|Status||Defunct (left Gotha in 2016)|
|Founded||1785 in Gotha; 1953 in Darmstadt|
|Founder||Johann Georg Justus Perthes in Gotha; Dr. Joachim Justus Perthes in Darmstadt|
|Successor||Ernst Klett Verlag Stuttgart (from 1992)|
|Country of origin||Germany|
|Headquarters location||Gotha (1785-2016), Darmstadt (1953-1994)|
|Publication types||Hand atlases, school atlases, wall maps, Petermann's Geographische Mitteilungen (PGM), a.o.|
Justus Perthes Publishers (German: Justus Perthes Verlag) was established in 1785 in Gotha, Germany. Justus Perthes was primarily a publisher of geographic atlases and wall maps. He published "Petermanns Geographische Mitteilungen" and also the Almanach de Gotha (Gothaischer Hofkalender). In 2016 the publisher was discontinued.
From 1778 Johann Georg Justus Perthes worked as a bookseller in Gotha, where he founded the publishing firm 'Justus Perthes' in September 1785, when he got a fifteen-year lease for the Almanach de Gotha. This almanac was published since 1763 by Carl Wilhelm Ettinger, Gotha, and was the French version of the de:Gothaischer Hofkalender. Only after the second 15-year lease contract in 1816 he was allowed to publish the almanac with the imprint of his own publishing house. The publication of the almanac as a Justus Perthes publication ceased in 1944.
In later years another set of almanacs was published in the German language:
The updating of the almanacs required a lot of documentation. This was the beginning of an almost fastidious documentation and exactness that was fertile ground for the later geographic establishment. In 1911 these documents were added to the library called 'Bücherei der Geographische Anstalt von Justus Perthes', that contained already many maps and geographical publications. After the Second World War the Soviet army most probably destroyed the almanac archives to prevent claims of the House of Romanov on the tsarist's throne.
From 1790 onwards Justus Perthes enlarged his publisher's list with obituary lists and histories, amongst others the circumnavigation of Antonio Pigafetta and the life history of Martin Behaim. In 1814 he was joined by his son Wilhelm Perthes (1793–1853), who had been in the publishing house of Justus's nephew Friedrich Christoph Perthes at Hamburg. On Johann Georg Justus' death in 1816 in Gotha, Wilhelm took over the firm and laid the foundation of the geographical branch of the business for which it is chiefly famous.
In 1801 the company published its first geographical book with a map of Germany by Adolf Stieler. In 1809 they published their first atlas, but the Napoleonic wars with their ever-changing political and administrative boundaries did not form the right climate to do so, and it became a financial disaster. Justus Perthes, however, was not so easily daunted and soon agreed with to a proposal by Adolf Stieler to publish the soon to be famous Stieler's Hand-Atlas. Stieler proposed to create the atlas together with Christian Gottlieb Reichard (1758-1837), who later drafted part of the maps. Before the first issue of the atlas could be distributed in 1816 Johann Georg Justus Perthes died and was succeeded by his then 23-year-old son Wilhelm Perthes.
As many publication in that era the ''Stieler'' was published in issues. In fact this way of publishing was kept up for most of the Perthes' atlases until the publication of the 'Stieler's International Atlas'. In 1823 the preliminary edition in 4 issues was completed and contained 50 maps. The demand for the atlas so outnumbered the number of copies produced that during the publishing in 1816-23 the first issues were already updated and sold. Therefore, it is possible that hardly any of the atlases produced in this time contains all issues that were printed as first edition. That the atlas sold so well may have been caused also by its relative small size of 35x29 cm, which made it quite handy. Most maps carry the now somewhat curious scales of 1:3,700,000, 1:925,000 and 1:850,000. Stieler used as basic unit for scale the French toise, that became an international standard in higher geodesy, because of the French-Spanish map grid survey in Peru. The planning was such, that the first edition of the atlas would be accompanied by a textbook. This was published, however, only in 1840/46. While the preliminary edition was still being published Friedrich von Stülpnagel (1786-1865), who also was responsible for the 2nd and 3rd edition, already was revising the maps for the next edition. The first official edition of 1833 contained 75 maps. Through the years the number of maps would increase and the final edition of 1925-1945 contained 254 main and auxiliary maps on 188 leaves.
