Telephone: +(49) (341) 978630
Fax: +(49) (341) 9786560
Web site: http://www.bifab.de
Sales: EUR 65.17 million ($88.91 million) (2004)
NAIC: 511130 Book Publishers; 511210 Software Publishers; 511199 All Other Publishers
The Bibliographisches Institut & F.A. Brockhaus AG (BIFAB) is the leading publisher of reference books in the German-speaking world. Headquartered in Mannheim, BIFAB's publishing program is based on three of the most respected reference book lines in Germany: the Meyers encyclopedias, including Meyers Großes Taschenlexikon ; the Brockhaus encyclopedias, including the Brockhaus Enzyklopädie ; and the Duden catalog of dictionaries, including most notably, Die deutsche Rechtschreibung, a book found in virtually every German home and office. The BIFAB editorial staff is based in the firm's historical headquarters in Leipzig, Germany. Administrative and production staff members work out of Mannheim, Germany. Of a total staff of approximately 300, 70 work in the company's Leipzig headquarters, while another 230 are based in Mannheim.
BIFAB AG grew out of the work of three of the most important figures in German publishing history: F.A. Brockhaus, Joseph Meyer, and Konrad Duden. Individually the three men set the standard for the production of reference books in Germany.
Friedrich Arnold Brockhaus, assisted by Dutch friends, founded the publishing company Rohloff & Co. in Amsterdam in October 1805. The firm made its first significant acquisition a year later at the Leipzig publishing fair where Brockhaus paid 1,800 Talers for the rights to the Conversationslexikon mit vorzüglicher Rücksicht auf die gegenwärtigen Zeiten (Conversational Encyclopedia with Particular Emphasis on Present Times). Until then the encyclopedia had had so little success that its authors had never finished writing it. Brockhaus arranged for its completion and in 1809 published the Conversations-Lexicon in eight volumes. The new work offered, in Brockhaus's own words, "the most important information, from science, nature, art and public life, for general education, presented briefly and clearly, in a manner suited to the form, character and needs of the latest times." The work would be the foundation for future Brockhaus as well as various foreign encyclopedias.
By 1817 the enterprise had moved its operations from The Netherlands to Leipzig, Germany, and adopted its owner's name, becoming F.A. Brockhaus. Leipzig at the time was the capital of the German publishing industry, and within four years the company had settled into a headquarters that included its own printing plant, all located in Leipzig's so-called Graphics Quarter. Brockhaus established a financial foundation for his house by including in its publishing program works of general interest from the fields of history, literature, and philosophy, along with other reference works. The company pulled off a coup in 1819 when Arthur Schopenhauer, one of the most popular and influential philosophers of the day, became a Brockhaus author. Three years later Brockhaus published Casanova's Memoirs in a bowdlerized German edition. Although the company owned the sole copy of the original manuscript, it did not publish a complete version until 1963.
When F.A. Brockhaus died at the age of 51 in 1823, his sons Friedrich and Heinrich took over the company then at work on a new edition of its Conversations-Lexicon. The first Encyclopedia Americana, published between 1829 and 1833, was based directly on this Brockhaus edition. Although the firm continued to publish the works of important authors, including Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, reference books constituted the primary focus of its catalog. In 1831 it acquired Verlag Johann Friedrich Gleditsch, the publisher of the Allgemeine Encyclopädie der Wissenschaften und Künste (General Encyclopedia of the Arts and Sciences). When it was finally completed in 1889, the 167-volume work was the largest and most extensive German-language encyclopedia of the time.
In 1826 Joseph Meyer founded the Bibliographisches Institut, a publishing house that practically from the start would be Brockhaus's primary competitor. Meyer was a canny businessman. He published literary classics at affordable prices in his Cabinets-Bibliothek der Deutschen Classiker in print runs of thousands. The project—advertised under the motto "Education for all!"—was a magnet for resentment throughout a German publishing industry that bitterly resisted marketing. Meyer brought other strategies to bear as well. While other German publishers of the day were content to announce their new books by simply having the titles printed in the newspaper, Meyer's advertisements took up several pages. When readers subsequently inquired about his books, booksellers—whatever their feelings for Meyer—were forced to stock them. Meyer used sales representatives from outside the book trade to sell his books in areas with no bookstore or where local book dealers refused to do business with him.
