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Intangible cultural heritage

Traditions, knoweldge, craftsmanship techniques  
Photo: © UNESCO/James Muriuki

Social practices throughout Austria, inscribed 2021

Gautschen (or: die Gautsch), an occupational tradition practised by book printers and typesetters, can be traced back to guild initiation rites. In this tradition, apprentices (Kornuten) are grabbed and dunked into a vat of water in order to wash clean their “sins” (from their time as apprentices). Afterwards, they leave behind their lives as apprentices and are therewith elevated to journeyman*journeywoman status. As confirmation that they have been through this ceremony, the “Gäutschlinge” receive an artfully decorated certificate known as a Gautschbrief. In the present day, this tradition is upheld not only by printers but also by members of professions that developed on the basis of the printer’s trade—including typographers, media designers, prepress technicians, et al. It is still practised at a Viennese College of higher vocational education, at private firms, and on occasions relevant to the aforementioned occupations. It draws an arc that is not only professional in nature but also unites multiple generations in its significance to teachers and learners, hence contributing to the identity of this occupational field.


Bernhard Honkisz
c/o Leyserstraße 6
1140 Wien


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