In 1902 J.G. Bartholomew wrote: "No other private firm has ever been associated with so many distinguished geographers and cartographers, or rendered such great services to geographical science by its high-class works as Justus Perthes of Gotha". In the article he sounds praises of the ''Stieler'', that no British atlas can surpass.
From 1821 onwards the ''Stieler'' also was published as a school atlas. Till 1914 some 93 German and foreign editions of the school atlas would be published. In later years the ''Stieler'' would be the basis for many other Perthes publications, as e.g. Stielers Schulatlas der alten Welt (23 editions 1824-1852). Besides the International edition (1934-1941) of the big ''Stieler'' from 1851 onwards at least 12 foreign editions were published in the United States and several European countries.
Shortly after Stieler's death in 1836 Perthes posthumously published his 25-part map of Germany and surrounding countries on the scale 1:740,000. This was the first middle-scale map of Germany, that was marketed by a private firm like Perthes, where an official large scale map was converted into an easy-to-use reference- and travel map. This publication met with such a great demand that several editions were published up to the Second World War. Shortly after the death of Adolf Stieler his map collection was bought by Wilhelm Perthes and added to his already rich company library.
Between 1833 and 1837 Heinrich Berghaus created the Atlas von Asien. It was meant as the first part of the never realized project titled Große Atlas der außereuropäischen Erdteile. The publication not only resulted in the enormous loss of 5,240 Reichsthaler, but also in everlasting fame. As Bernhard Perthes, fourth generation publisher, worded in 1885: "While the direct profit was absolutely nothing -yes, even worse than that, the firm had to carry this failure for many years- the indirect profit was immense. The Atlas von Asien made Justus Perthes at one time world-famous".
The next big project on which the firm tried its luck was the Physikalischer Atlas [Physical atlas] of Heinrich Berghaus. The first thematical worldatlas (with the issues meteorology, hydrography, geology, magnetism, plant geography, animal geography, anthropology, ethnography) was published as a complement for the 5-volume work Kosmos by Alexander von Humboldt. Heinrich Berghaus edited the first two editions himself, while his nephew Hermann Berghaus edited the third edition. Von Humboldt provided Berghaus with much data, that he had acquired during his explorations and Berghaus processed these into physical maps, for which he used many kinds of isolines and a whole range of new symbols. He liked to project thematical content on top of topographic maps and was also very much interested in the right depiction of heights. Some maps of the first edition carry the signature "drawn and engraved in the 'Geographische Kunstschule' [Geographic Art School] at Potsdam". Between 1839 and 1844 he there tutored amongst others August Petermann, Heinrich 'Henry' Lange and his nephew Hermann Berghaus, except for Lange on Berghaus's own pocket. As compensation the pupils had to edit amongst others maps for the Stieler and the Physikalischer Atlas. E.g. this happened with map 2 from issue 2 of the second edition of the Physikalischer Atlas (Hydrography). This shows among other things the discovery of Von Humboldt that the river Casiquiare was the watershed between the rivers Orinoco and Rio Negro. In 1850 the big atlas was converted into a school atlas. This first thematical atlas had such a great influence in its time that the publisher Alexander Keith Johnston requested Berghaus to make some maps for the first part of his Physical atlas of natural phenomena. Though Berghaus did not find the British scientific climate ripe enough for such publications he complied. His criticism was repeated half a century later by J.G. Bartholomew, who declared that British contributions to the geographic sciences mainly lay in 'search', while the German contributions mainly lay in 'research'. For the second part of his atlas Johnston required the cooperation of Heinrich Lange and August Petermann, who therefore moved to Scotland in 1844 and 1845 respectively.
Between 1850 and en 1852 Berghaus published four issues of the Geographisches Jahrbuch, that were meant as supplements on several of the Perthes' atlases. In 1854 the editorship of these annuals was taken over by his former pupil August Petermann. Probably this plus the fact that his son August in 1854 was not engaged by Perthes made Berghaus decide to break off his relationship with the publisher.
