Guide to the Papers of Hugo Steiner-Prag (1880-1945), 1899-1993
AR 1723 / MF 723

Processed by Stefanie Aperdannier

Leo Baeck Institute

Center for Jewish History

15 West 16th Street

New York, N.Y. 10011

Phone: (212) 744-6400

Fax: (212) 988-1305



© 2006  Leo Baeck Institute
Finding aid was encoded by Lea Osborne on May 11, 2006. Description is in English.
December 2008. Microfilm information added. External links added. August 08, 2012  Links to digital objects added in Container List.

Descriptive Summary

Creator: Steiner-Prag, Hugo, 1880-1945
Title: Hugo Steiner-Prag Collection
Dates: 1899-1993
Abstract: This collection documents the life and the work of graphic artist Hugo Steiner-Prag (1880-1945). The bulk of the records are comprised of his writings, including an autobiography, memoirs of his youth in Prague, as well as notes and outlines for both lectures and courses. In addition, the collection contains records documenting Steiner-Prag's career as an artist, illustrator and set designer in Europe and the United States. These documents are in the form of correspondence, newspaper articles and various visual materials.
Languages: The collection is in German, English, Swedish, Czech, Hebrew, and Japanese.
Quantity: 1 linear foot
Identification: AR 1723
Repository: Leo Baeck Institute
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Biographical Note

Hugo Steiner-Prag was born Hugo Steiner in Prague (at that time part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire) on December 12, 1880. His parents were Hermann Steiner, a bookseller and Berta Steiner (neé Knina), who claimed to be a descendent of the famous Rabbi Judah Loew (1529-1609). Hugo Steiner was the youngest of four brothers.

Upon leaving secondary school, Hugo Steiner joined Jung-Prag, a group of young artists who tended strongly toward mysticism and the occult. He took private art lessons and finally entered the Prager Kunstakademie (Prague Academy of the Arts) in 1897.

In 1900, Steiner moved to Munich to enroll at the Königliche Akademie der Bildenden Künste (Royal Academy of Fine Arts). Concomitantly, he added the name of his native city Prag (using the German spelling) to his last name in order to distinguish himself from other artists bearing the same name. Steiner-Prag soon transferred to the Lehr- und Versuchsstätten in Munich and later became a teacher there. One of his students was Paula Bergmann, whom he married in 1905. The couple moved to Barmen in the Rhineland where Steiner-Prag had been offered a position as a professor for the local Kunstgewerbeschule (School of Applied Arts). They had two children, Detlev and Helga, who were born in 1906 and 1908, respectively.

One of Steiner-Prag's major projects during this time was the illustration of E.T.A. Hoffmann's Die Elixiere des Teufels. The sketches were successfully exhibited in the Buchgewerbemuseum in Leipzig. This cemented Steiner-Prag's reputation as an illustrator and book designer. In 1907 he was offered a position as professor at Leipzig's Königliche Akademie für Graphische Künste und Buchgewerbe (Royal Academy of Graphic Arts and Book Trade). This was followed by a very productive period in which Steiner-Prag illustrated books for well-known publishing houses as well as created stage decorations. He also wrote several articles for newspapers and magazines, and in 1913 he designed his own typeface, the Hugo-Steiner-Prag-Schrift. In 1916, Steiner-Prag created twenty-five lithographs for Gustav Meyrink's novel, Der Golem, which would become his masterpiece. Many other drawings originated during study trips to Spain, Portugal and the Balearic Islands in the years between 1909 and 1925. In addition to his work as a professor in Leipzig, Steiner-Prag became art director of the Propylaeen publishing house in Berlin and organized several book exhibits, including the first international book exhibit in Leipzig in 1927. He was also an active member of various organizations dedicated to book arts and design.

In 1933, on his return from Paris, Steiner-Prag discovered that the Nazis had terminated his position as professor. He had just spent the summer with Eleanor Feisenberg, with whom he had an affair with since 1930. She was the daughter of Germany's former attorney general. Since her father was Jewish, she had lost her job as a librarian and decided to flee to Paris.

Hugo Steiner-Prag decided to leave Germany. He returned to Prague and established a private school for book arts and graphic design, called the Officina Pragensis. In 1937, the publishing house of the Officina Pragensis released fifty stone drawings done by Steiner-Prag of the Jewish Ghetto and cemetery. He was then given the opportunity, in 1938, to establish a school based on the model of the Officina Pragensis in Stockholm. Since the political situation in Prague had grown more severe, Steiner-Prag decided to accept this offer and immigrated to Sweden with Eleanor Feisenberg.