Such innovative techniques (he sold 50,000 copies from his series of classics alone) made Meyer one of the most successful publishers of the 19th century. He created long-term interest in his multivolume geographical reference work Meyers Universum by selling volumes on a subscription as they were published. By keeping the price for individual volumes relatively low, he was able to interest customers who otherwise would not have been able to afford an expensive set of reference books. Subscription sales were essential to Meyer's first encyclopedia, Grossen Conversationslexikon für die gebildeten Stände (Large Conversational Encyclopedia for the Educated Classes), which he began publishing the same year he founded his publishing house. Publication of the work, which eventually ran to 52 volumes published over a 13-year period, would not have been financially feasible otherwise.
The Conversationslexikon proved that in addition to being a visionary businessman, Meyer was also a radical advocate of Enlightenment values. The purpose of the Conversationslexikon, as he saw it, was to open the possibility of culture and education to the developing middle classes. The work was "a tool of intellectual emancipation," he wrote in its preface, which would "overthrow the oppressive monopoly on knowledge" long held by the privileged few.
With the publication of the Conversationslexikon, Meyer entered a crowded encyclopedia market, which included Brock-haus's Konversationslexikon, the Allgemeine Encyclopädie der Wissenschaften und Künste, and the Encyclopädisches Wörterbuch. But in Meyer's view, each of these works had disadvantages: The first was targeted at the highly educated, the second was too expensive for the general reader, and the content of the last was outdated. Meyer set his sights high, designing the Conversationslexikon to be of interest to specialists as well as the general reader. Completed in 1855 by 120 editors who worked more than 20 years to complete a comprehensive and popular German encyclopedia, its 52 volumes consisted of 66,000 pages and more than 90 million words. It was the first German encyclopedia to include tables and text illustrations. Its subscribers received the entire set in approximately 1,000 individual installments.
Following Joseph Meyer's death in 1856, his son Hermann Julius Meyer took over the Bibliographisches Institut's leadership. He launched a revision of the Conversationslexikon, along with an abridgement of the set. Edited down to 15 volumes, the new set was completed in 1860 under the title, Neues Konversations-Lexikon für alle Stände. The briefer, more affordable encyclopedia became the most important and popular item in the Bibliographisches Institut's catalog. The third edition sold 130,000 sets, and the fifth edition, completed in 1897, sold 233,000. Meyer took another bold step with the publication of Meyer's Hand-Lexicon des allgemeinen Wissens, a single-volume reference work that became known as the Kleiner Meyer (the Small Meyer) to distinguish it from the Grosses Conversationslexikon, which became known as the Grosse Meyer. These books, together with atlases, popular scientific books on animals, and similar titles, made the Meyer name synonymous with reference books in Germany by the end of the 19th century.
Konrad Duden, a Gymnasium teacher inspired by the unification of the diverse German states in the Empire in 1871, set out to unify German orthography as well. Until that time there were no standardized rules governing spelling or punctuation in written German. Every writer, every publisher, every newspaper and magazine, followed its own individual house style. In 1872 Duden first publicized his ideas, which were vetoed by Chancellor Otto von Bismarck himself after the First Conference for the Introduction of Standardization of German Orthography. Duden was not discouraged. He began compiling his Vollständiges Orthographisches Wörterbuch der deutschen Sprache (Complete Orthographic Dictionary of the German Language). He based the book on the orthography taught in Prussian schools, recognizing that without Prussian approval his work had no chance of adoption. His fundamental guiding principle was that the written language should be based on the spoken, in order that they be learned as easily as possible.
The latest edition of "Brockhaus. Die Enzyklopädie" is the sum of two centuries of successful information processing. In a time dominated by a steadily increasing flood of information, there is a need for reliable documentation which enables the reader to distinguish the important from the insignificant. And if you open a Brockhaus, you can be sure you will find a succinct answer to most of your questions. This specific quality had made the Brockhaus Enzyklopädie probably the most famous and most read encyclopedia in the world. For a long time, the Duden has been more than a spelling dictionary. Across the decades, it has reflected technical and scientific progress, cultural development, and all social changes. It logs all linguistic changes like a seismograph. The publishing house has constantly remained true to Konrad Duden's credo of creating a work that was practical for everybody who lives and works with the German language.