In 1838 Perthes added the ''Historischer Atlas von Bayern'' by Karl Spruner von Merz (1803-1892) to his publishing list. This was soon followed by the Historisch-Geographischen Hand-Atlas (ed. 1869), published between 1848 and 1853. To make comparison easier with the Stieler the same scales were used as much as possible. Heinrich Theodor Menke edited many maps for the second and third (1909) editions. Foreign editions were published in London, Turin and New York.
While teaching at the Erfurt military school Emil von Sydow (1812-1873) was taken up by the problems of how to improve the inadequateness of geographic educational means. Eventually he ended up with Perthes, that wanted to publish a series of wallmaps. While cartographers like Friedrich von Stülpnagel and Christian Bär drew the outlines for the maps Sydow painted in the colours green for lowlands and brown-red for higher areas, a system still in use today. When Carl Ritter saw the first map Asia he was very much taken with how it was decluttered from redundant toponyms and the way it was coloured. When Von Sydow's wallmap series in the 20th century was replaced by the series developed by Hermann Haack, the latter emphasized red for higher mountainous areas.
As a follow-up of Stielers Schulatlas, von Sydow created the E. von Sydows Methodischer Schulatlas, that after 1879 until 1943 was published as the Sydow-Wagners Methodischer Schulatlas. To emphasize the contrast between text and atlas when describing landscapes he wrote in his introduction: "Even when text has to divide the subject of geography in several parts and to isolate it for systematic education in independent levels, it is preferably the task of the map to neutralize this division and to fuse the independent parts together into a wholeness".
Von Sydow spent most of his energy in editing the Der kartographische Standpunkt Europas [Cartographical review of Europe], that was published twelve times between 1857 and 1872 in Petermanns Geographische Mitteilungen and contained 357 pages in total.
Between 1839 and 1844 August Heinrich Petermann (1822-1878) was trained by Heinrich Berghaus and in the third quarter of the 19th century was internationally acclaimed to be one of the most outstanding geographers/cartographers. Before he started working with Perthes he worked in 1845-46 in Schotland on the Physical Atlas, published by Alexander Keith Johnston and in 1847 moved to London. There he founded his own establishment in 1850. He was very active in the Royal Geographical Society, which honoured him in 1868 with the 'Founders medal'. In London he met with many geographers and explorers. Because he was fluent in German, French and English it was no trouble for him to be in such company. Forced by private worries in 1854 he complied with a request by Bernhardt Perthes (1824-1857) to work for his firm. Shortly after his move to Gotha the Duke of Gotha appointed him Professor in 1854 and in 1855 he became Doctor h.c. at the University of Göttingen.
It was intended that Petermann would continue the Geographisches Jahrbuch. But at the intercession of Adolph Müller, who from 1857 onwards managed the firm of Perthes because Bernhard Perthes was born only 8 months after the death of his father Bernhardt, he started in 1855 the journal Mittheilungen aus Justus Perthes' Geographischer Anstalt über wichtige neue Erforschungen auf der Gesammtgebiet der Geographie von Dr. A. Petermann, after his death in 1878 renamed as Petermanns Geographische Mitteilungen (PGM). The promise, made in the first issue, that every issue of this journal would at least contain one map was kept till the journal ceased to appear in 2004. In the same introduction to the journal it is said that PGM was meant as being supplementary to the Stieler and other Perthes' atlases. PGM started in March 1855 with the then unbelievable high print run of 4,000 copies, with 1,000 subscriptions abroad. As so much information was coming into Gotha that it could not be published in the 40-page issues of PGM it was decided to start publishing the so-called Ergänzungshefte [Supplementary issues]. Though the first supplementary issues were only small booklets they soon became hefty books. The last supplementary issue nr. 294 was published in 1999. For researchers it is well to know that 10-year cumulative indexes on PGM were published, also containing indexmaps for all maps contained in PGM in the respective periods.