In Stockholm, Steiner-Prag became director of the Skolan foer Bok- och Reklamkonst and taught book design, advertising and stage design. Eleanor Feisenberg did not want to remain in Sweden and immigrated to the United States. Steiner-Prag hoped to follow her as soon as possible, but had to wait since his visa application was rejected at first. After divorcing his first wife, Paula and finally receiving his visa, Steiner-Prag left Stockholm on May 15, 1941 for San Francisco via Finland, Russia, Japan and Honolulu.

He arrived in the United States at the end of June 1941. Prior to his emigration, Steiner-Prag had been offered a position as professor at the Division of Graphic Arts at New York University, so he settled a respectable commuter distance away in New Haven, Connecticut. He lectured once a week in New York and spent the remainder of his time writing his autobiography and several articles. On January 3, 1942, Hugo Steiner-Prag married Eleanor Feisenberg and the couple moved to New York City. Large publishing houses, such as Random House, began commissioning his work. Steiner-Prag illustrated a volume of Hoffman's tales and worked for Random House, Roy Publishers, and the Book of the Month Club, while his wife Eleanor worked at the Office of War Information. In 1943, he mounted a successful exhibition at the New York Public Library.

Throughout 1945, Steiner-Prag's health began to deteriorate and he eventually suffered a heart attack from which he did not recover. Hugo Steiner-Prag died on September 10, 1945 in New York City. Several of his projects remained unfinished, such as a book on the Prague Ghetto and the suffering of the Jews that he wanted to publish together with his friend Franz Werfel (1890-1945) who had died only a few weeks before.

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Scope and Contents

This collection documents the life and work of graphic artist, illustrator, and designer, Hugo Steiner-Prag. The bulk of the records are written material, both by Steiner-Prag and about the man and his work. The collection is arranged in seven series: Personal Documents, Correspondence, Writings by Hugo Steiner-Prag, Artwork and Exhibitions, Writings about Hugo Steiner-Prag, Collected Items, and Photographs.

Records concerning Steiner-Prag's personal life, such as academic records, genealogical material, and documents regarding his emigration and last will, may be found in Series I.

Series II holds Steiner-Prag's correspondence as well as the correspondence of his wife, Eleanor Feisenberg.

Series III contains Steiner-Prag's writings and comprises the bulk of this collection. This series holds mainly manuscripts, including an autobiography, memoirs of his youth in Prague, travel diaries and travelogues, as well as notes and outlines for courses and lectures.

Records related to Steiner-Prag's artwork and exhibitions may be found in Series IV, the bulk of which are exhibition catalogues.

Series V contains writings about Steiner-Prag and his professional work.

Series VI holds miscellaneous records, such as various clippings on Prague and other documents not related directly to Steiner-Prag.

Visual materials will be found in Series VII.

Please note that several documents in this collection have additional notes attached to them, presumably written by Steiner-Prag's second wife, Eleanor.

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This collection is arranged in seven series.

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Access and Use

Access Restrictions

Open to researchers.

Access Information

Collection is digitized. Follow the links in the Container List to access the digitized materials.

Use Restrictions

There may be some restrictions on the use of the collection. For more information, contact:
Leo Baeck Institute, Center for Jewish History, 15 West 16th Street, New York, NY, 10011

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Related Material

Other Hugo Steiner-Prag material is located in the Fairleigh Dickinson University Library in New Jersey, the New York Public Library and in the Firestone Library at Princeton University.

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Separated Material

Realia have been removed from this collection and placed in the Leo Baeck Institute Art Collection. Photographs have also been removed from this collection and placed in the Photograph Collection.

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Box 1, Folder 1 through Box 1, Folder 40 from this collection are on two reels of microfilm (MF 723):

MF 51 / MF 99: Artwork and prayer book

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Preferred Citation

Published citations should take the following form:

Identification of item, date (if known); Hugo Steiner-Prag Collection; AR 1723; box number; folder number; Leo Baeck Institute.

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Container List

The following section contains a detailed listing of the materials in the collection.

Follow the links to access the digitized materials.


Series I: Personal Documents, 1899-1993

This series is in German, English, Swedish, Czech and Japanese.
Five folders


Scope and Content:

Series I contains personal documents such as university certificates, a letter of recommendation, records concerning Steiner-Prag's emigration and his last will and testament. The genealogical information includes a family tree and a copy of Steiner-Prag's entry in the register of residents of Leipzig.

Box Folder Title Date
1 1 Emigration undated, 1941
1 2 Genealogical Information undated, 1911, 1993
1 3 Last Will and Testament 1945
1 4 Letter of Recommendation 1938
1 5 University Certificates 1899-1901
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Series II: Correspondence, 1901-1947

This series is in German, English, Swedish and Czech.
Six folders


Scope and Content:

Series II holds Steiner-Prag's personal and professional correspondence as well as letters concerning his emigration and memberships in several book arts organizations. The professional correspondence is composed of letters in regards to his work as a graphic artist and professor from various correspondents, such as publishing houses and universities. Steiner-Prag's personal correspondence contains a letter from his mother, a postcard to his daughter Helga and letters referring to usage of his second last name, "Prag." This series also includes Eleanor Steiner-Prag's correspondence.

