It was in 1946 that my father Hellmut Würgau gave me a present of the picture series of Tales of the Nations. He was an art teacher. He had come across it in Stuttgart when he was trying to find what he needed for his painting. He bought it at once, presumably bartering it for essential goods such as butter, cigarettes or even the paints and brushes he had just managed to acquire. We studied the pictures together and tried to work out the stories, because the album was missing and he was not able to get hold of it anywhere. It was fifteen years before I got to see it. I can say that I grew up with Tales of the Nations and that in the course of my childhood no year passed without my taking out the collection of cards and spreading them out in front of me on the table as if I was playing patience. I gradually began to understand the context of the stories, though many blank areas remained. I found the first picture of the series particularly puzzling, indeed uncanny: "The Spirit Lakalak". I thought the figure in the picture was Lakalak himself, or a magician conjuring up his own frightening shadow through demonic dance. Long before I first encountered the word, I thus got an idea of what a shaman is. When I was somewhat older, my mother Else Würgau née Rutsch gave me a record of Stravinsky's Firebird, and when I listened to the movement entitled "The Infernal Dance of King Kastshei" it was this picture which I associated with it.
My second debt of gratitude is owed to a student whose name I cannot recall whom I knew in Tübingen. He had also grown up with Tales of the Nations but, unlike myself, knew the stories as he had a copy of the collector's album. He kindly lent it to me, and I never got around to returning it. I didn't mean to keep it, but somehow lost sight of him, never heard of him again, and must admit was glad to have the book. I now return it to him in different form; should he see this website, I hope he will find that I have put what he lent me to good use. I still have that first copy of the book; I would be delighted to hear from my old friend and would return by express that precious tome which has been missing from his library now for over three decades.
I am much obliged to my wife, Ruth Fleischmann, Lecturer in the English Department of the University of Bielefeld, for having translated Stefan Mart's tales into her mother tongue. She found that there was something in Stefan Mart's style of writing which facilitated the translation into English, as if the author had been a competent speaker of the language who instinctively imitated English-type sentence structures in tales set in the English-speaking world. That corresponds with my perception of Stefan Mart as an Anglophile, or rather as an Americaphile; as his two stories "Bobby Box" and "That's Success!" contain evidence of a fondness for and knowledge of America which is unlikely to have derived from books. - Could his father or his mother have been from America? This is one of the innumerable fragments which may or may not be part of the jigsaw puzzle that may help to provide a portrait of the forgotten artist.
Ruth's sister Maeve Fleischmann together with Richard O'Farrell took on a task requiring special talent: the translation of the poems which Stefan Mart interspersed in many of his tales, in particular in "Bobby Box". My best thanks to them for many hours of work. They found the English Rhyming Dictionary An Online Rhyming Dictionary for Poetry and Songwriting extremely useful.
Two people have given me invaluable help in my attempts to find traces of Stefan Mart and hitherto unknown artistic works of his. They are Ms Christine Hawkins-Poeschel of Colorado Springs USA, granddaughter of the Leipzig printer and book artist Carl Ernst Poeschel, who did the graphic layout and printed part of the collector's album, and Mr Schulz-Schomburgk of Königstein i.T., whose father was business manager of the publishing house Poeschel & Trepte. Both remember the book Tales of the Nations from their childhood. I thank them both very warmly for all the information and for their lively interest.
I am obliged to many people who have provided me with information on a variety of subjects: antiquarians, librarians, experts on printing techniques and those who helped with the biographical searches. I thank: Dr. Helmut Saucke, publisher and antiquarian in Hamburg; Ms Mary Nelson, archivist of the Wichita State University Library, USA; Mr Michael Justus, managing director of the Schaeffer-Poeschel Publishers in Stuttgart; Ms Tiedemann and Ms Hass of the Altona Museum in Hamburg; Professor Johannes Weckerle Department of Design at the University of Applied Sciences of Hamburg; Mr Olaf Hillert of the Municipal Archives Leipzig; Dr. Jochen Briegleb of Bonn and Mr Harald Küppers, printer and colour theoretician of Langen. I consulted Mr Küppers on the subject of the colour prints in the book; his numerous publications and his internet presentation Theory of the Eight Basic Colours opened up new horizons to me far beyond the practical purpose of inquiring how art prints are best reproduced on the screen. To him I owe a special debt of gratitude.
Homepage Stefan Mart could not have been written without the encyclopaedic introduction to the internet techniques by Stefan Münz in his website SELFHTML - The Energy of Understanding. To him and the large web community which maintains, discusses and constantly enlarges SELFHTML I owe most of the knowledge and skills I needed to create these pages for the re-publication of Tales of the Nations. It was through SELFHTML that I found many of the technical tools I have used. I have listed all these tools individually under the L I N K S . It is therefore appropriate to close this chapter with the expression of my special thanks to these authors and to the SELFHTML community.