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Verlag Karl Baedeker, founded by Karl Baedeker on July 1, 1827, is a German publisher and pioneer in the business of worldwide travel guides. The guides, often referred to simply as "Baedekers" (a term sometimes used to refer to similar works from other publishers, or travel guides in general), contain, among other things, maps and introductions; information about routes and travel facilities; and descriptions of noteworthy buildings, sights, attractions and museums, written by specialists.

History (1827−1948)

Karl Baedeker

1827−1859: Karl Baedeker (see article) had three sons, Ernst, Karl and Fritz and after his death each, in turn, dictated by events, took over the running of the firm.

Ernst Baedeker

1859−1861: Following the death of Karl Baedeker, his eldest son Ernst Baedeker (1833−1861) became the head of the firm. After his training as a bookseller in Braunschweig, Leipzig and Stuttgart, he had spent some time at the English publishing house "Williams & Norgate" in London. On New Year's Day, 1859, he had joined his father's publishing firm as a partner and just ten months later he was running it on his own.[1]

His tenure at the helm of the firm saw the publication of three new travel guides in 1861 viz the first Baedeker travel guide in English, the handbook on "The Rhine" (from Switzerland to Holland), a guide in German on Italy (Ober-Italien), the first of a series on Italy, which his father had planned and one in French, also on Italy (Italie septentrionale).

Ernst Baedeker died unexpectedly on 23 July 1861 of sunstroke in Egypt[2] and his younger brother, Karl, assumed charge of the publishing house.

Karl Baedeker II

1861−1877: Karl Baedeker II (1837−1911) continued the work started by his brother Ernst. In addition to the ongoing revision of existing guides, he published 14 new guides: four in German, seven in English and three in French.[3] viz.

  • New German titles:

1862: London

1866: Italien Zweiter Theil: Mittel-Italien und Rom

1666: Italien Dritter Theil: Unter-Italien, Sizilien und die Liparischen Inseln

  • New English titles:

1863: Switzerland

1865: Paris

1867: Central Italy and Rome

1868: Southern Italy (including Sicily, the Lipary Islands)

1868: Southern Germany and the Austrian Empire

1863: Northern Italy (as far as Leghorn, Florence and Ancona, and the Island of Corsica)

  • New French titles:

1863: Paris

1866: Londres

1867: L'Itale deuxième partie : L'Italie centrale et Rome

1867: L'Italie troisième partie: L'Italie du Sud, La Sicille et les îles Lipari

Karl Baedeker II worked with his younger brother Fritz, who joined the firm in 1869 as a partner and became the general manager. In 1877 (according to the source cited here) Karl, afflicted with an incurable mental condition, moved to a sanatorium near Esslingen am Neckar where he remained for the rest of his life.[4]

Fritz Baedeker

1869−1925: Under Fritz Baedeker (1844−1925) the company grew rapidly. In 1870, the Baedeker bookselling business was sold. In 1872, he moved the company's headquarters from Koblenz to Leipzig, a major move forward, as most of the reputable major German publishing houses were located there.

He also persuaded Eduard Wagner, the Baedeker cartographer in Darmstadt, to move to Leipzig and establish a new company with Ernst Debes, a talented cartographer from "Justus Perthes" a leading cartography firm in Gotha. The new company was named "Wagner and Debes" with offices adjacent to the new Baedeker address. Herbert Warren Wind, the author of The House of Baedeker[5] wrote:

"Wagner & Debes made a very important contribution to the guidebooks, providing them not only with the best maps in the world, many in color, but also with superb ground plans of palaces, churches, gardens, museums and castles, and with some extraordinary panoramas of Alpine ranges and other such two-star vistas."

He added:

"By and large, it was the sheer technical skill of the staff at Wagner & Debes that kept the Baedeker guides well ahead of their rivals in this particular aspect of publishing."

Michael Wild, the Baedeker chronicler,[6] refers to the Baedeker maps as a feast for the eye.[7]

The expansion was fast and furious. New editions were now printed by several Leipzig printers, but the bulk of the revised editions of pre-1872 guides continued to be printed where all Baedeker guides had been produced before - the G.D. Baedeker printing works in Essen.[8] Fritz ventured into territory none of his predecessors had covered before, inside and outide Europe e.g. Russia, Sweden, Norway, Palestine, Syria, Egypt, Greece, the Mediterranean, USA, Canada, India and South East Asia. Plans to publish guides on China and Japan had to be abandoned when war broke out in 1914.[9] At home, the list of guides on German regions and cities continued to grow. His was the golden age of Baedeker travel guides.

