A Facsimile from Ziereis Facsimiles and a Piece of (Democratic) History: the Original of the Constitution of the State of Rhineland-Palatinate

"Conscious of their responsibility before God, the originator of law and creator of all human community, animated by the will to secure the freedom and dignity of man, to order community life according to the principle of social justice, to promote the economic progress of all, and to form a new democratic Germany as a living member of the community of nations, the people of Rhineland-Palatinate have given themselves this constitution."

This preface introduces the constitution of the state of Rhineland-Palatinate, which was adopted by the citizens of Rhineland-Palatinate in a popular vote on the 18th of May 1947. It is printed in the original of the constitution, the unique facsimile of which we were commissioned to produce

Hardly distinguishable from the original!

The Request of the President of the Rhineland-Palatinate State Parliament

On the occasion of the 75th Anniversary of this great moment of democracy – the National Socialist reign of injustice had ended in 1947 not even two years earlier – we were asked by the President of the Rhineland-Palatinate State Parliament Hendrik Hering to produce a facsimile of the original of this constitution. Even though the production of individual facsimiles is rarely considered due to the enormous expenditure of time and money involved, we were happy to comply with this request as we fully share and support democracy in general and the values and goals stated in the constitution.

The Original from 1947: a Historical Document

The original of the 1947 constitution is a typewritten text of 35 pages bound in green linen. It is kept in a vault in the state parliament building in Mainz and guarded there like a state treasure (which it is). It is only taken out of the vault every 5 years for the swearing-in ceremony of the new president of the state parliament and then immediately stored there again. Although it is not a centuries-old manuscript with colorful gold-decorated miniatures, the facsimile was nonetheless not trivial: the perforated pages are heavily yellowed, the writing faded in some places, and the margins have lesions or even tears.

Professionalism and the Aura of History: the Digitization of the Original Document

Since it was not possible to have the original brought to us in Regensburg, we had to travel to Mainz, the capital of Rhineland-Palatinate, for digitization – the start of every facsimile project. The work of digitization – set-up, adjustment, test shots, fine-tuning, and finally the actual digitization and the precise logging of the condition and materials – took (only) a few hours. Although digitizing is always a highly concentrated and professional "work in progress" for us, as it is for a pilot before the take-off of his plane or for a surgeon before the operation, the historical aura and the privilege granted at this moment to be able to be so close to such a document cannot always be completely evaded.

Not Quite Trivial: the Facsimilation of the Original

The paper for the facsimile and the material for the binding were found after a short search thanks to our experience. However, since the paper from the 1940s (and thus also its modern imitation) presented some difficulties for today's printing presses, the printing required a few attempts until full satisfaction was finally achieved. The binding work in this particular case was also lengthy, but not extraordinarily demanding, as is so often the case in this profession. And so, after just under 3 months, we were able to present the result of our efforts: the facsimile of the original of the 1947 Constitution of the State of Rhineland-Palatinate, hardly distinguishable from the original!

With the valuable freight in our luggage, we set off again for Mainz where we were received by the President of the State Parliament, Hendrik Hering, on the occasion of the handover of the facsimile. He was more than impressed: it was impossible for him to tell any difference from the original, he said, and personally thanked us on behalf of the upper house for our great work. Then Georg Ziereis signed on behalf of Ziereis Facsimiles and the president of the state parliament in the colophon of the facsimile before the official photo was taken for the handover.

A Piece of ( Democratic) History, to which Ziereis Facsimiles was Allowed to Contribute!

The facsimile of the original of the Constitution of the State of Rhineland-Palatinate can now be viewed in the foyer of the state parliament by the members of the house, their staff, and the numerous visitors. A piece of (democratic-) history to which Ziereis Faksimiles was allowed to contribute!

The Authors