Scientific book society

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(old) logo of the wbg
The wbg publishing house in Darmstadt
Books of the publisher

The Wissenschaftliche Buchgesellschaft ( wbg ; until March 1955 Wissenschaftliche Buchgemeinschaft , since 2018 wbg - Knowledge. Education. Community ) is a German publisher in the legal form of an economic association by state award of the State of Hesse in accordance with § 22 sentence 1 BGB . The place of business is Darmstadt . With around 85,000 members, the wbg is one of the largest book clubs in German-speaking countries.


Founding of the publishing house

On January 12, 1949, the Wissenschaftliche Buchgemeinschaft eV was founded in Tübingen, which initially set itself the task of reprinting the specialist literature that was lost in the Second World War . Well-known professors from Tübingen, such as the classical philologist Walter F. Otto and the theologian Adolf Köberle , as well as well-known science officials from the Nazi era such as Gerhard Fricke and Ernst Anrich , who was elected first director, were among the signatories of the founding document . A little later, the SPD politician Carlo Schmid , then professor of public law at the University of Tübingen, was won over to the first board. The Berlin philosopher Wilhelm Weischedel joined the committee as early as 1950, to which he was a member until 1975, temporarily as its chairman.

In June 1949 the association turned to the public for the first time: “The direct evidence of German culture has been destroyed from entire epochs of our history. At the same time, a large part of the German scientific book inventory in public libraries, publishers, second-hand bookshops and tens of thousands of personal libraries was destroyed. The German publishing book trade cannot close the huge gap in the near future. [...] But the essential works of the German humanities book inventory can be re-created if we all come together directly to form a large cooperative [...] and reprint these books ourselves. […] Based on all these considerations, the 'Wissenschaftliche Buchgemeinschaft e. V. ' founded. Now that the further preparatory work has been carefully carried out and a large expert group has met for scientific advice, it is calling all students, all academic advisors, lawyers, clergy, doctors, teachers, scientists, all educated and book lovers of our people, all libraries, schools, Adult Education Centers etc. to this large association. ”After initial initial difficulties, the wbg gained several thousand members within a few years, who also supported their association with small loans, so that the start-up could stabilize. In order to rule out business risks, wbg initially only offered all book titles for subscription in the first few years of its existence . The actual production and delivery of the books only took place when there were enough binding pre-orders for a title to cover the cost of the publication.

Development in the 1950s

In 1953 the company headquarters was relocated from Tübingen to Darmstadt because the city and state of Hesse offered the “smoke-free industry” good framework conditions. In 1955 the name was changed: the book club became a book company. A year later, the state of Hesse gave the wbg the status of an economic association , as the original association of academics had quickly grown into a commercial enterprise. At the end of the 1950s, the wbg already had more than 20,000 members. The 1959 annual catalog offered 650 titles from over 17 subject areas.

Special scientific series

In 1952 the wbg announced a new series of books, the volumes of which were to appear in a simple configuration and in large numbers as a kind of book subscription. The plan met with approval from the majority of the members, so that the first volumes of the “Cheap Scientific Series” could be delivered to 7,500 subscribers at the turn of the year 1952/53. At a time when there was a shortage of books, the production of a range of inexpensive books for the wbg became a continuing success. The "Cheap Scientific Series" of the wbg, later renamed "Special Scientific Series (BWR)", still exists today. More than 20,000 members get it in an annual subscription.

Expansion in the 1960s

In 1961, the wbg opened its own offset printing facility at the company's headquarters, and a bookbindery followed just a year later. The company headquarters in Darmstadt was continuously expanded so that the entire book production process could now take place in-house. As early as the end of the 1950s, the establishment of its own editing department had begun, because the wbg no longer only supplied reprints of older titles, but also produced its own new publications.

Membership development

In the 1960s, the number of members grew steadily from 51,000 in 1964 to 89,000 in 1969. Only three years later the threshold of 100,000 members was exceeded. Finally in 1987 there were 150,000 members. Today the number has leveled off at 120,000, according to the wbg.