Fritz also had the good fortune to have three of his four sons − Hans, Ernst and Dietrich − beside him in the firm, as editors and writers. Karl Baedeker III, the fourth son, entered academia and rose to become a professor of physics at the University of Jena, but he was killed in action at the Battle of Liège in August 1914. It was his son Karl Friedrich who revived Verlag Karl Baedeker after the Second World War.[10]

During his reign, which lasted over 50 years, Fritz produced 73 new Baedekers, as they came to be known universally. The Baedeker travel guides became so popular that baedekering became an English-language term for the purpose of travelling in a country to write a travel guide or travelogue about it.

Fritz Baedeker became the most successful travel guide publisher of all time and turned the publishing house into the most famous and reputable publisher of travel guides in the world. In 1909, Leipzig University conferred an honorary Ph.D. (a rare honour at the time) on him at its 500th anniversary convocation. This era in its history was brought to an end by the outbreak of World War I, after which the house of Baedeker went into decline, the victim of the post-war international geopolitical and economic conditions. Consequently, in 1920, Fritz broke with tradition and for some time thereafter, Baedeker guides to German cities and regions carried a limited amount of advertising.

Fritz Baedeker's new guidebooks:

  • New German titles:

1872: Süd-Deutschland und Oesterreich

1877: Palästina und Syrien

1877: Aegypten, erster Theil: Unter-Aegypten

1878: Berlin, Potsdam und Umgebung

1878: Schweden und Norwegen

1883: West und Mittel-Russland

1883: Griechenland

1887: Süddeutschland

1887: Oesterreich (bis zur ungarischen-galizischen Grenze)

1888: Russland

1889: Grossbritannien

1889: Nord-West-Deutschland

1889: Nord-Ost-Deutschland

1890: Italien von den Alpen bis Neapel

1891: Aegypten, Zweiter Theil: Ober-Aegypten

1893: Nordamerika (Die Vereinigten Staaten nebst einem Ausflug nach Mexiko)

1896: Athen und seine nächste Umgebung

1897: Spanien und Portugal

1897: Ägypten (Gesamtband)

1898: Die Riviera

1901: St. Petersburg und Umgebung

1905: Konstantinopel und das westliche Kleinasien

1906: Deutschland in einem Band

1909: Das Mittelmeer

1914: Indien

1914: Brandenburg

1914: Der Harz

1914: Sachsen

1914: Thüringen

1914: Hannover und die Deutsche Nordseeküste

1914: München. Oberbayern, Allgäu

1921: Schwarzwald

1921: Westfalen, Bremen, Hannover

1922: Die deutsche Ostseeküste

1922: Hessen-Nassau

1923: Schlesien

1923: Tirol

1924: Nordbayern

1925: Württemberg und Hohenzollern

  • New English titles:

1872: Belgium and Holland

1876: Palestine and Syria

1878: London and its environs

1878: Egypt Part First: Lower Egypt

1879: Norway and Sweden

1879: The Eastern Alps

1886: Athens and its immediate environs

1887: Great Britain

1889: Northern France

1889: Greece

1891: Southern France

1892: Egypt Part Second: Upper Egypt

1893: The United States (with an excursion into Mexico)

1894: Canada

1896: Athens and its immediate environs (extract from 'Greece')

1898: Spain and Portugal

1898: Egypt

1903: Berlin and its environs

1904: Italy from the Alps to Naples

1911: The Mediterranean

1914: Russia (with Teheran, Port Arthur and Peking)

  • New French titles:

1882: Palestine et Syrie

1884: Le Nord de la France

1885: Le Midi de la France

1886: Suède et Norvège

1889: Le Centre de la France

1893: La Russie

1894: Les Etats-Unis (avec une excursion au Mexique)

1895: Le Nord-Est de la France

1898: Egypte

1900: Espagne et Portugal

1901: L'Italie des Alpes à Naples

1910: Grèce

Hans Baedeker

1925−1943: Hans Baedeker (1874−1959), the eldest son of Fritz Baedeker, took charge of the company in difficult times. His two brothers, Ernst and Dietrich, were with him, running the company. The firm had lost heavily by investing in government bonds during the First World War. The war had not only wreaked havoc on tourism, it had also resulted in anti-German sentiments around the world, particularly in America and France, where the guidebooks had been very popular and from where tourists had come in droves. Rising inflation, too, played its part in affecting tourism and the balance sheet of the publishing house.

