Manfred Heiting started collecting photobooks in the 1970s, turning to it in earnest in the 1990s and creating a library that was considered one of the most complete in the world, including a copy of most of the important photobooks that appeared from 1888-1970 in Europe, the United States, the Soviet Union, and Japan. This collection formed the basis of several compendium books published by Steidl, including “Autopsie” – German Photobooks 1918-1945, The Soviet Photobook 1920-1941, and The Japanese Photobook 1912-1990 – but sadly, it was decimated in the California wildfires of 2018, when it went up in smoke along with Heiting’s home in Malibu. As Steidl publishes a new book by Heiting, Czech and Slovak Photo Publications, 1918-1989, BJP caught up with him.
So far the wildfires in California have claimed the lives of 94 people and laid waste to 1,667,855 acres of land this year. And, according to Dutch paper NRC Handelsblad, they’ve also consumed a world-renown library of photobooks, put together over the last six years by Dutch collector Manfred Heiting.
Based at Cutberth Road, Malibu, Heiting’s collection included vintage photographs, posters, ceramics and art deco furniture – and at least 36,000 photobooks. Residents in this area were told to evacuate a week ago, and the coastal town is now “a war zone”, Heiting told NRC Handelsblad. At the time of the report on 20 November, Heiting has not yet been given the green light to visit his house but he stated that: “On satellite photos I can see that everything in my neighborhood has disappeared. Two or three houses may have survived. The rest was pulverized in a ten-minute fire storm.”