On 31 December 1922, my grandfather, August Laube sen. who was then barely 24 years old, founded the Company August Laube in Zurich. Thanks to both the acquired knowledge by excellent training he received during his apprenticeship with C. Lang and H. Eisemann and the connections he made in Zurich with the leading antiquarian booksellers of the time, he soon was successful. By the end of the 1920s, his house already was a well-known address for collectors and scholars. He was particularly interested in Swiss books and Swiss graphic art. In addition, he was intensively involved with rare editions of French and German literature as well as with the autographs of poets and musicians. Even then, he was fond of building up private collections (among others Beethoven collection H. C. Bodmer, today in Bonn).
In his favorite subject, Helvetica, he conducted several important auctions in the 1930s and 1940s together with his Swiss colleagues W. Kündig, H. Schumann and A. Klipstein (Ulli Collection, parts of the Wessner Collection, Sully Castle). This successful collaboration continued during the war.
A particularly lively period were the years just before the war, when several larger libraries and collections appeared on the market, some of which also passed through my grandfather’s hands (Helvetica collections of Empress Marie Louise and the Dukes of Leuchtenberg). However, the considerable development of the company ended abruptly during the Second World War with international connections severed as early as 1941. Despite this, the company survived the difficulties of the wartime period relatively well as Swiss customers remained loyal to the company. Immediately after the war, trade opened again worldwide and was revitalized enormously. In the middle of this upswing, in 1950, my father joined the company. Soon after he joined, he was allowed to make his own decisions and buy materials, and this developed into a beautiful and fruitful collaboration that was to last for over 30 years. From 1951-1970, they conducted several auctions together, some of which were quite important and helped to stimulate the trade (May library, Savitch icon collection, Helvetica collections “B”, Cerenville and the so-called “Bordeaux” collection). In 1960, my father, August Laube jun. became a partner, and the company changed its name to August Laube & Son.
The fifties and sixties were a time of continual building. my father was careful, however, not to expand the company unnecessarily, but to emphasize quality. Since his apprenticeship with H. Eisemann and M. Rousseau in London and Paris, his main interest was in old master prints and the early woodcut books associated with them. In the lively art world of these two cosmopolitan cities, he saw a wealth of the finest books and prints at that time. Encouraged by Dr. A. Klipstein, he bought his first engraving by Albrecht Dürer as early as 1952. In the years that followed, my father began to build up a trade in old prints that included works by Schongauer, Dürer, Rembrandt and Goya. Later he expanded his trade to include some early twentieth century works related to Impressionism and Expressionism.
In 1972, the company moved from the house “zum Pelikan” on Talacker to the upper Trittligasse 19. It was at this time that my grandfather resigned as a partner, however, he continued to work actively until shortly before his death in February 1980. The years at Trittligasse were probably the liveliest in the history of our house. My father was fortunate to be able to acquire collections in all fields, some of them very important, which he was able to pass on either as a whole or individually to our collectors and to museums. While we were still moving into our new rooms, he bought a magnificent Dürer collection, that had been assembled by Hofrat Josef Meder in the period between the two world wars. In the Spring of 1974, my father and his American colleague Robert M. Light sold a very well-known Rembrandt collection and together they organized a Rembrandt exhibition in Tokyo in 1976.
Also for our antiquarian bookshop, we always were able to acquire very rare books. We bought a library of first edition German literature (18th/19th century), which a leading Munich antiquarian bookseller had built up for himself in the 1920s, what was a wonderful challenge. Two collections of particularly beautiful Swiss graphic art also came into our possession, which I was also allowed to work on. In 1984, my father called me back from my museum work in Boston to organize an exhibition of old masters for the Art Curators Conference in Zurich.
In 1989, my father died after a period of serious illness and the company was renamed August Laube GmbH. After my father’s death, the company continued to be run by my sister Daniela and myself in the usual way. We were fortunate to process and sell larger collections at this time. A great success was in 1991 the sale of a large collection of views of Aargau to the State Archives of the Canton of Aargau. In 2003, Daniela went to America, and I continued to run the local company as a sole proprietorship.
In 2018, we moved the company after 46 years at the Trittligasse 19 to Kirchgasse 32. In 2021, I again was able to acquire a very beautiful small collection of Dürers, the catalogue of which is now available to you at the occasion of the company’s jubilee as one of our anniversary catalogues. The mentioned examples of the many beautiful prints and books which passed through our hands are only a selection because the nature of our business suggests secrecy.
Even though times have changed, and the market and conditions have become more and more complicated and difficult, our company has remained true to its principles all these years. We try to advise our clients in the best possible way, to represent their interests and to keep the quality of our offer high. However, our decades of success are both confirmation of our policies and only possible thanks to the loyalty of our customers, which has often lasted for generations, and resulted in many long and beautiful friendships. My staff and I would like to thank all our customers and friends for the trust they have placed in us.
Yours, Brigitta Laube