History of the Bibliographisches Institut (Bibliographical Institute)

Picture: Company logo of the Bibliographical Institute
Company logo of the Bibliographical Institute
Kǿlumbus / Wikimedia Commons

History of the Bibliographisches Institut (Bibliographical Institute)

From Joseph Meyer to the 21st Century

Education makes you free.

Motto of Joseph Meyer (1796-1856), founder of the Bibliographical Institute

The Bibliographical Institute was started as a publishing house in Gotha in 1826 by the writer and businessman Joseph Meyer. Two years later, he moved the company to Hildburghausen, before finally settling into a modern, newly constructed building in Leipzig in 1874. The BibliographicalInstitute came to fame through the many editions of Meyers Konversations-Lexikon that appeared from 1839. The scientifically written articles and its approach of spreading scientific knowledge in the 19th century made it a pioneering classic among German lexicons. Gradually, other popular series appeared such as the travel books Meyers Reisebücher (from 1862) or the zoological studies Brehms Tierleben (from 1863). In 1880 the Bibliographical Institute published the first edition grammar school teacher Konrad Duden’s self-titled spelling dictionary of the German language that remains the standard work today.

In 1915 the company became a limited company. Three decades later, at the end of World War II, the headquarters of the publishing house had been bombed to ruins. After being declared property of the state in the Soviet occupation zone it was converted into a so-called “nationally owned enterprise”. The previous owners then decided to found the company anew in Mannheim in 1953. This meant that until German reunification, there were two separate BibliographicalInstitutes in East and West Germany and they were only merged in 1991. In February 2013, the publishing house, which had been bought up and whose product range had been heavily rationalised by the Cornelsen Group in the meantime, moved to Berlin. The production of comprehensive encyclopaedias was largely stopped as a result of the increasing competition from public domain, online encyclopaedias such as Wikipedia.