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The history of the two "Ls":
"About my photographs one will talk still in 200 years!"


Who is searching in Cairo for books or magazines in German, English or French language, for sure one day he will find his way to the bookshop "Lehnert & Landrock" in Downtown. This shop is like an institution with a long and eventful history. It is the history of some capital "Ls". The story of the lifes of Rudolf Franz Lehnert and Ernst Heinrich Landrock as well as of Kurt and finally Dr. Edouard Lambelet. The doctor in geology today is the owner of the famous shop.

Even if still nowadays books are in the centre of the shop in the Sharia Sherif, one department attracts more and more attention: the art gallery in the back rooms. This is a real treasury for lovers of old photographs. Here they find an endless number of original prints and the latest thing there is the first of two CDs with pictures, shot by photographer Lehnert in the beginning of the last century in Egypt, North Africa and Palestine. With this photographs the history of the bookshop "Lehnert und Landrock" started. An exciting story that Dr. Edouard Lambelet (picture above) told us and that we like to present you here in a short version.

Magic of the Orient

1903 – The Austrian photographer Rudolf Franz Lehnert and the German accounter Ernst Heinrich Landrock meet each other in Switzerland. Lehnert has just returned from his first trip by feet through the desert and the southern oases of Tunisia, where he took photographs and got his first idea about the magic of the Orient. Landrock immediately "smells" a good business with this pictures, joins Lehnert to Tunis and rents a shop there.
1904 – "About my photographs people will still talk after 200 years!" This sentence Lehnert points his oppinion out to his friend, who - terribly impatiently - accuses him for his two months long desert safari in Tunisia. Since weeks Landrock is waiting for the photographs. But the rich pickings at least bring the expected success: The photographs are published in Leipzig/Germany, some of them - as forcasted by Lehnert - reached worldwide fame.
1914 – Lehnert starts another caravan trip, he rents camels to carry his heavy photographer equipment, dresses himself like the bedouins, lives according the strong rules of the desert. When he returns to Tunis, he is schocked: In the meantime the outbreak of the First World War took place, their shop was confiscated, Landrock according to the German-French agreement as not fit for military service is interned to Engelberg in Switzerland. Because of his Austrian citizenship - he was born in 1879 in Grossaupa/Bohemia - Lehnert becomes a prisoner of war. First in Algeria, later on the island Corsica. Thanks to the efforts of Landrock he then is interned in Davos/Switzerland and later released.

Times of changings

After the war starts a time of changings. The two friends meet their intended wives. Eugenie "Jenny" Schmitt becomes Mrs. Lehnert, Emilie Singer-Lambelet Mrs. Landrock, with her arrives Kurt Lambelet, a son she gave birth during her first marriage.

1919 – Because Behemia now belongs to Czechoslovakia (allied with France), Lehnert's citizenship changes to Czech, and he gets back all his photographs.
1920 – Lehnert and Landrock meet in Leipzig, establish the "Orient Kunst Verlag", export many lithographs of coloured desert pictures for hard Dollars to South Africa.
1923 – Lehnert takes photographs in Egypt, Palestine and Lebanon.
1924 – The couple Landrock with Kurt Lambelet and Madame Eugenie Lehnert with daughter Eliane move to Egypt. In October they establish in Cairo the wholesaler's "Lehnert & Landrock", rent a shop. Landrock orders in Dresden, Berlin and Leipzig coloured engravings and by hand coloured photographs, delivered to Cairo packed in 200 boxes. But the business runs slowly, the profit is low, they have to take out a loan of LE 2.000 that cannot be repaid completely before 1948. The marketing problems are calling for a shift in thinking. "Lehnert & Landrock" switchs to sell their products - photographs, postcards and art prints - directly in a new shopping location.
1930 – Lehnert becomes not familiar with the noisy capital Cairo, he is longing for the magic of the Arabic palaces of Tunis. On 15th of June he splits up with Landrock, leaves the copyright for his photographs to the company "L & L, Nachf. Ernst Landrock" and returns to Tunis. There he opens a photographic atelier and soon makes a names of a respected portraitist.
1934 – Landrock directs the shop in close connection with his stepson Kurt Lambelet, who marries the Greece Julie Georgacopulo and is promoted as an associate.
1936 – Opening of the new wholesale and retail shop in Madabegh street 44 (today named Sherif street and still the main location of "Lehnert & Landrock"), that until 1939 will expand every year and become one of the most famous German book and art shops.
1937 – Birth of Landrock's stepgrandson Edouard.
1938 – For the first time in 14 years Landrock spends his holidays in Germany. He makes out the threat of the war, returns to Cairo and sells 80 per cent of the company to Kurt Lambelet. Starting from the 28th of September the company's name is "L & L Succ. Ernst Landrock & Co.".

War and revolution

1939 – During the outbreak of the World War II the couple Landrock again stays in Germany - for their last journey, they never will see Egypt again. In the same year Lehnert stops his professional activities and withdraws into his house in Carthage.
In Cairo the British close the supposed German shop, but the efforts of the forceful Kurt Lambelet with reference to his citizenship of Switzerland enable him to get his 80 per cent share back. But he has to adjust on the modified situation, has to be flexible. Therefore he offers local products like leather and silver jewelleries to the allied soldiers. Because imported items from Germany are forbidden, from England rationed, and he is only allowed to rint in the then very poor local printing houses.

