Pauline’s book of beauty tells a migrant’s tale

Friday, 20th October 2017 — By John Gulliver

Pauline Paucker

Pauline Paucker, whose book about the German graphic artist Elizabeth Friedlander is currently on exhibition at the Jewish Museum

TO hold the exquisitely hand-printed sheaves of Pauline’s book in your hands, to allow your eye to sweep across the tissue-protected drawings and sketches, is to hold a thing of beauty.

Each page is pretty weighty and the drawings are “tipped-in”, that is individually glued onto the page, a reminder of a printing world long gone.

It isn’t surprising to discover that it would cost about £300 to buy the book online – if you can find a copy.

It was first published with a print-run of 325 in late 1998 by a genius of a “hippie” printer, Graham Moss, in his small print-shop in Oldham, and soon sold out at around £146 a copy.

Today, you can see it advertised online second-hand for more than double that price.

I heard the story of the book and Pauline Paucker in her Camden Town flat on Tuesday, the day before a copy of her book is on show at an exhibition at the Jewish Museum in Albert Street, Camden Town, displaying the works of émigré Jewish designers who fled to these shores in the late 1930s from Hitler.

Elizabeth Friedlander

Pauline Paucker’s book tells the story of one of Germany’s most acclaimed graphic artists and book designers, Elizabeth Friedlander – known as Edith – whose works adorned our great publishers Penguin and Thames and Hudson and whose typeface known as Elizabeth is still used today, caught forever online.

The book is called New Borders: the Working Life of Elizabeth Friedlander, because she had to cross borders from Germany and Italy to Britain and finally Ireland to find life.

Friedlander, (1903-1982) migrated to Italy in mid-1930s before the introduction of Mussolini’s anti-Semitic laws, and then to Britain on a visa as a “domestic”.

Here she worked for the Ministry of Information’s “black propaganda” department designing anti-Nazi leaflets dropped over Germany. Later, her talents were in demand by big publishers before she slipped away to Cork in Ireland where there was a small Jewish community coming under the wing of the city’s first Jewish mayor, Gerald Goldberg.

Tracking Friedlander’s life became a labour of love for Pauline Paucker, aged 89, who is herself a renowned calligrapher.

An example of Friedlander’s work

She eventually discovered that Friedlander, who had been living in Doughty Street, Holborn, went to Cork – but by the time Pauline had completed her “detective” work Friedlander had died.

Pauline visited the city to find more about Friedlander but no one was exactly sure where the cottage stood in which she had lived with her “life-long companion” Alessandro McMahon, a former Birkbeck College lecturer.

Goldberg, a bit of a collector himself, had gathered together and packed away some of Friedlander’s correspondence and documents in a big box which he gave to Pauline.

He was a great admirer of Friedlander, having himself settled in Cork after fleeing pogroms in eastern Europe.

“In some ways Edith was a shadowy person but far from being demure,” Pauline told me. “Someone described her as ‘demure’ and Goldberg, who had a lovely sense of Irish humour, said, ‘Demure! Don’t be silly, she was shacked up with a fellow in a cottage here!’ The Irish are wonderful story tellers, full of humour.”

Pauline, I noticed, was pretty self-deprecating and humorous herself.

Switching back to Friedlander, she said: “She wasn’t self-promoting though – her beautiful patterns and designs told her story.”

And when I looked at and felt the book, I knew what she meant by that.

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