The Great Depression put paid to any hopes of an early recovery in its fortunes. The arrival of Nazism made things even worse for anything connected with tourism. For the Baedeker publishing house it culminated in the destruction of their headquarters in Leipzig, with total loss of the firm's archives, in the early hours of December 4, 1943 when Britain's Royal Air Force bombarded the city. See also Baedeker Blitz for Baedeker Raids.

Hans was extremely proud of what the Baedeker clan had achieved and not one to give up trying to revive the firm. He received a loan from Allen & Unwin,[11] the London publishing house, which represented Baedeker in Britain, and continued to do whatever he could to rejuvenate the firm at home. On July 1, 1927, Hans celebrated the centenary of its foundation[12] by holding a reception at the Leipzig "Harmonie",[13] a popular venue for such events. The firm did make some progress and he managed to produce twelve new titles in German and five in English, though these included those commissioned by the Nazi regime.[14] He also published the 1928 one-volume eighth and revised German edition of Egypt and in 1929 its eighth English edition, which many travel guidebooks connoisseurs and collectors consider to be two finest Baedeker travel guides ever published.

Hans Baedeker's new guidebooks:

  • New German titles:

1928: Die Mark Brandenburg, Provinz Sachsen, nördlicher Teil, Anhalt

1929: Dalmatien und die Adria

1931: Wien und Budapest

1932: Weimar und Jena

1933: Rom und Umgebung

1934: Madeira

1935: München und Umgebung

1936: Norddeutschland (Olympische Spiele Ausgabe)

1938: Baedekers Autoreiseführer - Deutsches Reich (Band I)

1942: Das Elsass

  • This guidebook, with its political slant, was commissioned by the Nazis. The Nazis had also started vetting Baedeker guides, proposing and effecting changes in the text, as they saw fit, and laying down to whom certain guides could be sold.

1942: Wien und Niederdonau

  • This, too, was commissioned by the Nazis.

1943: Das Generalgouvernement

  • This guidebook was published at the behest of the Nazi regime. Hans was asked to publish a guidebook for the German Army of Occupation in Poland, with history written as the Nazis wished it to be written, as the introduction reveals.

1948: Leipzig

  • This was the first post-World War II Baedeker and the last one to be published in Leipzig, which was now in the Russian zone. The Russians had not granted Baedeker a publishing licence. Hans got round this by having 10,000 copies printed by the Bibliographisches Institut. However, after some 1000 copies had been sold, the Russians said the guidebook contained a map showing the site of their Kommandantura in Leipzig i.e. military secrets, and confiscated the remaining copies.[15]
  • New English titles:

1927: Tyrol and the Dolomites

1931: The Riviera (including South Eastern France and Corsica)

1936: Germany (Olympic Games edition)

1939: Madeira, Canary Islands, Azores, Western Morocco

History (since 1948)

Karl Friedrich Baedeker

1948−1979: Karl Friedrich Baedeker (1910−1979) was the son of Karl Baedeker III, who was killed in action at the Battle of Liège in 1914. He had worked as an editor at the firm before the outbreak of the Second World War. During the war, he saw active service and rose to the rank of Captain. Towards the closing stages of the war, he was taken prisoner in Austria by the Americans. After the war, he moved to Malente-Gremsmühlen in Schleswig-Holstein, where his wife and sister were living and which was in the British zone. Here, he worked in local government until 1948, latterly sorting out the Schleswig-Holstein archives when he decided to revive the family publishing business under the name of Karl Baedeker . His uncle Hans, had decided to stay on in Leipzig, which was now under the jurisdiction of the Russians who had not granted him a publishing licence. However, they were very close and Karl could draw on his uncle's experience to get things going. Even before the outbreak of war, Hans used to tell him:[16]

"You're the oldest Baedeker of the next generation. You will carry on."