PGM was renowned especially in the 19th century for its unusual fast publishing of the reworked reports it received from explorers, and not only German ones, and that the reports were almost always accompanied by up-to-date maps. This also shows how valuable the contacts were that Petermann had established in his London period. PGM not only published the explorers reports but also was proactive when new explorations were called for. As an example we may have a look at Ergänzungsband II of 1863, that contained in 10 parts the Karte von Inner-Afrika [Map of inner-Africa] (210x102 cm), in which were drawn all then known routes of explorers between 1701 and 1863. The most important parts of the map, however, were the blanked areas, with the intention to stimulate explorers to explore them. The map was also meant to give the journal's readers the possibility to keep close track on the progress of explorers and to read about the explorations in new issues of PGM. This kind of initiatives were taken later also with regard to the Northeast Passage of the Arctic Ocean.
Petermann was not only a geographer/cartographer, who could distil from many sources a realistic image of the world, but he also was a very good taskmaster who could transfer his abilities in this field to his pupils. Amongst others these were Ernst Debes (1849-1923), Bruno Hassenstein (1839-1902), Hermann Habenicht(1844-1917), Fritz Hanemann (1847-1877), Otto Koffmahn (1851-1916), Christian Peip (1843-1922) and Arnim Welcker (1840-1888). They became known as 'Petermann's school' or the 'Gotha school'. They put the crafts and lessons, that Petermann had learned with Berghaus, into practise, which resulted in unmatched cartographic images. The style - map lettering, relief representation, better engraving and colouring - became more uniform and influenced all new atlas publications of Perthes.
During his time as editor Petermann received much support from Ernst Behm (1830-1884), who succeeded him after his untimely death as editor-in-chief. Following the example of The Statesman's Yearbook (1864-...) he published from 1866 onwards the first volume of the Geographisches Jahrbuch [Geographical yearbook] as second complement to PGM. Sometimes the articles in PGM and the yearbook overlapped each other. The yearbook contained predominantly statistical data, that Behm circumscribed as 'estimations'. As the data resulting from censuses became so abundant it was decided that they would be published bi-annually (with maps) in PGM (14 volumes in 1872-1904, 1909,1931).
The content of PGM became more science-oriented after 1880, especially under the editorship of Alexander Supan (1847-1920), who would be editor-in-chief till 1909. He introduced the Literaturberichte [Literature reviews], that would contain 24,512 reviews and bibliographic description of geographical books and articles, published between 1886 and 1909.
In 1897 Hermann Haack (1872-1966) took up employment with Justus Perthes. He began with the editing of school atlases and from 1907 onwards he became the main editor of the Sydow-Wagners Methodischer Schulatlas. In 1902 he became responsible for the Stieler. It was the second time that this was accompanied by a textbook. In 1934 he started on the 'internationale Stieler'. For this projects a lot of maps were redrawn and toponyms were given in local language. A Dutch reviewer read the subtitle Grand atlas de géographie moderne as meaning that the atlas would be complemented with some maps in the style of the Physikalischer Atlas. Unfortunately the Second World War terminated this project before it was complete. In 1908 he began a carto-bibliographic supplement in PGM, that contained many reviews of maps. In 1941-1945 this was succeeded by the feature Kartographie.
Haack was especially renowned for the publication of his wallmap series, of which 250 items were planned. In 1903 he began with the series Große Historischer Wandatlas [Large historic wall atlas] (41 maps, 1908-1931) and in 1907 with the Großer Geographischer Wandatlas [Large geographic wall atlas] (47 maps, 1907-1930). A third series concerning physical geography was produced between 1913 and 1937, but success failed because of the high production costs. His last grand project was the Zentralasien-Atlas [Central Asia atlas] for Sven Hedin, but because of the Second World War this project soon ended. Hermann Haack retired in 1944, but this would not mean the end of his career as cartographer and publisher.
