The competition Best Book Design from all over the World

Stiftung Buchkunst (German foundation for book design) networks international book design competitions under the umbrella of »Best Book Design from all over the World«.  Despite cultural differences in book production, this competition is an attempt to compare the technical and aesthetic level as well as the appropriate and artistic design of books beyond national borders. The focus is on international exchange and mutual stimulation.

Hundreds of award-winning titles from national competitions in over 30 countries are examined by an international jury of experts. In the international competition, only books that have previously been judged and awarded prizes by expert juries in their respective countries of origin are evaluated.

The highest award given by the jury is the »Goldene Letter«. In addition, one »Gold Medal«, two »Silver Medals«, five »Bronze Medals« and five »Honorary Appreciations« will be selected. All awards are non-endowed. The awarding of the certificates usually takes place during the Leipzig Book Fair. 

Unique of its kind in the world, the annual book design competition »Best Books from all over the World« has been held in Leipzig since 1963. Since 1991 the Stiftung Buchkunst in Frankfurt am Main and Leipzig has been responsible for overseeing it.


2022

As recently as last year, Covid made a big impact in the international competition “Best Book Design from all over the World”: The books could be physically examined by the jury, but the discussion and the final joint decision on the awardees could only be made online. While Leipzig Bookfair had to be cancelled for the third time due to the pandemic, this time everything was in favour of a return to normal processes concerning the international competition organised by Stiftung Buchkunst [German foundation for book design], at least to a certain extent. At the beginning of February, five jurors met at German National Library in Leipzig to critically assess books from almost 30 countries.

Unfortunately, caused by pandemic-related work stoppages in the logistics centres, this season the nationally awarded books from Liechtenstein, Russia and Switzerland did not arrive on time to be examined by the Jury and could not be included in this year’s competition. A list of all submitted titles will be found in the index of the upcoming publication.

This year one can get an acoustic impression of the jury session in a special episode of our podcast.

We are back at German National Library Leipzig, as always for the jury panel of the international competition. This time, however, the panel takes place in a different room, which is almost like a dance hall. So, the five jurors are able to keep a lot of distance. Finally, we could have them here with us; unfortunately, one had to cancel at short notice, but we found a great replacement.

And we are even more pleased that so many countries, 9 in number, are represented in the selection of awarded books.«

Katharina Hesse, managing director of Stiftung Buchkunst

As the highest mention, the jury awards the »Goldene Letter«; in addition, one »Gold Medal«, two »Silver Medals«, five »Bronze Medals« and five »Honorary Appreciations«. The awards are non-monetary and are intended to stimulate greater international dialogue in the book design scene. The institutions taking part have distinguished books in national design competitions. Only titles are accepted that have already been awarded prize in their home country or have been recommended by a body of experts.

This year, the great publication »On the Necessity of Gardening. An ABC of Art, Botany and Cultivation« from The Netherlands could win the highest prize, the GOLDENE LETTER. The book was designed by Bart de Baets.

Gardening is designing nature, organizing the wild – bringing structure to chaos. The design of this contemporary garden-encyclopedia reflects that in an extraordinary, superb way. The layout of the text boxes is reminiscent of well-organised and productive plant beds.
This book is full of energy. The viewer dives in, every page is different, but you never get lost, even if it seems you could. Thousands of things to discover, to read, to enjoy. One continues to stroll around.

Virtuous typesetting, organized chaos, a super characteristic cover, great printing, binding, finishing – just a few comments that explain the fascination for this work and the award of the Goldene Letter

The jury comments

In addition to the highest award, the »Goldene Letter«, another 13 books from Austria, China, Czech Republic, Germany, France, Japan, the Netherlands, Poland, and Ukraine were awarded.

The publication “Best Book Design from all over the World 2022”, designed by the Frankfurt design studio Bureau Mitte, will be published soon.

The award-winning books of 2022 were shown for the first time at the Independent Publishing Fair “It's a book” in Leipzig on March 19th.

List to the jury comments:

Gila Kaplan: Goldene Letter and Goldmedal

Marcia Novais: Silver Medals

Ozan Akkoyun / Sebastian A. Schmitt: Bronze Medals

Hans Gremmen: Honorary Appeciations


international publication 2022


international publication 2021


international publication 2020


history Best Book Design from all over the World

When the competition for the »Best Book Design from all over the World« was first held in 1963, it drew on ideas going right back to the early decades of the last century. In 1927, thirteen years after the legendary International Exhibition for Book Trade and Graphics (known as BUGRA), the international book art exhibition (iba) in Leipzig was intended to offer a “well-ordered and suitably unified overview of modern achievements in book art and book graphics”. Although 20 countries, including the USA and Japan, participated in the unprecedented exhibition with almost 20,000 works by 1,100 book artists, it became clear that book design in the years after the First World War only gradually found its way back to material objectivity.

The competition »Best Book Design from all over the World« and the accompanying exhibition began quite modestly in 1963 with 200 books gathered from 20 countries — press reports spoke of a "successful improvisation". From 1968 onwards the exhibition was upgraded by the incorporation of a special thematic display. The Golden Letter, initially awarded as a prize for the best contribution to these thematic exhibitions, later advanced to become the competition's highest award.

It was also thanks to the international book exhibitions and the winners of the »Best Book Design from all over the World« that Leipzig was able to maintain its international reputation as a "book city" right up to the time of German reunification. With the fall of the Berlin Wall, holding two parallel national book art competitions had become obsolete. Since 1991, the competition and exhibition »Best Book Design from all over the World« have been organized by Stiftung Buchkunst in Frankfurt/Leipzig. Today, only books that have already won prizes in national competitions are on display in Leipzig. All countries are able to present the current state of their book art through this independent selection of their "Best".

Nils Kahlefendt

2021 special edition in Frankfurt