The 1980s

In 1980, the journalist Andreas Keizer, formerly editor at WDR , was appointed a new managing director for the wbg. Keizer was in a double leadership with Jürgen Bauer, primarily responsible for expanding marketing activities. He gave up the rather cautious advertising strategy of the wbg and moved the price advantage of the wbg books over the stationary book trade into the foreground of the brand message. However, this led to tensions between the wbg and the booksellers represented in the German Book Trade Association. The smoldering dispute turned into serious controversy in May 1982 when the book company opened a "WB meeting point" in Tübingen, in whose shop window "special editions" advertised membership in the wbg. This provoked massive criticism from local booksellers, who turned on the competition committee of the Börsenverein. In lengthy negotiations it was agreed not to open any further “meeting points” and to gradually remove the “special expenses” from the program. The relationship with the Börsenverein relaxed when the new managing director Werner Merkle took office in 1985, who was looking for close cooperation with the retail book trade. In May 1988 the wbg became a member of the Börsenverein.

The further development from 1990 to the present

At the end of the 1990s the total turnover of the publishing group, in which 104 employees were employed, was 40 million marks. In the years before, the wbg was expanded into a publishing group through new foundations and acquisitions: In 1989, the wbg founded its own mail order bookshop with Conlibro. (In the years 1951 to 1955 the company had already operated the "Tübinger Versandbuchhandlung"). In 1996 the subsidiary Primus Verlag was established in order to sell its own titles beyond the circle of members in stationary bookshops. (The Hermann-Genter-Verlag was operated for the same purpose from 1956 to 1959.) In 1997 the wbg bought the Konrad Theiss Verlag . In 1999 the traditional Lambert Schneider Verlag was taken over by the wbg and continued as an imprint within the publishing program from 2010. In 2006, the renowned Mainz publishing house Philipp von Zabern was finally acquired. In 2013/2014 the subsidiary publishers Primus, Theiss and Zabern were fully integrated into the wbg and concentrated at the publishing house in Darmstadt. Theiss, Primus and Philipp von Zabern have continued as imprints since then . The mail order bookstore Conlibro was separated again in 2006.

Copyright dispute with Google

In May 2006, the wbg applied for an injunction against Google Book Search with the support of the Börsenverein des Deutschen Buchhandels. However, the lawsuit was withdrawn because the responsible judges of the Hamburg Regional Court could not find any infringement of copyright.

The cause of Anrich

The initiator of the founding of the association in 1949 was the Nazi historian Ernst Anrich , who remained unemployed after the end of the University of Strasbourg . The staunch National Socialist Anrich initially stayed in the background so as not to endanger the association's approval by the French occupation authorities. Anrich initially appeared only as secretary to the board; it was not until 1953 that he officially became managing director and board member. In June 1966 Anrich spoke at the party congress of the NPD , whose party presidium he had been a member since 1964. In his speech he rejected the existing free-democratic basic order of the Federal Republic and indirectly demanded the renewal of the national community and the establishment of a "national democracy", whereupon the board of the wbg arranged for his immediate dismissal. At the same time, however, it was decided that he would continue to pay his full salary up to the age of 65 and that his pension entitlements would continue. The management of Anrichs did not remain without effects on the publishing program of the wbg, in which individual Nazi-polluted scientists also found publication opportunities. The works of the Germanist Gerhard Fricke , who had appeared as a “fire speaker” at the book burning in Göttingen in 1933, appeared at the wbg. The Nazi ideologist Otto Höfler was one of the wbg authors, as well as representatives of irredentist Nazi research on the West , such as Hermann Aubin , Franz Steinbach and Franz Petri . The publications of Nazi historians like Günther Franz remained isolated cases. Overall, the wbg's book program was not dominated by them. Karl Ferdinand Werner came to the conclusion in his study "The Nazi Image of History and German History" with regard to the wbg that under the direction of Ernst Anrich "every now and then [...] certain tendencies [...] became visible". On the occasion of the 60th anniversary of the wbg in 2009, the then managing director Andreas Auth initiated the first review of the initial phase of the wbg after Ernst Anrich's role in the founding of the book club had been completely concealed at the celebrations for the 50th anniversary in 1999. This behavior met with clear public criticism and the Neue Zürcher Zeitung said at the time: "From a company that has committed itself to the motto 'Advantage through more knowledge', one should be able to expect more courage to understand historical truth."

