women aided each other in their effort to make their way in a strange new world). It is even possible that some of the unsold copies remained squirreled away in a back room of Salloch’s Seventh Avenue bookstore, neglected until she and her husband packed up their inventory and moved upstate. But I doubt that any surviving copies made the journey to Ossing.

  1. Horkheimer, letter to Lowenthal of August 5, 1944.
  2. For details, see Thomas Wheatland, The Frankfurt School in Exile (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2009) and my “The ‘Eclipse of Reason’ and the End of the Frankfurt School in America,” New German Critique, no. 100 (January 1, 2007): 47–76.
  3. See the typescript of an article by “Boris Smolyar” from Forward, September 24, 1944, Section 2, p. 2. , which describes Horkheimer — “one of the greatest social scientists” — as directing a “special staff of psychiatrists, sociologists, economists and experts in political science.”
  4. Rosenberg is quite well covered in the secondary literature, figuring prominently in Ronald Jaeger, New Weimar on the Pacific:  The Pazifische Presse and German Exile Publishing 1942-1948 (Los Angeles: Victoria Daley, 2000) — on which I have drawn extensively in what follows. There is also a chapter devoted to her in Elfi Hartenstein, Jüdische Frauen im New Yorker Exil 10 Begegnungen (Berlin: Ed. Ebersbach, 2010) and a useful entry on her in Ernst Fischer’s indispensible Verleger, Buchhändler & Antiquare aus Deutschland und Österreich in der Emigration Nach 1933. Ein Biographisches Handbuch (Stuttgart: Verband Deutscher Antiquare e.V., 2011). I am deeply indebted to Ken Haynes for pointing out that she must have been the “Miss Rosenberg” to whom Lowenthal was referring,
  5. There is currently a complete set available from a German bookseller for a mere $8,334.59. Those who prefer to buy American can get a set from a bookseller in Sherman Oaks, CA for $12,000. 
  6. I hope to say about Adorno’s correspondence with Guggenheim in a later post.
  7. For a discussion of these points, see Jaeger 18, 42.

About James Schmidt

Professor of History, Philosophy, and Political Science Boston University
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One Response to The Making and the Marketing of the Philosophische Fragmente (Part II)

  1. Pingback: On the Philosophische Fragmente – the original version of Adorno and Horkheimer’s The Dialectic of Enlightenment | Progressive Geographies

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