Samuel Spiker's 1833 Guide to Berlin

Books and the City

George Gropius, a distant relative of the famed modernist Walter Gropius, published one of the first illustrated guides to Berlin in 1833. The book, entitled Berlin und seine Umgebung im neunzehnten Jahrhundert (Berlin and its environs in the 19th century) by the journalist and librarian Samuel Heinrich Spiker, is a remarkable attempt to coherently represent Berlin’s urban surroundings, both in writing and imagery. The viewpoints for the engravings, executed by local artists, have set a standard for depictions on porcelain plates and cups, early photographs and postcards. The guide was sold in the ground floor shop of the Berlin Diorama, founded in 1827 by George and his brothers Carl and Ferdinand, both of whom had a background in theatrical scenic painting. Next to the display of large, illuminated views of Switzerland and Italy, bringing the exclusive ‘Grand Tour’ to a local audience, the Diorama acted as an early Tourist Office for visitors of Berlin. Both the Diorama itself and the Gropius brothers’ studio are included in the guide, as are many of Karl Friedrich Schinkel’s designs.

The paper examines the connections between the Diorama and publishing house of the Gropius brothers, the background of Samuel Spiker and the five engravers, the (un)selected highlights and viewpoints, the coherence between text and image, and, finally, the foreign guides that served as models for the book. It will also include a comparison of the late 18th century, and unillustrated, guide of Friedrich Nicolai (Beschreibung der königlichen Residenzstädte Berlin und Potsdam), along with a series of contemporary engravings by Johann Georg Rosenberg.

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