Some American, British and German publishers had tried hard to buy the 'Baedeker' name, which was still a world brand, thinking that Karl Friedrich would be only too pleased to sell. However, as he said to Herbert Warren Wind:[17]

"The war had been almost too much for us. But I never seriously considered any of the offers. I had been brought up to regard Baedeker as a family company. It was as simple as that."

In December 1949, he published his first offering - 10,000 copies of Schleswig-Holstein. This was printed in Glückstadt near Hamburg and contained some advertising to balance the books, as did some of his other contemperaneous titles. Allen & Unwin, the London publisher, once again helped the Baedeker firm with another loan and he published more city and regional guides in the years that followed.

In 1951, Karl Friedrich and Oskar Steinheil, a pre-war Baedeker editor, signed an agreement with Shell AG, the subsidiary of Royal Dutch Shell, and Kurt Mair (1902-1957), the German printer and publisher based in Stuttgart, to produce a series of motoring guides. Baedeker would provide the text and Mair the finished product. The Baedeker Autoführer Verlag, Stuttgart was born. The slim guides called Baedeker-Shell guides were designed to fit into a man's jacket pocket or in the glove compartment of a car. The first ones covered Germany and were a huge success. Guides on other European countries followed in both German and English.

Karl Friedrich was now operating on two fronts. He continued to produce city and regional guides from Malente and with the publication of his 1954 Berlin guide in German, English and French, the Baedeker brand had been well and truly re-established. Florian, his only son, was by his side and his cousin Hans, the son of his uncle Dietrich, was engaged in producing the motoring guides from Stuttgart. Dietrich's other son Otto also helped run the firm until 1971 when he left to join another publishing house.

In 1956, Karl Friedrich moved his field of operations from Malente to Freiburg im Breisgau. In 1972, the Stuttgart operation moved to Ostfildern/Kemnat in the district of Esslingen where Volkmar Mair, the son of Kurt Mair, was now in charge.

With the rise of air travel in the 1960s and 1970s, Baedeker entered a new era. In 1974, the first post-war international guidebook appeared, financed largely by the German airline Lufthansa - the voluminous 872-page Baedekers USA in German, which had the look of traditional pre-war Baedekers.

Florian Baedeker

1979−1980: Florian Baedeker (1943−1980), the only son of Karl Friedrich Baedeker, succeeded him when he died in 1979. After completing his studies in Munich in 1971, he had devoted himself to matters relating to book publishing under the guidance of his father, and had helped him with the preparation of the Munich guide, released for the 1972 Munich Olympic Games. Florian also carried out most of the work involved in preparing the city guides titled Baden-Baden, Constance, Strasbourg and Wiesbaden, published in the mid-1970s.[18]

He also produced several short city guides.[19] Basel, the Swiss city which was first covered in a Baedeker guidebook by Karl Baedeker himself in his most celebrated guidebook "Schweiz", first published in 1844, was the title of Florian's own guide, published in 1978. It is considered by many to be one of his best city guides.[20]

Florian Baedeker. a keen parachute jumper, was killed in a parachuting accident on October 26, 1980. He was 36.

Eva Baedeker

1980−1984: Following the tragic death of Florian, his mother, Karl Friedrich's widow Eva Baedeker, née Konitz (1913−1984), piloted the firm until she died in 1984. She was the last Baedeker to play an active role in running the Baedeker publishing house founded in 1827, and negotiated the sale of the Freiburg branch to Langenscheidt before she died. However, the "Karl Baedeker" brand name has been retained by all subsequent owners of the company, in one form or another.


Since 1979 Baedeker travel guides have appeared as Baedeker Allianz Reiseführer (travel guides), published in collaboration with the German insurance group Allianz. Multi-coloured with copious illustrations and in many languages, they now cover most of the popular tourist destinations in the world. Over 150 guides have been published already and the list keeps growing, as well as the number of languages in which they are published. In Britain, the guides have been published in collaboration with the British Automobile Association (The AA) and in the USA by Macmillan Travel, a Simon & Schuster Macmillan company.


The Freiburg Baedeker branch was acquired by the German publisher Langenscheidt following the death of Eva Baedeker. In 1987, both Baedeker branches, the Langenscheidt operation in Freiburg and the Baedeker Autoführer Verlag in Stuttgart operated by the Mairs publishing group, were merged and housed together in Ostfildern/Kemnat as "Karl Baedeker GmbH" with a branch in Munich. The ownership of the new venture was split down the middle between Langenscheidt and Mairs.


