Wolfgang Lederer


Book artist. Jewish, and Czech. Born 16 January 1912 in Prague (or Mannheim?) into an artistic and musical family. His father Felix a friend of the designer and illustrator Hugo Steiner-Prag. 1931-3: under the Steiner-Prag’s patronage, Wolfgang went to the Leipzig State Academy for the Book Trade and Graphic Arts (Akademie für graphische Künste und Buchgewerbe) where he studied typography, design and illustration. A study year in Paris followed. 1934-6: worked in Prague where he worked with Steiner-Prag. He became a teacher at the Akademie after Steiner-Prag had emigrated to Sweden. From 1937: worked in Vienna for the publishers Fischer, and Piper; his first exhibition (at the Heck Gallery). With the arrival in Vienna of the Nazis in 1938 Lederer returned to Prague. May 1939: rather than following Steiner-Prag to Sweden, Lederer took the opportunity afforded by an aunt’s offer to emigrate to the USA. In New York he received commissions from the publishers Macmillan, Simon and Schuster and Columbia University Press among others. After two years he moved to California, where he lived for the rest of his life. He was head of the graphic design department at the California College of Arts and Crafts for 40 years, becoming Professor Emeritus in 1980. While teaching, he had also designed and illustrated books for the University of California Press, Chronicle Books, Presidio Press and Sierra Club Books. He had also been art director of Organisation Wine Publications.

Writings about

  • ‘Bridging two worlds in graphic design, education and illustration’, interviews conducted by Harriet Nathan in 1988 (Oral History, the Bancroft Library), Berkeley: University of California, 1992
  • Irene Schlegel, ‘Wolfgang Lederer. Buchkünstler in Prag, Wien und USA’, Illustration 63, Aug. 2000, pp. 59-62 (inc. letters from the Shakespeare alphabet)
  • www.sfcb.org/html,
  • Ernst Fischer and others, Buchgestaltung im Exil 1933-1950. Eine Ausstellung des Deutschen Exilarchivs 1933-1945 Der Deutschen Bibliothek. Wiesbaden: Harrassowitz Verlag, 2003. Very comprehensive. , 2003, biog.: pp. 181-2


  • Heck Galerie, Vienna
  • San Francisco Center for the Book (retrospective), 2000.