The American army occupied Thüringen in April 1945 to hand it over on July 1 to the Soviet command. Fortunately only the Almanac archives have suffered from this occupation. The 'rest' of the very large Perthes collections was left as it was. After the German partition, 'Justus Perthes Gotha' was expropriated in January 1953 by the communist GDR regime, after Dr. Joachim Bernhard Justus Perthes and his son Wolf Jürgen Justus Perthes had left the GDR late December 1952. They renewed their claim on 'Justus Perthes' in 1953 as 'Justus Perthes Geographische Verlagsanstalt Darmstadt' in Western Germany. In 1980 the management was taken over by Stephan Justus Perthes, seventh generation publisher. This publishing firm specialized in wall maps and modern geographic educational tools and was successful not only in Germany, but also international. Its history still has to be written. The publishing company in Gotha, that was then part of Eastern Germany was expropriated by the state in 1953 and in 1955 renamed as 'VEB Hermann Haack Geographisch-Kartographische Anstalt Gotha'. For this reason Hermann Haack was recalled from retirement and until his death in 1966 led the company. The company was mainly known, for its (translations) of (school)atlasen and wall map series. After the unifaction of both the Germanies both publishing companies were unified again in 1992 under their old name 'Justus Perthes Verlag Gotha GmbH', later being sold by Stephan Justus Perthes to Ernst Klett Verlag Stuttgart, to strengthen its business. The publishing house existed then in Gotha until March 2016.
In 1992 Justus Perthes Verlag was bought by Ernst Klett Schulbuchverlag in Stuttgart. In 2003 the Perthes archives (185,000 maps, 120,000 geographical publications and approximately 800 metres business archives) were bought by the Free State of Thüringen and deposited in the Gotha-annex of the University of Erfurt. In 2010 the business premises and the accompanying land Justus-Perthes-Straße 1-9 en Gotthardstraße 6 were bought by the municipality of Gotha. This means the end to the 225-year history of this publishing house. But fortunately the Perthes archives, which survived all difficulties and wars intact, will be available to future scholars and interested parties.
He was founder of the firm that bears his name. He was born in the Thuringian town of Rudolstadt, the son of a Schwarzburg court physician. From 1778 he worked as a bookseller in nearby Gotha, where he founded the publishing firm 'Justus Perthes' in 1785. The main business was the publication of the noble almanacs
Wilhelm joined his fathers business in 1814. Before that time he had followed an apprenticeship in the publishing house of Justus's nephew Friedrich Christoph Perthes at Hamburg. He laid the foundation of the geographical branch of the business for which it is chiefly famous.
From the moment on that Bernhardt Perthes started to lead his firm it transformed from an ordinary publisher into an industrial business, as the production became too large to leave this to subcontractors. He bought new business premises and created departments for publishing, editing and drawing. The basis for all maps was still copper engraving, used till the Second World War. But for the printing Bernhardt Perthes switched to electrolytic reproduction and lithographic colourprint. His favourite printing process, however, was 'Chimitypie', a process that transformed drawings or copper engravings into die-stamp engraving. It was his ambition that his firm not only would be the international center to distribute all new geographic information, but at the same time to become the international focus for gathering and disseminating of geographic information. To underline this ambition he changed the name of his firm into 'Justus Perthes Geographischer Anstalt', and also started to publish many wall map series and school atlases in foreign languages. To support this program he hired amongst others August Petermann, Ernst Behm, Hermann Berghaus and Carl Vogel. All of them prominent figures in their fields of interest. To prevent unwanted competition none of them was appointed to general manager. From his death onwards till Berhard Perthes took over in 1880 this role was reserved for Adolf Müller. During this period land was bought to provide accommodation for the departments for engraving, printing of copper plates and electrolytic reproduction.
After Bernhard Perthes had taken over the management he added departments for lithography, letterpress and bookbinding, that previously had been jobbed out. Only the colouring of the maps were still done by independent artisans. In 1881 the company employed 30 printers and 90 women or girls as colorists. In 1935 the number of employees had risen to 144: 57 editors and cartographers, 86 printers and 1 female colorist. Because the documentation for the almanacs and the number of geographic publications and maps had grown to such a volume, a new library was opened in 1911 measuring some 500 m². To honour their contributions to the company, busts of August Petermann and Hermann Wagner were placed in the reading room. Bernhard Perthes complained to Hermann Wagner that PGM had become a scientific and academic journal under the editorship of Supan, resulting in a decrease of subscriptions of 2,810 in 1884 to 1,330 in 1908.
Until 1980/84 the Darmstadt company was led by Gerhard Vaeth and Werner Painke (cartography, a pupil of Hermann Haack), until Stephan Justus Perthes was ready to take over the management.
(1992: Justus Perthes Gotha and Darmstadt sold to Ernst Klett Schulbuchverlag, Stuttgart. See www.perthes.de for more details (currently German only).