About the year 2007
With the competition inspired by Jan Tschichold back in the '40s en titled The Most Beautiful Swiss Books, the Swiss Publishers Association initially and for more than 30 years the Federal Office for Culture created a tool for selecting the best produced books each year. In the beginning the aim was to increase book production, but nowadays the com petition aims to promote the quality of book creation in Switzerland and to introduce the award-winning books to a broad public at home and abroad. The award-winning books are the result of a jury’s decision based on guidelines, entry requirements and jury criteria that are fixed both with regard to inclusions and exclusions. The annual selection thus reflects the changing quality requirements and framework conditions of the competition very exactly. Not only has the manner in which the jury is put together changed over the years, but also the number of people on the selection committee. Since the beginning of the year the jury for the competition has been largely reselected and now comprises five members, which is the same as the very first jury in 1944. The committee in the '70s comprised up to 15 members. The reduction from seven to five members and the abolition of the special jury was made as part of the Federal Council’s call for and approval of the abolition of a number of extra-parliamentary commissions and juries and led to the merging of the Federal Design Commission with the jury for The Most Beautiful Swiss Books.
The five-person, international jury, under the new chairmanship of Cornel Windlin, selected 27 publications as The Most Beautiful Swiss Books from the 408 entries submitted. The books were judged based on their graphic form and typography, the technical composition in the quality of the print and the book covers, the workmanship of the bookbinding and the materials used. The relevant jury reports reveal what makes a book worthy of an award. An interview with the members of the jury, specialists from the different disciplines of book creation, book production and sales gives an enlightening first insight into the criteria used in making the selection and also into current trends. The focus of the assessment this year was on innovation and originality, or, to use the words of the chairman of the jury, on the ’authenticity’ and 'appropriateness' of the graphic conception. Every year the books selected as the Most Beautiful Swiss Books find a positive resonance on the international stage. This year, more Swiss books than ever before were honoured at the Leipzig competition The Most Beautiful Books in the World. Honours in the shape of one gold medal (Walter Keller (Ed.), Ein Tag im Leben von), two bronze medals (Fabian Biasio, Margrit Sprecher, Die Mitte des Volkes and Vitra AG, Vitra. The Home Collection) as well as an honorary diploma (Dorothea Strauss (Ed.), Carsten Nicolai. Static Fades) were awarded to Swiss books. Switzerland was the only country to receive four medals.
As well as exhibitions and supporting events at home and abroad, this catalogue forms an important platform for considering critically current questions and problems in the art of book creation. What can the books selected show us and how are they representative of Swiss book creation? What has happened to the passionate debate that was raging on and off the pages of distinguished specialist journals in the '60s about Swiss graphics and book creation? The current catalogue The Most Beautiful Swiss Books 2007 is the first of a trilogy to be spread over three years and is seen as the impulse for a renewed and active discourse. The publication that appeared at the opening of the exhibition in the Museum für Gestaltung in Zurich was conceived and designed this year for the first time by Laurenz Brunner. He was responsible for the overall editorial work together with the literary specialist Tan Wälchli. If production-specific aspects took centre stage in the last three years, this tim e the contents - in the form of a rich selection of fascinating essays - focus on relevant themes and observations to do with the book per se and book creation. We can look forward to its sequels in the years to come with keen anticipation. The target is to create a lively and stimulating debate about the medium of the book, its creation and the conditions for its representation and production in all their many facets.
After nine years of being responsible for the organisation of the competition The Most Beautiful Swiss Books I am leaving the Federal Office for Culture with a tear in my eye to go on to pastures new. However, I can pass on the baton with confidence and wish my successor just as much enrichment, interest, enthusiasm and scope for influence as I have been lucky enough to enjoy in the last years.
Mirjam Fischer, art historian
In charge of the competition The Most Beautiful Swiss Books
Federal Office of Culture, Berne