Bookstore maKULaTUR



Of all the worlds that man has created, that of books is the most powerful.

Heinrich Heine

Carvings of boxwood, late Gothic palm-size, so that nobles and rich citizens could carry them in their pockets. I have never heard of that before. “Small Wonders” is the name of the catalog of these miniature works of art, lovingly printed on naturally boxwood-coloured paper, with which I am now discovering the supposedly well-familiar world of books in a completely new way. I have an appointment at the bookstore maKULaTUR in the popular Hüxstraße. For 20 years, the house with the number 87 has been a very special address for people who love books. The clever minds behind this concept are the two owners Birgit Böhnke and Regina Giese.

Passion between paper and art

With only about 65 m2 of space, the store is an incredible inspiration in the form of subtly arranged and conceptually presented reading material. Book tables and shelves full of illustrated books, monographs, reference and non-fiction books, literary and essayistic works. The main focus of the assortment is an extensive selection of books and exhibition catalogues on art, photography, architecture, design, cultural history, politics and philosophy. In addition, there is a selection of fiction and, more recently, feminist literature. The topics reflect the broad spectrum of current socially relevant issues.

Buchhandlung maKULaTUR Fenster

Two Berliners with a desire for change

Birgit Böhnke and Regina Giese met in Berlin. Regina had studied art, Birgit literature and theatre studies. They came together in the art book trade, where both worked in leading positions – one most recently in the Neue Nationalgalerie, the other in the “Kunstwerke” in Auguststraße – until, in the early 2000s, the desire grew in them to change frames from scratch. For their project to become self-employed, they did not set their sights on Berlin, but on the north as their new centre of life. What attracted both of them to Lübeck was not only the model-like quality, but also the contrast. And Thomas Mann also played a certain supporting role, because Birgit in her youth was an ardent admirer of Mann’s works, his special language and his characters.

The premises in Hüxstraße were more of a chance find and not love at first sight. The property was located in the “right street” and was financially feasible, even if it did not look very inviting in its former state as a gastronomic establishment with counter, tap, artificial vine leaves and imitation half-timbering. In just two months, with intense personal commitment, the house was transformed into a bookstore, a real gem. In retrospect, after 20 years, it seems almost like a miracle that this was possible. In any case, it is impressive proof that anything is possible when you burn for a cause.

In the meantime, maKULaTUR has become an institution in Lübeck, which almost seems to astonish the two booksellers themselves a little. Numerous regular customers visit the bookstore regularly, some coming specifically from Hamburg or Hanover, simply because there is no such bookstore there.

Excellent work

The outstanding work of the owners has already been recognized twice – in 2016 and 2018. In the category of ‘Particularly Outstanding Bookstores‘, maKULaTUR received Germany’s second bookstore award in 2016, the Federal Government of the Federal Republic of Germany’s award for independent owner-operated bookstores.

And what is so special about it?

LTM maKULaTUR Regina Giese Foto Klaus Giebel
LTM maKULaTUR Birgit Boehnke Foto Sebastian Juellig

Birgit Böhnke and Regina Giese know how to put books into a new perspective. Simply because a book is never just printed paper for them. They look very closely, make cross connections, and know and recognize overlaps and intersections of theses and themes from philosophy, art, and literature that they explore. Works and their authors are seen by them in an interdisciplinary context. This part of their daily work is a pleasure for them, always arouses their curiosity and ultimately makes the bookstore a success.
New connotations emerge in conversation. The exchange about a book is never a one-way street. Customers also inspire the owners with their questions, wishes and orders. The booksellers help with the procurement of background literature and conduct their own research on various issues.

Both of them care about the design of a book. Aesthetics is a big issue, though it’s not about a cover looking appealing or doing well in a display. It’s about the sophisticated relationship between the content and the appearance.

So many books – so little time

Enzyklopaedie Zarten

Their days should ideally have 48 hours, so that in addition to the work in the bookstore, to the mail correspondence and the studying of the programmes of hundreds of publishers, the bookkeeping, the implementation of new ideas for the redesign of the store, there would be time for the many books that they both would still like to read, for text work, retreat and immersion in new worlds of thought. And more time for events, that’s another issue: authors’ readings, book tables and discussion groups. Both find it painful at times that some ideas have to remain ideas, if you want to put your whole soul into it. It’s perfect that their apartment is locatedright above the bookstore, along with two cats, and that theay are always very close to their books. How wonderful it must be to be able to go downstairs and pull a book off the shelf that you just got around to talking about over tea upstairs.

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written by:

Barbara Schwartz