To this day, Wilhelm Busch is famous for his amusing if not ironic picture stories, above all for “Max and Moritz”, the two rascals who take pleasure in their well-meaning misdeeds before they themselves receive their bitterly wicked punishment and meet their end. That Busch was a true double talent in the field of art and poetry is impressively demonstrated by these picture stories, yet they also prove him to be a fine observer of basic human nature.
In profound affection he dedicated a series of manuscripts to his Frankfurt patroness Johanna Kessler (1831–1915), with whom he was in close contact between 1868 and 1877. These manuscripts were either produced in preparation for the picture stories or he created them himself in laborious service to her. They then came to the Städel Museum in 1930/31, giving an insight into his creative process. Busch usually began by drawing a sequence of pictures with a free, sure hand on large sheets of paper. He then cut them out and rearranged them, as in the case of the series of pictures for “Jobsiade” (1871, inv. no. 15325–15357, Städel Museum), and then sent them to his publisher. Here, the rhymed text came later, but the verses were also usually created only in a second step. In contrast, the illuminated manuscripts of “Pater Filucius” (1872, inv. no. 15518–15559, Städel Museum), “Dideldum!” (1873, inv. no. 15359–15416) and “Abenteuer eines Junggesellen” (1875, inv. no. 15429–15517) already show verses and pictures. In their arrangement, they also anticipate the later layout. For the printing, the pictures had to be reproduced last as wood engravings. For this, Busch copied the image templates directly onto the printing block, usually in pencil, whereby he had to mirror the picture for it to appear correctly on the printed page. The engraving was then done by a professional xylographer. The illuminated manuscripts of “Hans Huckebein” (c. 1870, Inv.-Nos. 15560–15572, Städel Museum) and of “Der heilige Antonius von Padua” (1871, Inv.-No. 15358, Städel Museum) were created after the prints as a favour to his patroness Johanna Kessler. Their design is based on medieval illuminated manuscripts.
First published in April 1874 by Bassermann in Heidelberg, “Dideldum!” is a compilation of various poems, drinking songs and illustrated stories, both humorous as well as philosophically deep. Compared to the print, the illuminated manuscript no longer contains the “Instructions for Historical Portraits” and the instalment “How to Make Napoliums”. The latter, which is still included in the pagination, was already missing in May 1874 when Wilhelm Busch sent the manuscript to Johanna Kessler. As with the other illuminated manuscripts, this one also shows the layout of the later printed book in pictures and text. For the preparation of the manuscript, Busch cut out the templates for the wood engravings, originally drawn on larger sheets, and subsequently stuck them onto the pages already containing the text. The swift pen-and-ink drawings, some of which are cut somewhat closely, show the motifs mostly identical to the printed page – with the exception of “Romanze” (Romance). Busch wrote the verses, apart from the initials and headings, in his ‘normal’ handwriting underneath. The binding, which probably Johanna Kessler commissioned a bookbinder with, was likely titled by Busch at a later date. – Cf. the remarks by Hans Ries in: Wilhelm Busch. Die Bildergeschichten. Historisch-kritische Gesamtausgabe, Hannover 2002, vol. II, col. 1426–1529, esp. col. 1473–1478.