Publishing program

The first wbg program included books from the fields of history, art history, German, Romance studies, philosophy, theology and law. The wbg reacted to contemporary social and societal developments with the continuous establishment of further subject areas. In the 1960s, for example, the areas of politics, sociology and economics were also included in the book program. A geography department was also set up. In 1968 the title “Tunisia” was published as the first volume of the renowned series “Scientific Country Customers”, which is still ongoing today. In the second half of the 1980s, the wbg relied on a dedicated book program from in-house productions with a stronger reference to the pressing problems and questions of the time. So they initiated a seven-volume series entitled "Dimensions of Modern Biology", in which u. a. Volumes on genetic engineering and ethics in biology published. Books on ecological topics can now also be found in the program. As early as 1985, the book title “The Problem of Climate Change in the Past and Future” by the German meteorologist Hermann Flohn was published. Since the 1990s, the history program has been expanded, with titles on the academic analysis of National Socialism in particular taking up more and more space. The research series of the Central Office of the State Justice Administrations for the investigation of National Socialist crimes in Ludwigsburg has been published by the wbg since 2003. So far, more than 20 titles have been published in the series. The series "Historische Bibliothek-HIB" has been published since 2007, in which the most important historical titles of the wbg program appear again as subscriptions. Recognized and innovative series are also an eleven-volume Franco-German history, which is being developed in collaboration with the German Historical Institute in Paris , as well as the five-volume German-Polish history published since 2014 on behalf of the German Poland Institute and the wbg world history, the first modern one , global history, not one-sidedly written from a European perspective. For several years now, wbg has been expanding its range of study literature to attract new groups of buyers. It is also currently one of the leading German publishers in the publication of exhibition catalogs and volumes in the historical segment. The publishing group is also active as a magazine owner and publishes the magazines Archeology in Germany (AiD) and the Ancient World (AW) . The wbg publishes over 200 new publications and around 70–80 reprints every year. She also publishes the licensed editions of other publishers. If possible, all in-house productions are published in parallel as e-books in EPub and PDF formats. In total, the range includes more than 6000 books and over 1500 eBooks (as of 2015).

Promotion of art, culture and science

In accordance with the purpose of the articles of association, no profits are distributed; rather, the profits of the wbg flow back into the book program or into other funding projects. On the 50th anniversary of its founding, the wbg launched the Wilhelm Weischedel Fund in 1999 , which among other things promotes translations of foreign-language works and offers a doctoral scholarship every two years.

In 2019, the WBG itself received one of the three undoped awards of the German Publishing Prize .

Non-fiction prize "Knowledge!"

Since 2019 the wbg has been awarding a 40,000 euro non-fiction book prize “Knowledge!”. The 2019 award-winning work is Why there was no Islamic Middle Ages. The legacy of antiquity and the Orient by Thomas Bauer .


Personalities from science, politics and business are represented on the ten-person board of wbg. The committee appoints the managing director. The current board members include the church historian Hubert Wolf , the archaeologists Hermann Parzinger and Dieter Planck and the mediaevalist Bernd Schneidmüller . The economist Michael Krupp, who has been the head of the Boston Consulting Group Germany for many years and is now the General Representative of Degussa Bank, brings economic expertise to the board .