The dictionary was published in 1880 by the Verlag Bibliographisches Institut, the publisher of the Meyer encyclopedias, which by that time also was based in Leipzig. With approximately 27,000 entries, Duden's book originally was intended primarily for teaching orthography in the schools. Priced at only one mark, however, it quickly spread through wide areas of German society and by the dawn of the 20th century it had gone into six editions, all produced in large part by Konrad Duden himself. Eventually, at the Second Orthographic Conference in January 1903, representatives of three German-speaking nations, Germany, Austria, and Switzerland, agreed to officially adopt the rules Duden had developed. As a result, the Bibliographisches Institut expanded the department working on Duden's dictionary.
When Duden passed away in 1911, he left a nearly completed manuscript of his book's ninth edition, which was published in 1915 under a new title, Duden – Rechtschreibung der deutschen Sprache und der Fremdwörter. Since that time the name Duden has been synonymous with German dictionaries, as Webster is with dictionaries of American English. New titles were added systematically to the Duden series, including first a grammar book, a visual dictionary, and a style dictionary, and later volumes on etymology, foreign words and phrases, synonyms, quotations, and pronunciation.
Work at both Brockhaus and the Bibliographisches Institut for the most part ground to a halt during World War I. Hard times continued in the early 1920s as Germany struggled through political and economic difficulties. The seventh edition of the Grosser Meyer was canceled in 1922. As a result of inflation in Germany, which was only just beginning to skyrocket, the cost to produce a single volume would have cost DEM 50 million or more. Publication of the new edition could not take place until 1925 when the economic situation had stabilized.
Brockhaus stayed afloat during the great postwar inflation in part by taking on simple print jobs, turning out calendars, paper doilies for bakeries, gold cardboard picture frames, and advertising matter of every kind. In order to pay its workers, the Weimar government authorized Brockhaus to print its own "emergency currency," which bore the "Brockhaus" signature. Such extraordinary measures enabled the publisher to bring out a modest reference book, the four-volume Handbuch des Wissens (Handbook of Knowledge). In 1928 Brockhaus began revising its flagship encyclopedia, by then known simply as the Brockhaus. Its 20 volumes were completed in 1934.
With a new Brockhaus on the market, arch-competitor Meyer was expected to respond with a new edition of the Grosser Meyer. By the beginning of the 1930s, however, times had grown difficult again. The Great Depression devastated the German economy. In 1929, some 1.9 million were unemployed—approximately one third of the country's population. By January 1933 the number had swollen to 6.04 million, a grim economic situation that helped bring Hitler and the National Socialists to power. Publishers were soon forced to submit to Nazi censorship, which slowed work on both Meyer's and Brockhaus books. The influence of Nazi ideology could be seen clearly in the Duden dictionaries; the 11th and 12th editions of the Rechtschreibung, published between 1937 and 1943, institutionalized Nazi language, with entries such as Reichpropagandaleiter (Head of Propaganda in the Third Reich), Reichkulturamt (Reich Office of Culture), and Reichsfeind (enemy of the Reich). The revision of the eighth edition of the Grosser Meyer dragged out for ten years because of political interference and financial hardship at the Bibliographisches Institut and, in the end, was never completed. Such Nazi influence led to a decline in the publisher's reputation and, in turn, to lower sales both in Germany and abroad.
Brockhaus, on the other hand, suffered because of its resistance to Nazi control. When it did not revise the VolksBrockhaus to conform sufficiently to the prevailing ideology, the company was denounced in 1937 in an influential Nazi magazine. The Brockhaus family only narrowly averted losing their enterprise altogether as a result. Brockhaus also had to contend with physical destruction before the war ended. In December 1943 its Leipzig editorial offices and printing plant were destroyed, in large part, by an Allied air raid. The company was able to continue operations, but on a greatly reduced scale, until the war ended in the spring of 1945.
