A Story about a Publisher

A little history about GF Callenbach¹ (1871-1949), a member and later Managing Director of the Publishing firm GF Callenbach P/L in Nijkerk. The writer is his grandson and namesake (1933)² and a retired Managing Director of the publishing firm.

This story was related to me by the representative of the paper merchant Proost, who used to call on us while I was working as a trainee- publisher with the firm “Het Wereldvenster” in Baarn in 1960.

It was with a certain amount of fear and trepidation that the young representative entered the management offices of the publishing firm Callenbach.³ It would have been in the nineteen twenties that he was, for the first time, allowed to go and discuss the question of paper supplies all by him self. Mr Callenbach himself was in the office, dressed in a three piece suit with fob watch chain draped across his stomach, with a well coiffured moustache and goatee. Not exactly somebody to put a young representative at ease...

Still, the discussions went smoothly and specifications of the various orders were quite clear. That was until an order was placed for 1000 kg of “backside paper” The young man noted the order but had no idea what it was about. Of course he was too scared to ask for an explanation and he took the order literally.

I should inform the reader that in those days our books for the Sunday schools had a red linen spine. On the front of the hard cover was a nice colour picture printed on good quality paper. On the back of the hard cover, however, the graphics did not require such a high quality and a cheaper grade would suffice. In the jargon of the publishing this was called reverse side paper or,        ………..”backside paper”.

Due to the shyness of the representative the 1000kg of the lower quality was not delivered a few weeks later. Instead a phone call was received from the station master of Nijkerk, who wanted to know what in heavens name the Callenbach business wanted with half a freight cart full of rolls of toilet paper and when could they come to unload same.

The story goes that all the staff of both the publishing arm and the book binding section received free toilet paper for more than a year.

¹ George Frans Callenbach, (5.7)
² George Frans Callenbach, (
³ The bookbinding business was attached to the publishing offices hence the requirement for paper.

(This article was first published in the family publication “The Prophet of the Velue” No 49/50 in February/May 1997)