executive Director

  • 1953–1966 Ernst Anrich
  • 1966–1980 Ernst Knauer
  • 1980–1981 Jürgen Bauer (at times together with Andreas Keizer)
  • 1980–1984 Andreas Keizer (at times together with Jürgen Bauer and Gerhard Barth)
  • 1983–1985 Gerhard Barth (at times together with Andreas Keizer)
  • 1985–2000 Werner Merkle
  • 2000–2002 Herbert Lindauer
  • 2002–2015 Andreas Auth
  • 2015–2016 Beate Varnhorn (acting)
  • since 2016 Dirk H. Beenken

Well-known board members of the wbg


  • Scientific Book Society, Darmstadt: 1949–1974. A short description of the twenty-five years , Darmstadt 1974 ( PDF; 3 MB ).
  • Joachim Lerchenmüller: The end of the University of Strasbourg in Tübingen . In: Building blocks for the history of the University of Tübingen , Volume 10, Tübingen 2005, pp. 115–174. (On the founding history of the publisher)
  • René Schlott: The WBG, one of a kind in the publishing landscape. A short history of the publishing house of the Scientific Book Society. WBG, Darmstadt 2009, ISBN 978-3-534-23101-0 ( PDF; 2 MB ).
  • Speech by managing director Andreas Auth on the 60th anniversary of the WBG 2009 ( PDF; 100 KB ).

Web links

Individual evidence

  1. Quoted from: Schlott, p. 11 f.
  2. ^ Schlott, p. 42.
  4. Lambert Schneider is the new imprint publisher of the WBG. In: May 10, 2010, archived from the original on October 8, 2015 ; Retrieved January 25, 2017 .
  5. WBG is repositioning itself. ( Memento from May 28, 2015 in the Internet Archive ) WBG press release. In: March 1, 2013, accessed January 25, 2017.
  6. Minerva acquires Conlibro from WBG
  8. Joachim Lerchenmüller: The end of the Reich University of Strasbourg in Tübingen. In: Baussteine ​​zur Tübingen University History, Volume 10, Tübingen 2005, pp. 115–174, here p. 164.
  9. Ernst Anrich: People-People-State-Democracy. A speech at the NPD party congress in 1966 , reprint from DN-Verlag Hannover. Quoted from: Lothar Kettenacker: Continuity in Ernst Anrich's thinking. A contribution to the understanding of consistent views of right-wing radicalism in Germany , in: Paul Kluke zum 60th Birthday, Frankfurt am Main 1968, pp. 140–152.
  10. Schlott, p. 48f.
  11. Werner Treß, Ernst Anrich, in: Handbuch des Antisemitismus. Enmity against Jews in the past and present, ed. by Wolfgang Benz, Berlin 2009, Vol. 2/1, pp. 23–26, here p. 25.
  12. Hubert Fehr, Hans Zeiss: Joachim Werner and the archaeological research during the Merovingian period , in: Heiko Steuer (Hrsg.), An excellent national science. German prehistorians between 1900 and 1995, Berlin / New York 2001, pp. 311–415.
  13. ^ Karl Ferdinand Werner: The NS-historical image and the German historical science . Stuttgart 1967, p. 114, note 45.
  14. ^ Result: René Schlott: The WBG, one of a kind in the publishing landscape. A short history of the publishing house of the Scientific Book Society. WBG, Darmstadt 2009.
  15. ^ Neue Zürcher Zeitung, June 24, 1999, p. 36.
  17. a b Historical Library - HIB. In: Retrieved January 25, 2017.
  20. For the purposes of the statutes, see:
  21. First non-fiction book prize “Wissen!” For book about Islam ,, published and accessed on June 6, 2019
  22. ^ Association statutes in the version of July 24, 2014:
  23. Board of Directors and Managing Director of the WBG ( Memento from February 2, 2017 in the Internet Archive )
  24. Börsenblatt: WBG publisher Andreas Auth turns 50, April 16, 2014
  25. Börsenblatt: Beate Varnhorn now heads the WBG
  26. Personnel / Dirk H. Beenken is the new Managing Director of the WBG. In: Retrieved January 18, 2017 .