The signing of the capitulation did not automatically signal the resumption of prosperity for Brockhaus and the Bibliographisches Institut. Under the accords signed by the United States, the USSR and Great Britain, Leipzig was to be located in the Soviet zone of occupation. The American army, however, reached Leipzig before the Soviet did. Before they turned the city over to the Russians, they made arrangement for publishing houses that had not had close ties to the Nazis, including F.A. Brockhaus, to establish "branches" near Wiesbaden and Frankfurt/Main in the American zone of occupation. As a result, F.A. Brockhaus's great-great-grandson Hans Brockhaus and his son Eberhard were able to relocate their publishing company in Wiesbaden. It operated under the name Verlag Eberhard Brockhaus until 1953 to distinguish it from the Verlag F.A. Brockhaus that continued to operate in Leipzig.
In Leipzig the Soviets set Brockhaus to publishing books in Russian as well as political works by Marx, Engels, Lenin, and Stalin in German. In the years after the German Democratic Republic (GDR) was founded in the Soviet zone in 1948, the Bibliographisches Institut and Brockhaus were both nationalized as "people's companies," and renamed VEB Bibliographisches Institut and VEB F.A. Brockhaus Leipzig, respectively. The control of the GDR government proved to be as thorough as that of the Nazis. It decreed that the Bibliographisches Institut would be the nation's sole reference book publisher. Its publications were saturated with the socialist worldview from behind the Iron Curtain. For decades parallel versions of Meyer encyclopedias and Duden dictionaries were published, one in West Germany and another in East Germany. Ironically, the Volks-Brockhaus 's ideological unsoundness was attacked by GDR communists much as it had been by the Nazis 15 years earlier. Eventually the East German Brockhaus firm was limited to publishing "progressive" travel books.
The Bibliographisches Institut was able to establish a public corporation in the West German city of Mannheim in 1953. That firm's first publication in 1968 was Meyers Grosses Hand-lexikon. Between 1971 and 1979 it published Meyers Enzyklopädisches Lexikon, which with 25 volumes containing approximately 250,000 entries was one of the most extensive German-language encyclopedias of the century. Unfortunately, that encyclopedia, as well as Meyers Grosses Universal-Lexikon, were disappointing sellers.
Increasing competition in the reference book market together with the high production costs resulted in an increasingly precarious financial situation for Brockhaus. After a particularly disappointing fiscal year 1982–83, the firm began quietly looking for a partner. After discussions with the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung came to naught, it seemed that for lack of capital Brockhaus would be forced to delay work on the new Brockhaus Enzyclopädie indefinitely. Out of the blue, however, a merger offer came from a most unexpected source—from Brockhaus's main competitor, the Bibliographisches Institut. It was received with skepticism from one of the four Brockhaus shareholders, who felt the terms favored the Bibliographisches Institut to too great a degree and that Brockhaus would lose its identity and, ultimately, its autonomy. In May 1984, however, the merger became reality and the Bibliographisches Institut und Verlag F.A. Brockhaus, the two giants of German reference book publishing, joined forces. Because of the merger, the two firms saved significant amounts of money by combining their information databases, accounting, and marketing resources. It also—gradually—marked the end to more than a century and a half of fierce competition. The new firm was named Bibliographisches Institut & F.A. Brockhaus AG, abbreviated to BIFAB. In 1985 BIFAB centralized its operations in Mannheim, giving up the Brockhaus facilities in Wiesbaden. A year later the united editorial Brockhaus and Meyer departments launched their first common project, the 19th edition of the Brockhaus Enzyklopädie, the 24th volume of which eventually appeared in 1994.
In 1988 Robert Maxwell threatened BIFAB with a hostile takeover. The British media magnate offered to purchase BIFAB stock from shareholders (he targeted members of the Meyer family primarily) at DEM 550 a share, some DEM 150 above the market value. Hubertus Brockhaus, fearing that in Maxwell's media empire BIFAB would become a small piece of a large foreign puzzle, opened secret negotiations with representatives of dictionary publisher Langenscheidt KG to keep the tradition-laden firm in German hands. Langenscheidt was the perfect choice to save BIFAB. It was a German reference book company, which had for years been owned and run by the Langenscheidt family, much like Brockhaus and the Bibliographisches Institut. Within a month an agreement had been reached. Langenscheidt agreed to become BIFAB's majority shareholder. The firm offered to purchase the Meyer family's shares at a price competitive to Maxwell's offer. In May 1988 BIFAB became a Langenscheidt subsidiary. Hubertus Brock-haus remained on its board of directors. Later Langenscheidt bought out the remaining BIFAB shareholder, the Rheinpfalz Verlag. Langenscheidt and the Brockhaus family were the sole remaining shareholders. In 1985 they jointly converted the firm from a public to a privately held company.