In 1997, Mairs Geographischer Verlag, now known as MAIRDUMONT, became the 100% owner of Verlag Karl Baedeker, along with all rights attached to Karl Baedeker's name and firm.[21]


The new English Baedekers produced by MAIRDUMONT dispensed with the Allianz logo in the title. From the beginning of 2013, the German editions have also dropped the Allianz. This marks the beginning of a new era in the appearance and content of modern Baedekers under the catchphrase " Wissen öffnet Welten" (Knowledge opens worlds) .

The previous German editions had four main sections viz. Background, Tours, Destinations from A to Z, Practical Information from A to Z. They now have a fifth section in each guidebook entitled "Erleben und Geniessen" (Experience and Enjoy) . These new Baedeker guides are also the first such guidebooks to incorporate infographics, the latest innovation in the history of Baedeker travel guides.[22]

Baedeker English editions

From the outset, Karl Baedeker recognised the importance of publishing his guides in English as well. His son Ernst, who had worked in London before joining Verlag Baedeker in 1859, was entrusted with the task of preparing the first ever Baedeker in English, which appeared in 1861 - The Rhine - and was a tremendous success.

English editions, it was felt, would give the firm the international recognition it required to enhance its image and standing in the travel guide publishing world. This was achieved by recruiting the most competent bilingual editors in the field and the publishing house was fortunate to retain their services for decades without a break.

James and Findlay Muirhead

The Scottish brothers James Francis Muirhead (1853−1934) and Findlay Muirhead (1860−1935) played a significant role in popularising the English guidebooks worldwide. James, the elder brother, had been taken on as editor of the English editions by Fritz Baedeker in 1879. He was 25. Findlay joined him later as joint editor. They were responsible for all the Baedeker editions in English for almost forty years.

The Muirhead brothers were as enthusiastic about the guides as the Baedeker family and worked indefatigably to produce quality handbooks. The Great Britain, London and Canada editions, in particular, won universal acclaim. James Findlay is given the credit for two-thirds of the content in the Canada guidebook, first published in 1894. Canada enjoys the distinction of being the sole classic Baedeker to be published only in English.

James Muirhead's crowning achievement was the 1893 edition of The United States which ran into four editions whilst he was still with the firm. Herbert Warren Wind wrote:[23]

" "The United States" was, in effect, a one-man triumph for James F. Muirhead...

Travelling the vast distances by boat, railway and horse, he "personally, visited the greater part of the districts described," and threw in an excursion to Mexico for good measure. "The United States" emerged as a most impressive piece of work - the first comprehensive guide to the country."

It had taken James Muirhead two and a half years to research and write The United States. In the preface to "The United States", the publishers acknowledged Muirhead's momentous achievement in producing the groundbreaking travel guide. The 724-page fourth edition, published in 1909, included excursions to Cuba, Puerto Rico and Alaska in addition to Mexico.

After the First World War, Findlay launched his own series of the famous Blue Guides, published in London by Ernest Benn.[24] His brother joined him in the venture shortly afterwards.

Hermann Augustine Piehler

Hermann Augustine Piehler (1888−1987) − better known as H.A. Piehler in the publishing world − was an Englishman of German descent. He became the chief editor of the English editions after the Muirheads left and, like them, worked tireless for the company.

During his student days, Karl Friedrich Baedeker had spent a year in England and had lived with Piehler at his London residence. They had got to know each other really well. In 1948, when Karl Friedrich decided to re-establish the Baedeker firm in Malente, which was in the British zone in Germany, he had the good fortune to have his publishing licence endorsed by Piehler, who was then a colonel in British Intelligence and the head of the 'books and publications' division in the district.[25] Upon his return to England, Piehler continued editing the English guides well into his eighties. In the meantime, his brother had been editing the new Baedeker London guide.

The Baedekers, for their part, were always generous in acknowledging the unflinching commitment of the Muirheads and Piehler to their firm, and the contribution they had made to the success of Verlag Karl Baedeker.

See also


Further reading

External links

  • Baedeker
  •, a resource for collectors
  • Internet Archive
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