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Gilhofer & Ranschburg

Published on 20 Feb. 2013

Vienna 1883

In 1883 Hermann Gilhofer established himself as a dealer in master drawings and prints. In 1884 he associated with Heinrich Ranschburg. From then on the company was called Gilhofer & Ranschburg. The business was extended also to rare books, and it became one of the most important antiquarian bookshops within a few years. The founder Hermann Gilhofer retired in 1897.

In 1905 William H. Schab entered the firm, which at that moment was occupied with the dispersal of one of the great Viennese private libraries, that of Franz Treu. For the first time this sale brought to Vienna the stars of the European rare book trade:  Damascène Morgand, Leo Olschki, Bernard Quaritch, and Jacques and Ludwig Rosenthal. The firm prospered, until the year 1912 nearly 200 antiquarian book catalogues were published and very important collections were sold at auction such as that of the Prince Metternich and the duplicates of the Albertina in Vienna.


Lucerne 1924

In 1924 William H. Schab founded a branch of Gilhofer & Ranschburg in Lucerne. Drawings and prints, and most of all rich and important libraries were sold at Lucerne, as for example the library of Prince Alexander Dietrichstein at Nicholsburg and those of the Austrian monasteries of Admont and Göttweig, the collection of Albert Figdor and treasures from Soviet libraries. Following the German annexation of Austria the Viennese firm was confiscated and the Lucerne branch had to stop its activities. Otto Ranschburg, sonof Heinrich Ranschburg, emigrated to London and then to New York. William H. Schab fled to the United States where he founded his own business in New York. Nevertheless Gilhofer & Ranschburg was one of the founding members of the Swiss Antiquarian Booksellers’ Association (Vereinigung der Buchantiquare und Kuperstichhändler in der Schweiz, VEBUKU) was established in Zurich, Switzerland, in 1939.

32 Years Later

Thirty-two years after its founding Gilhofer & Ranschburg resumed its activities in Lucerne in 1956 with an important catalogue of old master engravings and woodcuts as well as incunabula and 16th century books. Since then the firm published over 100 rare book catalogues. It was located on various premises in Lucerne until Gilhofer & Ranschburg found its home at the present address (Trüllhofstrasse 20a, Lucerne) in 1988. Since then the firm has been specializing in incunabula and early printed books under the guidance of Axel Erdmann.


Parts of this short history are taken from the website of Gilhofer & Ranschburg by permission of Axel Erdmann. Additional information has been taken from Ernst Fischer, “Verleger, Buchhändler & Antiquare aus Deutschland und Österreich in der Emigration nach 1933”, Verband Deutscher Antiquare 2010, cf. the biographies of Otto Ranschburg and William H. Schab.

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