Two Knights to Remember (II): “A Typical Franconian Meal”


The Shop am Schloss is reason enough to visit Faber-Castell; I don’t know if there is a greater selection of products to be found in one place (with the possible exception of one of their flagship stores). But an added bonus includes some overstock of discontinued or updated items and though not pictured, a full selection of the Graf von Faber-Castell line. Catalogs—something I can’t get enough of—are free, and there are quite a few to choose from. I can’t imagine what the company’s annual printing budget must be, because for every catalog you see there are as many internal and dealer publications printed on the same high-quality stock, all beautifully typeset and photographed.

As I left the shop around 2:00 PM there was a slight chill in the air. But the amber-soft, Teutonic glow emanating from my bag of newly-bought German-made stationery kept me plenty warm. I wouldn’t be outside for too long though since my next meeting was located inside the castle (100 meters this way, yes?) with Dr. Hilsenbeck, head of the Faber-Castell archive.


To my pleasure not only was Dr. Hilsenbeck there, but also Mmes Luther and Börner. Over the years they have all been very generous with their time, patiently answering my obscure questions and sending scans of things I never knew or thought existed. One small example: I noticed that the Eberhard Faber Company used a company logo that was similar to the Faber family crest until about 1903, after which they switched to the diamond star logo. The best example I had was a very poor scan of an even poorer copy:


I was hoping to find something just a little bit clearer. Not only was I sent a nice, clean scan, but scans of several variations too, and all older than the “original” I thought I had found:


Their work at the archive is already a full-time job so it is quite remarkable how over the years they have shared their time and enthusiasm with me; being permitted to see and touch these treasures from the past is a privilege I’m still unable to adequately describe.

Already prepared for me were several boxes of catalogs and price lists from the Eberhard Faber Company in America, and a few from Germany. For this visit I was most interested in locating images of the buildings that the company occupied during the late 1800s and early 1900s. Such images are often found in the front matter of company catalogs.

After finding what I was looking for relatively quickly, I spent the rest of the time thumbing through history. Pocket catalogs were quite popular around the turn of the century:


There were two striking catalogs from the 1800s—their condition was so good it seemed like they were printed just yesterday. They were thin and their covers had an almost plastic texture to them. This isn’t the best photo, but you can make out the texture a bit:


The rest of the items I remembered from my first visit, but this time several hours were reserved for me to peruse them more carefully:


Just when you get to the point where you can’t believe you’re seeing all of these items in one place, all you have to do is look up:


And that’s just one collection of shelves. There are many more.

As I was getting ready to leave, photocopies were still being made of the 250+ pages of materials I brought to donate to the archive. Though I didn’t want to interrupt her day any more than I already had, there was something I had been wanting to ask Dr. Hilsenbeck ever since my first visit: Could I take a look at one of the original Castell pencils?

There are several large wooden filing cabinets with thin, wide drawers—the kind you might imagine existing in an architect’s office from the turn of the century to place sketches and blue prints. Here’s the best part: they’re not labeled. But without hesitation Dr. Hilsenbeck opened the precise drawer full of salesman’s sample folders dating back to the early 1900s, and among them were some of the first Castells ever made (sorry, no photos). I was stunned simultaneously by the 100-year-old pencils before me and Dr. Hilsenbeck’s sense of recall. In fact there were several moments like this one, where each of the women pulled details out of the air as if they were all common knowledge. Astounding.

On The Way Back

Having spent several hours with my imagination rooted firmly in the past, snapping myself back into the present felt a bit jarring. But before going back to the hotel there were a few things I wanted to photograph along the way, including this early building near the factory. Note that it says “A.W. Faber” sans Castell above the doorway:


After crossing the Rednitz, the same building is in the background:


The apartments along the Rednitz, which once provided housing for employees (and for all I know some employees may still live there), are among my favorite buildings in Stein. But since we usually only see the front of them (i.e. the side facing the river) I thought I’d walk down in between them for a closer look:


There is a pathway leading to a walkway alongside the river. While the age of some of these buildings is clearly showing, the colors and textures look almost like something from a painting:



A little further down the path and there is a small set of stairs which brings you to the riverside. This photograph then, is taken from the opposite angle found in most of the pictures you see of the apartments:


If you continue north along that walkway you’ll end up on Nürnberger Str.


If you visit Stein and walk around a bit one thing you will notice is how many streets, buildings, and parks bear the names of Faber family members:




My last stop before reaching the hotel was the Old Lead Factory, on the other side of the Rednitz. You can get there by walking down this shady pathway:


The Rednitz once powered the factory exclusively, but even today the river provides approximately 20% of the factory’s energy needs:


I photographed this gate the last time I was here but I wanted to try and get a better photo. It’s not much better, but here you can see the Castell pencils the gate is made from. And so that no detail was left unattended, each pencil has a separate grade marking:


Back at the hotel I rested for a bit, then something dawned on me: I began to wonder how or even if my newly acquired bleistiftbounty would fit into my luggage.

Franconian For An Evening

I have a friend and fellow musician who lives in Nürnberg, whose city center is only minutes from Stein by car. We met in front of the Castell castle at 6:00, err… 18:00, and were off to find some Franconian fare. We sat at a group table in a restaurant located within in the city, and then I asked my friend what a “typical Franconian meal” might be. I decided to go with the Schweinebraten. Yes it was about 50% fat, but that’s OK, it tasted great. So did the dumplings. I assuaged any health concerns by simply telling myself I was preparing for winter by adding another layer of insulation.

We worked off some of our meal by walking to the top of the castle, which offers a beautiful view of old Nürnberg:


The third and final post of this series will be up within a week or so.

Newer visitors to this blog might be wondering why there are no photographs of the factory or of pencils in this post or the previous one. I’ve provided a few below from my previous visit to Faber-Castell, which you can read here.

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7 Responses to Two Knights to Remember (II): “A Typical Franconian Meal”

  1. Thank you for sharing all these wonderful details !


  2. Stephen says:

    A great photo essay. Thank you so much for sharing this with us. What a delight this trip must have been!


  3. memm says:

    Amazing. Thanks for all the details.
    Was it a deliberate decision not to photograph the old Castell pencils or was that ‘verboten’?

    The photos of your trip are just fantastic! Thanks.


  4. Pingback: Small pencil notes | Bleistift

  5. Gunther says:

    Beautiful! Thank you for your detailed report of your trip and the wonderful photos.


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