Our History

Steeped in the history of Berlin, De Gruyter’s roots go back to Frederick the Great and the Königliche Realschule’s bookstore. Learn more about the story behind the publishing house here.

The founding of a publishing house


In 1749, the Prussian King granted the bookstore the royal privilege to print and publish books. The bookstore’s publishing arm later became the leading publisher of the German Romantic Literary movement after a young publisher Georg Reimer took it over in 1801. Georg Reimer published the most important German philosophers and writers of his time, including Heinrich von Kleist, E.T.A. Hoffmann, Ludwig Tieck, and Jakob and Wilhelm Grimm.

In 1894, Walter de Gruyter sent an anonymous advertisement to the book industry trade journal Börsenblatt: “Wealthy business man, age 31, married, PhD (German Literature) seeks contacts that could lead to active co-ownership or takeover of a reputable publishing establishment.

A year later, he was taken on by the publishing house Georg Reimer as an unsalaried clerk. A prudent and ambitious businessman, Walter de Gruyter worked his way up the publishing ladder, and in 1919, after becoming the sole proprietor of the business, he realised his dream by successfully purchasing and merging five publishing houses into one: the Vereinigung wissenschaftlicher Verleger Walter de Gruyter & Co. (Union of Scientific Publishers Walter de Gruyter & Co.)

The four companies to come on board were the well-known publisher of classical German literature Georg Joachim Göschen, the renowned publisher of law literature J. Guttentag Verlagsbuchhandlung, the natural sciences, medicine and mathematics publisher Veit & Comp. and the humanities and social sciences publisher Karl J. Trübner.

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