Further organizational changes continued at BIFAB. In May 1990, six months after the fall of the Berlin Wall, the East German VEB Bibliographisches Institut in Leipzig was absorbed by BIFAB. VEB F.A. Brockhaus followed suit in late 1992. The same year the Brockhaus property seized in 1953 by the GDR government was returned to BIFAB. In 1993 the Brockhaus subsidiary of BIFAB moved its headquarters to its historical home in Leipzig's Graphics Quarter. In June 1995 BIFAB itself moved to Leipzig. Since then BIFAB editorial staff have worked out of Leipzig.
BIFAB entered the digital age in the early 1990s with the development of CD-ROM products such as Die PC-Bibliothek (The PC Library), which combined material from Meyer and Brockhaus encyclopedias as well as from Duden dictionaries. Another CD-ROM, LexiRom, included standard reference works from Meyer, Brockhaus, and Duden on a single disc, supplemented by animated illustrations, sound documents, and video clips. BIFAB used digital technology to set a new standard for reference books with the release of the 21st edition of the Brockhaus Encyclopedia. The set includes a DVD audio library that contains more than 4,000 sound clips, from animal calls and musical instruments to political speeches and readings from classic literature. In the mid-1990s the firm broadened its product line, adding a series of books for children and young people to its list of reference titles.
In November 1994 representatives of German-speaking countries established new orthographic rules for the German language. The modified rules were designed to confirm more to the dictates of common sense. The new rules, which went into effect in 1998, unleashed a flurry of controversy throughout Germany among language experts. Nonetheless the Duden Rechtschreibung dictionary, which codified the new orthography quickly, shot to the top of the German bestseller lists, where it remained for several years. Around the same time, in 1996, because of rapid changes that were under way in the world, including the fall of communism and the rise of digital technologies and the Internet, the 20th edition of the Brockhaus Enzyklopädie was begun ahead of schedule. It was completed in a remarkably brief period of time, in part because it was the first version prepared using a computerized editorial system. The 24-volume set hit the market in March 1999 with a price tag of EUR 4,992.
In 2002 BIFAB boasted a turnover of EUR 57.1 million, with a profit of EUR 4.52 million. New products in the areas of art, music, nutrition, and law contributed to the positive showing. BIFAB's financial backbone, however, remained its Duden catalog, in particular the bestselling Rechtschreibung volume. The traditional Duden popularity was boosted even more in 2002 by a EUR 1 million marketing campaign. That same year, a BIFAB subsidiary, Brockhaus Duden Neue Medien GmbH, acquired Xipolis.net, a reference database developed by Tanto Xipolis GmbH. The web site, which featured online versions of numerous reference books, including the Brockhaus encyclopedia, firmly established a presence for BIFAB in the new media landscape. One year later, in 2003, BIFAB became the majority holder in PAETEC, a publisher of materials for elementary through high school. In January 2004 BIFAB took over the Harenberg Lexikonund Kalenderverlag of Dortmund. The acquisition made the company the leader in the "knowledge calendar" niche.
The year 2005 marked the 200th anniversary of Brockhaus's founding. It was celebrated in Leipzig, the traditional capital of German publishing, where Brockhaus has long operated. As part of the festival year, the first six volumes of the 21st edition of the Brockhaus Enzyklopädie were to be published in the autumn. As planned, the new collection would be the largest German-language encyclopedia, with 30 volumes and some 300,000 entries. It would also include a CD-ROM of the entire set, as well as access to online materials.
Bibliographisches Institut GmbH; Brockhaus Duden Neue Medien GmbH; DUDEN PAETEC Schulbuchverlag.
Bertelsmann Lexikon Institut; Deutscher Taschenbuch Verlag GmbH & Co. KG; Wissen Media Verlag GmbH; Verlagsgruppe Droemer Knaur GmbH & Co. KG; Goldmann Verlag.
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—Gerald E. Brennan