Bänkel booklet for a few pfennig

Title page: Eine grausame Stiefmutter oder: Gott ist gerecht
Title page of the Bänkel booklet Eine grausame Stiefmutter oder: Gott ist gerecht (A Cruel Step-Mother or: God Is Just), published by the publisher Hermann Reiche, undated
Deutsches Buch- und Schriftmuseum der Deutschen Nationalbibliothek Leipzig

Bänkel booklet for a few pfennig

A Cruel Stepmother or God is Just, undated

...read in extensive detail about the crime and the arrest of the housemaid murderer in a ballroom and about his execution, everything described at length and in exact detail as well as other true and shocking incidents. Three issues for only one penny.

Robert A. Stemmle, Herzeleid auf Leinwand, 1962

The sale of small Bänkel and Moritat booklets was the ultimate goal of a Bänkel performance – it was the singer's livelihood. The booklets, which sold for approx. 10 pfennigs, contained the detailed narratives, the song lyrics, and rarely a pictorial representation. While the singers initially wrote and printed the texts and songs themselves, in the late 19th century publishing houses began to emerge to produce the booklets, which were now plied to the public en masse.

The censorship authorities regarded the Bänkel business with scepticism; by forcing them to print, they hoped to ensure control and pictures and songs were often subjected to an approval procedure. Germany's “last Bänkelsänger”, the Berliner Ernst Becker, recorded a song to go along with a printed Bänkel story.