The antiquarian book business is a curious one. It is a business that requires curiosity, research and a willingness to follow the threads of obscurity. Often one find will lead me to another and so on. Discoveries made in such a fashion feel serendipitous; like chasing a trail of breadcrumbs to some hidden treasure. The other day while researching an early edition of Sybil with a William Morris cover design I came across a peculiar art magazine called PAN. 

Cover of PAN JournalThe journal PAN was published in Berlin between 1895 and 1900 and it is regarded as one of the most influential voices of Art Nouveau in Germany. Edited by Otto Julius Bierbaum and Julius Meier-Graefe, the magazine published illustrations by well-known as well as unknown international artists. It also featured full page graphic designs, typographic experiments, poems, vignettes and other ephemera.

As a fan of all things Acadian and Bacchanalian, I gravitated to this gem because of its name, but was soon immersed in its pages thanks to modern technology. An original copy of PAN runs about $40,000, but don’t despair, the magazine has been fully digitized by the University of Heidelberg for your enjoyment. Click here to view PAN Digitized.

Pan MagazineSome of the more well-known artists who published in PAN include Peter Behrens, Franz von Stuck, Max Klinger, Käthe Kollwitz, Auguste Rodin, Paul Signac and Félix Vallotton. Like the journal Jugend, PAN was critical about the artistic policy of the German Empire under Wilhelm. The journal attempted to present the very best of contemporary art, without showing preference for any particular school or movement, in order to allow comparison with classical art.

The journal spans 5 volumes starting in 1895/96. There are a total of 21 issues with 225 artistic supplements. The publishers were not interested in the financial gain of the magazine and published “without reference to commercial, moral, personal or polemical questions, appreciating only the purely aesthetic viewpoint.”

PAN had an altruistic vision at its center: to support young artists and to inform the public.

Pan MagazineAbout ten years ago I began an arts magazine project that had a similar mission. I wanted to create a publication that spanned not just the visual arts, but also included drama, dance, design, music, etc. Even stranger is that I named this magazine Pandora. Coincidence perhaps, but still uncanny, considering I only just discovered PAN. Unlike the world of 1890’s, the world of the 1990’s was one in which newstands were in serious decline because of the internet. Magazine subscriptions were dropping and journals were disappearing. The story of my own magazine, strangely enough, followed that of PAN’s.

Between 1200 and 1600 copies of each issue were published–most through subscription. The standard edition in copper plate cost 75 RM, the luxury edition on imperial handmade paper cost 160 RM. The artist edition with additional original drawings on various expensive papers could only be purchased by members of the co-operative for 300 RM. This made PAN the most expensive German artistic magazine of its time. In comparison, an annual subscription to Jugend cost only 24 RM.

Pan MagazineThe journal proved not to be commercially viable not just due to its price point, but also due to its mixed genre approach that was inclusive of literature, theater, music and graphical art. The last publication was in 1900. On the penultimate page of the last issue Ludwig von Hofmann presented a young man writing the word “end” in the sand.

The moral of the story is that magazines work best when in specific niche categories. That being said, PAN was a bold and breathtaking publication–unique in its time and treasured by many to this day.


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