Victor Otto Stomps
Extraordinary achievements by a small publisher or special book illustration or literary achievements are the criteria specified in the preamble, which were designed to serve as the basis for assessing candidates for the prize. These criteria were also associated with Victor Otto Stomps (1897– 1970), who was simply referred to as VauO by his friends. He is considered to be the father of small publishing firms and minipresses.
He himself unified the traditions of publishing books at his own expense and of private presses. He put his ideas concerning literature and book design into practice mainly through three publishing houses.
Stomps purchased his first used flatbed press in 1925 at the age of 28 years and printed "Lyrik in kleinen schmalen Heften" by hand with two friends in Berlin-Friedenau. This was the origin of his first publishing firm, to which he gave the name of "Rabenpresse" (Raven Press). "The beginning of my 'Raven Press' was a protest against that which drives the publishing industry, namely the huge editions, which excludes outsiders. It all began with a hand press; Gebser and I had purchased this machine and did not understand how to use it. We were unable to produce a reasonable print. We comforted ourselves with a bottle – and with every schnaps that we drank, we saw more of the outline of a ghostly raven – the hand lever was like a wing getting ready to beat." (V.O.Stomps: Gelechter. Frankfurt am Main. 1962)
In the early 1930s, the "Rabenpresse" was the publishing house in Germany around which young people interested in lyrics gathered; Stomps was a publisher who looked after the interests of his authors in a political climate that was becoming more and more explosive, even while placing his own life in jeopardy. The Second World War made the continuation of the "Rabenverlag" impossible. "He never allowed himself to be guided by considerations which lay outside of his artistic insights." (G.B. Fuchs/Harry Ross (Hg.): guten morgen vauo. s. 23; Frankfurt: 1962)
Shortly after being released as a prisoner of war, he began his work with Eremitenpresse. Once again, he acted as the publisher "of young authors". His publishing list was characterized by texts which other firms did not dare to publish.
In 1954, "Eremitenpresse" moved into an old, half-timbered house in Stierstadt im Taunus, which was called "Schloss Sanssouris" by Stomps. Here Stomps lived and worked with the employees of his publishing firm. Even authors were incorporated into this community of life and work, by living in Stierstadt for a time and by setting, printing and binding their books themselves.
As a writer, V.O. Stomps dealt with various forms of expression. In addition to poetry, epigrams, essays and a novel, his fables are among his most original literary productions.
Theodor Fontane Literature Prize
In 1965, he received the Theodor Fontane Literature Prize of the City of Berlin. "His work is living proof of an internal necessity. His characteristically poetic expressions were born of real psychological conflicts and cannot be severed from his literary qualities." (guten morgen vauo p. 59)
Both as a publisher and as a writer, Stomps promoted freedom, in which artistic and intellectual life can develop. With his publishing work, he has tried to facilitate such freedom in a small way. Financial profitability never played a role for Stomps with regard to his publishing work. On the contrary: To finance his publishing projects and his livelihood, he had to accept third-party printing jobs.
After his break with "Eremitenpresse" in 1967, he returned to Berlin and established the "Neue Rabenpresse" when he was 70 years old. In retrospect, he was able to look back on more than 40 years of publishing activities with 300 authors and books. Stomps died poor in 1970.
The books published by V.O. Stomps stand out in many ways: Both their shape and content are characterized by his courage and his curiosity in attempting something new: Be it with regard to new techniques, creativity with regard to the typography or the promotion of young authors; innovation and the longing for something that had never been there before were characteristical for Stomps as a man.
V.O. Stomps Prize
In this sense, the work for which the prizes are awarded are intended to be associated with the accomplishments of V.O. Stomps "in content, intention and personal commitment". They can be important single editions or the total output of a publisher, a graphics artist or a writer. "