Weltgeschicte in Umrissen (1931) is the Featured Book of the Month for November 2011

Weltgeschichte in Umrissen: Federzeichnungen eines Deutschen (World history in outline.  Pen and ink drawings of a German) was first published in 1897. The book was a detailed study of world history up until the end of the nineteenth century.  The book was well received and proved to be quite popular as it was reprinted several times in the following 35 years.

The author of Weltgeschichte in Umrissen was the Prussian nobleman Maximilian Graf Yorck von Wartenburg.  Yorck was born in 1850 into an aristocratic family from Silesia, a region in Central Europe whose lands encompassed portions of Germany, Poland, and the Czech Republic.  Yorck lived on a country estate and was taught by tutors until the death of his father, after which the family moved to Berlin.  His schooling continued until 1870 when it was disrupted by the outbreak of the Franco-Prussian War.   Yorck entered the military as a cadet in the 16th Uhlan Regiment and began a lifetime of military service.  He fought in several famous battles (e.g. Vionville and Le Mars), and returned after the war for formal military training.  After graduating from the Prussian War Academy, Yorck served as a military attache in Vienna and later in St. Petersburg.  He rose to the rank of colonel in the General Staff.  While serving in the military, Yorck taught at the Prussian War Academy and authored four books on military history. In 1900, he was posted to China with German expeditionary forces sent by Kaiser Wilhelm to quell the Boxer Rebellion.  Not long after his arrival in China, Yorck died from an accidental carbon monoxide poisoning.

The Binghamton University Libraries copy of Weltgeschicte in Umrissen was published in 1931.  It is a rather unremarkable copy:  a full green cloth binding that has been rebacked with matching green buckram.  The front cover and spine are simply decorated in green with titles and author stamped in black.  Hundreds of libraries own various editions of the book, numerous copies of it are available for purchase from various booksellers, and the 1897 first edition has been digitized by Google from the Harvard University library and has been uploaded to the internet for free use to all readers.

What makes the Binghamton University Libraries copy special?  It’s the identical stamps that are on the book’s front paste-down and on the title page that separate this book from other editions.

The stamps  are from the German Air District Command VII (Luftkreis-Kommando VII) library.  The Luftkreis-Kommando VII was created in 1937 and its headquarters was based in Hanover, Germany.  For an eighty year old book, it is in remarkably good condition although its spine has been repaired and rebacked with green buckram.  The question remains:  how did the book move from a World War II German air base to an upstate New York university library?  The Rare Books and Manuscripts Section (RBMS) of ALA devoted an entire pre-conference to the exploration of movement of books and collections:  Ebb and Flow: The Migration of Collections to American Libraries.  This preconference focused on the movement of collections from the four corners of the earth into American repositories. The Binghamton University Libraries has owned this copy of Weltgeschichete in Umrissen for at least three decades, but there is no information in the catalog record as to how or why the book arrived at the university.  A  small mystery, and for those interested in learning more about how books move from continent to continent, please click on the above preconference link. And, for those who are interested in viewing the book, it is currently housed in the Libraries’ Special Collections department.