1944 – After his wife passes away Lehnert lives in the house of his daughter and son-in-law in Redeyef in the oasis Gafa.
1945 – The English sequesters hand over the 20 per cent share of Landrock to Egypt. On 19th of November Lambelet buys this share, registers the company now by the name "Lehnert & Landrock, K. Lambelet succ.".
1946 – Lambelet starts to re-organize the bookshop, expands it with technical specialized literature in English language, to re-establish the German department.
1948 – On 16th of January Lehnert passes away in Redeyef, is layed to rest in his adoptive country beside his wife in Carthage.
1952 – The revolution in Egypt makes everything in the country and the world of business upside down. A national uprising sets Cairo in fire, destroys shops owned by foreigners. Dr. Edouard Lambelet remembers: "Our Nubian employees rescued our bookshop from destruction. They protected it, as if it was their own property. Without our loyal Nubians we would have lost our shop. It was the most difficult time for us."
1954 – General Gamal Abdel Nasser takes over the rulership from General Mohamed Naguib, becomes President of the Arabic Republic of Egypt.
1956 – All big companies are nationalised. But good luck for Lehnert & Landrock, the company is too small. On 1st of January, 1965, Kurt Lambelet with Edouard and his leading employee Georges Angelidis as a partner are founding the "L & L. K. Lambelet & Co." . Edouard Lambelet leaves Egypt, absolves in Switzerland his highschool diploma and military service and his university studies of geology in Hamburg/Germany. In Heidelberg he meets Roswitha Götz, student of 'Romance languages and literature, and marries her.
1966 – Ernst Landrock passes away on 30th of April in Kreuzlingen/Germany.

Restlessnes, movement, hidden treasures

1968/69 – It becomes more and more difficult to get the licence for imported items. Thanks to his connections the Egyptian Farid El-Bahnassawi can get the urgently needed licence for "L & L" and make arrangements for the money transfers. Kurt Lambelet hires him, but therefore he looses Georges Angelidis. And then something totally unexpected happens: on behalf of the the good word of the former Minister of Culture Sarwat Okasha after 40 years a request to open a branch in the Egyptian Museum gets an approval. "L & L" expands its offers of books in the touristic field in German, English, French, Italian and Spanish language. 1984 Japanese, 1995 Russian languages are added.
1975 – After employments as a geologist with oil companies in Spain and Holland, Dr. Edouard returns in his profession back to Egypt.
1978 – His father calls on him, to join their company fulltime. After some doubts Edouard agrees, starts his new job in 1st of January.
1979 – Kurt Lambelet gets the Egyptian citizenship, on 9th of July the new company "L & L, K. Lambelet, El-Bahnassawi & Co." is registered. They print again in Egypt, mainly with the printing house Nubar. The postcards printed there nearly reach European quality. The demand for art prints is increasing, the department for touristic books develops to one of the best in the country.
1982 – In a store Dr. Edouard Lambelet discovers the hidden treasures of the family, hundreds of historical glasplates with photographs of Rudolf Franz Lehnert covered in dust. He starts to clean, to sort, to categorize. With the help of a photographer and an old laboratory he develops and prints the first shots in the old working method.
1984 – In November the author and journalist Philippe Cardinal publishes an article about the discovery in the French newspaper "Liberation".
1986 – Cardinal also publishes a portfolio with 20 photographs printed in the old method in the Institut d’Orient in Paris. In several French cities exhibitions are organized, Lehnert's daughter Eliane Bernet, she lives meanwhile in Uzes in the south of France, supports Lambelet with some photographs of her father. From 12th of September until 3rd of November 1991 the work of Lehnert is exhibited in the Musée de l’Elysée in Lausanne/Switzerland.
1985 – Farid El-Bahnassawi retires, the flourishing business continues under the new company name "L & L, Kurt & Edouard Lambelet". Kurt is responsible for the traditional department of the art prints with its postcards, calendars, books, posters and prints on genuine papyrus. Edouard gives his attention to the bookshop, from time to time writes and publishes touristic books himself. His wife Roswitha manages the branch in the Egyptian Museum.
1987 – The publishing house Editions Favre, Lausanne, publishes the book "Lehnert & Landrock, l’Orient d’un photographe" of Philippe Cardinal.
1997 – On 11th of March Kurt Lambelet passes away in the age of almost 92 years, is burried in Rüschlikon at Lake Zurich. As his father would have approve, again the company name changes, is called now "L & L, Edouard Lambelet & Co.". Co. stands for Roswitha Lambelet and daughter Eveline.
1995 – By chance Dr. Lambelet meets with the Canadian photographer Chris Langtvet, a lover of historical photographs. Lambelet and Langtvet – again two L‘s! – they clicked, they agreed to work together. The ambitious Langtvet sets up a photographic laboratory in Cairo, studies the old method of developing and starts with the tedious reproduction of the large old negatives in original size. So Lehnert's work of life can be preserved for prosterity.
1999 – The result of the strenuous and tiring work for the first time shows up in the public limelight: in the "Mubarak Public Library", in the Goethe Institute in Cairo and in the "Institute for Foreign Relations" in Stuttgart/Germany. Since this time Edouard and Roswitha Lambelet concentrate more and more on the photographs, organize smaller and bigger exhibitions.
2003 – The first CD with Lehnert's photographs is available (for details click here). Now everybody (unfortunately Windows users only) can compile his personal exhibition on the computer. A new chapter in the history of the old photographs has started.
(Text Wolfgang Sliwka)