Wednesday, August 2, 2017


The first time I saw the Leica Stammbaum (Family Tree) was in 1972 during a visit to Ernst Leitz Wetzlar (that was the name of the company before it was changed to Leica Camera).  It was on display in the Leica museum, located at their old headquarters, which is now the Wetzlar city hall..  It was an impressive display.  You would reach it via a freestanding staircase in the main lobby, going up to the second floor.  The Stammbaum was the first item you saw at the entrance to the museum.

It has changed little since then.  It still shows the Ur-Leica, the original prototype at the bottom and then all subsequent models of the Leica rangefinder cameras up to the first Leica reflex cameras.  At that point the Stammbaum splits into two sections, one for the Leica reflex models and one for the rangefinder cameras.  The only changes have been the addition of new camera models as they were developed, and the original Ur-Leica has been replaced with a replica.  The original is now sitting safely in a vault.

Of course the appearance of the display has changed many times, especially when Leica made the move to Solms several years ago.  Even there the display changed its appearance, the last time after the renovation of the Solms lobby about five years ago.

The original Leica Stammbaum in Solms prior to the renovation of the lobby
Photo: R. Kok

The last version of the Leica Stammbaum in Solms
Photo: H. Richter

When Leica Camera AG moved back to Wetzlar, to their new headquarters at Leitz Park, the general assumption was that the Leica Stammbnaum would move also.  But it hasn’t been on display at all.  The new Leica museum is showing a lot of exciting and rare items, but the Stammbaum is nowhere to be seen

What happened?  The simple answer is that Leica doesn’t own the Stammbaum any longer.  A while ago I received word of what happened to it from the Leica Store in Manchester, UK.  The owner David Stephens kindly gave us permission to use his account and photographs of this historical event.

In November 2013  David and Richard visited the old Leica Solms Factory to collect some equipment. On display was the Historic Leica Stammbaum minus the iconic collection from Leica’s 99 years of camera production. The receptionist told us that the cameras had been taken to the new Leitz-Park in Wetzlar for display in state of the art glass cabinets. So begged the question – ‘What are you doing with the Tree?” –  After several conversations/emails and phone calls with the powers that be we received an email in February 2014 saying that, for an agreed price, we could ‘collect’ the Tree from Solms for our new Leica Store in Manchester. Guess what? Richard and David booked the next available ferry from Hull to Rotterdam and drove down to Solms, cash in pocket, to collect the one and only Leitz Family Tree. What a coup !

Not all went smoothly – the tree, even in its disassembled three pieces was somewhat a snug fit in our trusty Octavia Estate. So with chins on the dashboard we set off back to Manchester. Back at base we started the task of assembling the history of Leica from 1914-2014 (100 Years of Leica in Leica’s 100th Anniversary Year).

After several months and many trawls through various online sites we finally managed to replicate the original ideology of the tree display filling it with Pre Leica M Cameras, LeicaFlex Cameras, and Leica M and R Cameras. Some of the cameras on the tree are exceedingly rare, and we are privileged to be able to display them all in our store for Leica lovers around the world to enjoy.

The Leica Stammbaum at its new home at Leica Store Manchester
Photo: Leica Store Manchester

What we have is a truly historical piece of Leica Art which we hope you will come and enjoy next time you’re visiting Manchester.

I have to agree.  This was indeed a coup.

But the Leica Stammbaum was destined to move again.  Leica Store Manchaster  completed it with 107 cameras, to bring it back to its original condition, showing the development of Leica cameras from the original prototype, the Ur-Leica in from 1913, in form of a replica, to the present.

Needless to say, that presents a considerable assortment of collectible Leica cameras.  For that reason, it was decided to sell the Stammbaum in its completed from in an auction at Christies.  In their catalog they wrote:

Lot 571



EstimateGBP 350,000 - GBP 450,000
(USD 420,000 - USD 531,000)

A history of the Leica camera comprising 107 of the principal models, showing the history of the marque from pre-production models, the screw-fit Leica series, M-series, R-series, to digital models, from c1923 to 2006, mounted as a family tree by model and date of production, on a custom-built display unit, formerly part of the Leica Solms factory museum

Approx. 118 in. (300 cm.) high; 87.5 in. (222 cm.) wide

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  1. I am amazed that Leica sold the Solms Stammbaum.

    1. You certainly are not the only one. As the Leica grapevine has it, Leica is regretting that move.

  2. So do we know who bought it at the Christies auction?

    1. No. As far as I know, Christies does not make that information available.