Ferdinand Schöningh History


From the Foundation of the Publishing House until 1933

The publishing house owes its name to the bookseller Ferdinand Schöningh, who was born in Meppen (Emsland) in 1815. In 1846, Schöningh had acquired the concession for a Catholic book and art shop, which was opened in Paderborn in May 1847 and can be considered the predecessor of today's publishing house. Initially, the focus of the product range was on academic, especially educational literature and text collections. After the abolition of press censorship in 1848, Schöningh also founded a newspaper and magazine publishing house, which published the Westfälische Kirchenblatt für Katholiken on a weekly basis. Approximately six months later, the Westfälische Volksblatt was added as a further pillar. In 1850, the publishing house moved to a larger building within Paderborn, where in 1858, for the first time, its own printing shop was established. In 1866 Ferdinand Schöningh bought a building at the Paderborn city centre (Rathausplatz), which was extended again in 1883 and was to remain the headquarters of the publishing house until its destruction in 1945.

Among the titles that established the publisher's reputation in its early days were Friedrich Wilhelm Weber's book Dreizehnlinden, first published in 1878, and Wilhelm Keiten's first critical complete edition of Annette von Droste-Hülshoff's works from 1884. The scholarly program initially concentrated on theological literature but was soon expanded to include philosophical works and fiction. Among the important publications in the journal program were Chrysologus (1861), the Blätter für kirchliche Wissenschaft und Praxis (1867) and the journal Gymnasium (1883). Until the death of founder Ferdinand Schöningh, the publishing house realized 673 works, including the Geschichte der poetischen Literatur Deutschlands by Joseph von Eichendorff, works by Luise Hensel, as well as texts by Adolph Kolping, who was a friend of the family, and of authors of political Catholicism such as Franz Joseph Ritter von Buß or August Reichensperger.

After the death of Ferdinand Schöningh (I) in 1883, his son Ferdinand (II) took over the publishing house. In 1891, his brother Josef became a partner and assumed responsibility for the magazine program and the printing shop. Together the brothers expanded and modernized what their father had created. Their achievements included the takeover of the Nassesche Verlagshandlung in 1885 and the acquisition of bookstores in Osnabrück and Mainz. In addition to the journals published so far, the Jahrbuch für Philosophie und spekulative Theologie (1887), the Monatsschrift für katholische Lehrerinnen (1888) and the Katholische Lehrerzeitung (1890) were launched. The collection of Greek and Roman editions of classics as well as editions of German classics with explanations were also greatly expanded. During this time, the series Sammlung der bedeutendsten pädagogischen Schriften and Wissenschaftliche Handbibliothek were also established. In the field of history, which was added as a new program focus, the anthology Quellen und Forschungen auf dem Gebiete der Geschichte , published by the Görres Gesellschaft, deserves special mention.

The Publishing House Ferdinand Schöningh during the NS Dictatorship

As Ferdinand (III), who was originally intended to become the next managing director, was killed during the First World War, his younger brother Eduard took over the management of the publishing house in 1925. Eduard was able to build on the success initiated by his grandfather and continued by his father and his brother until the publishing work became increasingly difficult after 1933 due to National Socialist harassment. Since Eduard Schöningh opposed the Nazi dictatorship, he concentrated increasingly on Catholic literature during this period, which was not as ideologically rooted as schoolbooks or scientific texts. Eduard Schöningh gave employment to Catholic officials who had lost their jobs in the Third Reich. In order to escape the restrictions imposed by those in power, he also tried to found publishing houses abroad. Because of his critical attitude, the publishing house became the victim of expropriations and bans during the Third Reich. In 1934 the last approved textbook was published, in 1936 the Westfälische Volksblatt had to be handed over to Eher Verlag. Political pressure finally forced Eduard Schöningh to completely stop publishing in 1943.

The Publishing House after 1945

After the end of the war in 1945, all the buildings, technical operations and stocks of the publishing house were destroyed by bombs. Since Ferdinand Schöningh had not participated in the right-wing ideology of the Third Reich, however, publishing activities could be resumed soon after the war ended. Ferdinand Schöningh is thus one of the first publishers to be reinstated by the Allied military authorities. Thanks to the support of his family and staff, the structural and technical conditions for the fresh start were also provided. Main focus of the program was now on textbook literature. In the 1940s, editions of Augustinus and Aristoteles Ausgaben, which were of importance for the academic program, were also established.

After the death of Eduard Schöningh, another Ferdinand took over the Schöningh Verlag together with his son in 1966. Ferdinand (IV) continued the course of his father's expansion: His time includes the co-founding of the textbook series Uni-Taschenbücher (utb) in 1970 and the groundbreaking takeover of the Munich-based Wilhelm Fink Verlag, including the renowned series Poetik und Hermeneutik in 1974.

When Ferdinand (IV) handed over the management to his son Ferdinand (V) in 1989, he initially retained the management of the publishing house WilhelmFink. For the publishing house Ferdinand Schöningh, the 1990s were marked above all by a significant expansion of the humanities, especially the historical program. As part of major restructuring, the schoolbook division was sold in 2002, so that from now on the publishing house concentrated entirely on the scholarly program.

Ferdinand Schöningh today

Since 2017, the publishers Ferdinand Schöningh and Wilhelm Fink are imprints of Brill Deutschland GmbH. The new affiliation with the traditional publishing house Brill, with its headquarters in Leiden, the Netherlands, and further branches in Boston, Singapore and Beijing, is a great gain for Ferdinand Schöningh. Brill N.V. was founded in 1683 and is one of the leading international publishers in the humanities and social sciences. With its more than three hundred years of history, the publishing house is the ideal partner with whom Ferdinand Schöningh is perfectly positioned for the future.
In January 2018, the publishing house mentis also joined the distinguished company group of specialist humanities publishers. Since March 1, 2021, the renowned Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht Verlage have also joined Brill. Together with Ferdinand Schöningh, Wilhelm Fink, and mentis they now form Brill Deutschland GmbH.

Ferdinand Schöningh´s program focuses on history, theology, pedagogy as well as linguistics and literature. Ferdinand Schöningh offers a forum for innovative scholarly publications and well-founded books on social debates - and all this with the reliability of a company founded in 1847. The publishing house has managed the transition to a modern academic publishing house in the digital age without losing its sense of tradition and history. In order to meet changes in reading habits and in scientific research, the titles of the publishing house are also published as e-books. The textbooks and study books continue to appear in the "Red Series" of the publishing cooperation utb in Stuttgart, which has long been a well-known name, especially for students.


The publishing house Ferdinand Schöningh is a partner of REFORC, an international platform that offers and disseminates knowledge, ideas, activities and products on the subject of the Reformation. Further information can be found at https://reforc.com/.