About Little Steidl
With a program devoted to books by contemporary artists and designers, Little Steidl seeks to expand the artistic potential of offset lithography as a creative print medium. The publishing house follows a traditional work model in which all aspects of book development, design, and production, including printing, are carried out in its own bookmaking workshop in Göttingen, Germany.
Little Steidl grew out of the Steidl publishing house and extends the Steidl printing and manufacturing tradition into a second generation under the direction of Nina Holland. The two houses collaborate with each other around a variety of print and educational projects. While Steidl’s primary focus is photography and the printing techniques applicable to photographic work, Little Steidl’s program is oriented around the contemporary arts, design, and typography. The printing program is specialized in the development of new bespoke printing techniques which are employed not only in Little Steidl books but also in a broad spectrum of print projects with artists, architects, cultural institutions, and record labels.
Little Steidl books capture the unique perspective of the artist. The books are works in their own right as opposed to documentations or interpretations of works that have their primary lives outside the book. Even when the source material for a book is taken from an existing body of sculpture, painting, drawing, photography, or the like, the book is designed and printed in an intensive collaboration with the artist and takes on a life of its own as a print work.
Offset Lithography in the Steidl Tradition
Offset lithography is the dominant print medium in trade publishing today due to its versatility, dependability, and affordability for larger print runs. However, the historical development of offset lithography as a commercial or industrial method of production, rather than as a master craft or fine art medium, has left a great range of creative possibilities unconsidered. Beginning in the early 1970s, Gerhard Steidl reconceived the artistic potential of offset lithography, envisioning a democratic medium that, if carried out under the artistic direction and control of a craftsperson working in direct collaboration with artists, could yield accessible art editions of exceptional quality and beauty.
Steidl turned the practice of offset lithography on its head, giving artists – rather than technicians and industrial developers – the primary voice in setting new standards for the medium. Eschewing the anonymous, standardized methods of the printing industry, he imparted a human character and aesthetic point of view to the offset-printed trade book. There is much said about perfection, quality control, and attention to detail, but these factors alone do not explain the Steidl difference. Indispensable is the fact that the very person who prints and manufactures the book also understands and loves it. The difference comes from Steidl’s personal engagement and his ability to put his tremendous skills behind an artist’s vision – to break rules, take risks, and invent new possibilities for art.
To carry on the Steidl tradition can never mean to do what Gerhard Steidl does. Rather, one honors his vision and methods by creating something that is equally personal and unique. Above all, to work in the Steidl tradition is to be engaged on every level with the work that one prints – an act that is always singular, particular, even peculiar, and always beyond imitation.