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Orgelbrand Family

Booksellers and publishers in Warsaw. Samuel Orgelbrand (1810–1868) founded the family’s business, which, from the middle of the nineteenth century until its sale in 1920, maintained a leading position in the Polish and Polish Jewish publishing industries. His brother Maurycy (1826–1904) and sons Hipolit (1843–1920) and Mieczyslaw (1847–1903) were also associated with the business. The publishing house produced texts on Polish literature and history, reference works in different disciplines, and specialist literature in social sciences, economics, law, and medicine.

After graduating from the reform-oriented Warsaw rabbinical seminary, Samuel Orgelbrand printed Polish literary texts from 1829 and worked as a private tutor. In 1836 he opened a bookshop and in 1844 founded the Samuel Orgelbrand printing shop (later, S. Orgelbrand i Synowie). His list of publications included Kmiotek (lit., Small Farmer; 1842–1850), the first popular weekly in Congress Poland and works by leading Polish writers as well as approximately 100 Hebrew titles, including editions of the Pentateuch and prayer books. He also produced Yiddish texts, including an edition of Tsene-rene in 1867.

The commercial success of Orgelbrand’s edition of the Babylonian Talmud in 20 volumes (1860–1864), which sold 12,000 copies, enabled him to publish the first complete Polish-language encyclopedia, the Encyklopedia powszechna Orgelbranda (Orgelbrand’s Universal Encyclopedia) in 28 volumes between 1859 and 1868. Orgelbrand was also a leader in the Warsaw Jewish community (he served on the executive boards of both the Jewish community administration and the Jewish hospital) and was a respected citizen of Warsaw.

Maurycy Orgelbrand, Samuel’s younger brother, was an editor as well as a bookseller and publisher. Also a graduate of the Warsaw rabbinical seminary, in 1853 he opened a bookshop in Vilna and, after being expelled from the city for supporting the uprising of January 1863, he published the weekly magazine Tygodnik powszechny (1876–1885). His list of publications also included Polish-language children’s and youth literature, musical scores, and a dictionary of the Polish language (Słownik jezyka polskiego do podręcznego uzytku; 1861). He was a convert to Catholicism.

Hipolit Orgelbrand continued his father Samuel’s career as a printer and publisher. After completing studies in law and administration, Hipolit ran the paternal business with his younger brother Mieczyslaw. In the 1870s, he served for a time as an inspector of the community’s Jewish elementary schools.

Mieczyslaw Orgelbrand made significant improvements in the areas of illustrations and photo reproduction as well as in typography in the family enterprise, helping it to become the leading publisher in the Kingdom of Poland. He issued an abridged, 12-volume Encyklopedia powszechna (Universal Encyclopedia; 1872–1876), an illustrated 16-volume Encyklopedja Powszechna z ilustracjami i mapami (Universal Encyclopedia with Maps and Illustrations; 1898–1912), and a Polish-language daily newspaper (Kurjer codzienny [Daily Messenger]; 1882–1887) and magazines (Bluszcz [The Ivy] and Biesiada literacka [Literary Banquet]).

Suggested Reading

Jacob Shatzky, Geshikhte fun yidn in Varshe, vols. 2–3 (New York, 1948–1953); Irena Treichel, “Orgelbrand Hipolit,” “Orgelbrand Maurycy,” “Orgelbrand Mieczysław,” and “Orgelbrand Samuel,” in Polski słownik biograficzny, vol. 24, pt. 1, 183–189 (Wrocław, Warsaw, Kraków, and Gdańsk, 1979).



Translated from German by Deborah Cohen