Box Folder Title Date
1 6 Emigration 1940-1941
1 7 Memberships 1916-1939
1 8 Miscellaneous 1910-1947
1 9 Personal 1901-1930
1 10 Professional undated, 1914-1945
1 11 Steiner-Prag, Eleanor undated, 1941-1947
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Series III: Writings by Hugo Steiner-Prag, 1912-1955

This series is in German and English with some Swedish and Czech.
Ten folders


Scope and Content:

Series III contains writings by Hugo Steiner-Prag and other related documents. Much of this series is composed of typed and handwritten manuscripts, which, for the most part are autobiographical, in particular focusing on his youth in Prague and his emigration in 1941. In addition to Steiner-Prag's notes and his manuscript entitled Bibliomaniacs (1945), this folder contains call slips related to his research on this subject and the publication, Notes on Bibliokleptomania, by Lawrence S. Thompson. Of interest is a print version of Steiner-Prag's outline for an autobiography that was posthumously edited by his wife, Eleanor and colleague, Willi Geiger (1878-1971). Like Steiner-Prag, Geiger used to teach in Leipzig until, in 1933, the Nazis terminated his position.

Box Folder Title Date
1 12 Autobiography (outline) undated, 1941
1 13 Bibliomaniacs (manuscript and research notes) undated, 1944-1945
1 14 Design Courses undated, 1937-1942
1 15 Lectures undated, 1940-1944
1 16 Miscellaneous undated, 1934-1941
1 17 Prague (memoirs) undated, 1941
1 18 Published Writings undated, 1912-1940 and 1955
1 19 Stage Design undated, 1938
1 20 Translation of Jan Neruda's Eine Woche im stillen Hause undated
1 21 Travelogues and Travel Diaries undated, 1925, 1941
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Series IV: Artwork and Exhibitions, 1906-1975

This series is in German and English.
Four folders


Scope and Content:

Series IV is concerned with Hugo Steiner-Prag's artworks and exhibitions. The bulk of the records are exhibition catalogues and invitations to exhibitions (some held posthumously) in different American cities, such as New York and San Francisco. Included are sample copies of his illustrations as printed in magazines, newspapers and other printed sources. The series also holds theatre programs from plays in which Steiner-Prag was responsible for the stage design, such as Schiller's Die Räuber and Goethe's Faust.

Box Folder Title Date
1 22 Artwork undated, 1926-1942, 1962-1963
1 23 Catalogues 1906, 1943-1948 and 1975
1 24 Invitations 1944-1975
1 25 Theatre Programs 1925-1936
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Series V: Writings about Hugo Steiner-Prag, 1911-1975

This series is in German, English and Swedish.
Four folders


Scope and Content:

Series V contains writings about Hugo Steiner-Prag and his work as a graphic artist. Included are reviews of exhibitions, which were mostly memorial exhibits held in major cities around the world, articles about his life and work, and theatre reviews of various plays that he was stage designer for. In addition to published material, there are a few manuscripts, a "press review" (presumably written by the artist himself) and several translations of Swedish articles about Steiner-Prag.

Box Folder Title Date
1 26 Exhibitions 1932-1975
1 27 Life and Work undated, 1911-1949 and 1973
1 28 Steiner-Prag as Professor undated, 1928-1944
1 29 Theatre Reviews (stage design) undated, 1929-1936
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Series VI: Miscellaneous Records, 1916-1961

This series is in German and Czech.
Two folders


Scope and Content:

Series VI is comprised of records that appear to have been collected by Hugo Steiner-Prag or his wife, Eleanor. Included are miscellaneous clippings and articles, mainly about Prague as well as some blank postcards and other items.

Box Folder Title Date
1 30 Miscellaneous undated, 1924-1929, 1948 and 1961
1 31 Prague undated, 1913-1939
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Series VII: Visual Materials, 1927-1948

This series is in German, Czech and Hebrew.
Nine folders


Scope and Content:

Series VII is comprised of various photographs and negatives as well as other visual material that was not removed from the collection and placed into the photograph archives. Of interest are photographs of the Jewish Cemetary, including postcards of gravestones with descriptive comments by Steiner-Prag written on the back and photographs of commemorative crystal glass chalices that have Steiner-Prag's portrait engraved upon them.

Box Folder Title Date
1 32 Artwork undated, 1935-1942
1 33 Exhibitions undated, 1937-1948
1 34 Jewish Cemetary (Prague) undated
1 35 Jews undated
1 36 Miscellaneous undated and 1927
1 37 Penha Verde (Portugal) undated
1 38 Portraits undated
1 39 Postcards undated
1 40 Prague undated
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