Whenever I am at a bookstore, I often go to the section that has coffee table books. I love collecting books. Most of which, I have managed to finish reading. It’s only a dozen novels so it’s easy to finish all of them quickly. But there’s sometimes that urge to buy a big coffee table book. Not just any coffee table book. But ones that are about art and graphic design. I may not be great at talking about sports. I can manage to gush over graphic design even though I’m not well-versed with the history of it.
The reason that I haven’t really bought a coffee table book yet is that they’re really expensive. Or the ones I’m interested in usually are. I guess you’re paying more for the size and the content of it. Compared to paperback or hardcover novels, these books are fucking huge. And also use a different type of paper stock and it’s all colorized. Unless it’s a monochromatic coffee table book. Even then, there’s so much ink being used to print multiple copies of those types of books.
A name that I see often in the coffee table books that I want to buy is Taschen. The logotype for the company is often on the front of the covers of the book that it publishes. I mean, Penguin does this for a bunch of the books that they publish. So it’s not unusual among the different publishing companies. Once you see that sans serif font in all caps, you know exactly what you’re getting into. I just kind of assumed that Taschen stood for something. I mean, why would you use those letters in a specific order if it didn’t mean something?
The name for Taschen comes from its founder Benedikt Taschen. Whenever I research about certain personalities, there’s sometimes an instance where a moment in their lives served as a stepping stone for what would eventually be their careers. Sometimes growing up listening to music would lead to a person pursue becoming a musician. It’s a common theme among a lot of them. In the case of Benedikt, he just liked reading books.
His first ever job was at the age of 12 when he started a mail-order business that sold used comic books from the States. That’s definitely the place to buy comic books. He was really, really big fan of comic books. Another thing that helped shape what his business would become. Before he turned 19, he opened up his own used comic book store called Taschen Comics. Somehow that small comic book store lead him to publish his own comics. Then in 1984, he borrowed money from his aunt which he used to buy 40,000 remainder copies of a book about famed surrealist artist René Magritte. Remainder copies are copies of a book that didn’t sell well. I guess, you can buy remainder books for cheap, so that’s why Benedikt bought that amount.
Somehow, he managed to sell all of those books at an affordable price. This is basically the start of his career as a publisher. Like I said earlier, art books are really expensive. That was the case when Benedikt was growing up. A lot of the art books back then were probably more intricately made using the most expensive materials they had at the time. And through him selling those remainder copies, he saw that there was an interest for art books that were relatively affordable but still well-designed.
It was in 1984 when he really got into the publishing business. One of the first things that he published was a monograph about photographer Annie Leibovitz. Soon after, books published under the Taschen brand became very popular. The rest is pretty much history. His company has basically published a lot of different art books. Not just about classical art. But also about music, film, television and pop culture in general.
At this point, Benedikt Taschen probably has a net worth of $600,000,000. Aside from being an avid reader and comic book fan, he’s also an art collector. I mean, it just made sense for him to be one. I mean, you’re surrounded by a lot of books about art. You tend to become interested in it.