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My Precious Cellophanschuber

I recently upgraded my collection of books by W.G. Sebald by acquiring two rather hard to find copies of his 1990 book Schwindel. Gefühle (Vertigo). The first volume is one of the limited edition of 999 specially bound copies. These were done in a pale green leather and accompanied by an even paler green cardboard slipcase. This edition was issued simultaneously by Eichborn Verlag with the trade edition which had an initial print run of 10,000 copies. Internally, the only difference is the final page of the limited edition, which is hand numbered in ink but not signed by Sebald.

I also acquired a fine copy of the trade edition that includes the Cellophanschuber, or cellophane slipcover. My first copy of this book didn’t have one and now I understand why: it is an extremely fragile, almost transparent thing that probably got tossed or torn most of the time. The cellophanschuber boldly proclaims the enclosed book to be a first edition (erstausgabe). More intriguing, however, it also provides Sebald’s first work of prose fiction with a brief description or blurb that does not seem to have been used anywhere else:

Vom leisen Inferno der Depression und von der Unheimlichkeit des Glücks.

In my humble and no doubt amateur translation, this reads something like “From the quiet inferno of depression and the eeriness of fate…” (Anyone want to take a better shot at this?)

It appears to me that German booksellers use various terms for this kind of transparent paper slipcase, including Pergaminschuber and Rückenschild.  [The Rückenschild, I am told, is the pasted label on the spine.  Thanks, Claus.]

Last year I wrote about the various first editions of Schwindel. Gefühle and Vertigo here.

 

2 Comments Post a comment
  1. Lovely! I’d kill to have your collection in my library…

    April 24, 2008
  2. Your translation is nearly spot on; I’d suggest:

    Of depression’s quiet inferno and of the eeriness of fortune.

    The correct term for this kind of slipcase is Pergaminschuber (with pergamin being the material, a kind of glassine). The “Rückenschild” is the spine label.

    April 24, 2008

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