A German in Rome. Max Bretschneider
The name of the publishing house is connected to Max Bretschneider, a native of Saxony, who in 1896, with his partner Walter Regensberg, took over the Roman bookshop owned by Ermanno Loescher. In the aftermath of the Unification of Italy, the presence in the country’s major cities of individuals from foreign countries with technical and practical skills connected to the printing process is well documented. In Germany especially, these years had seen significant progress in the book trade and in publishing, and the Italian market linked to demand from the educated local classes seemed to offer a promising opportunity to expand activities related to printing.
During these years, Max Bretschneider worked principally as a book seller and only secondarily as a publisher. Nonetheless, this period already saw the publication of numerous volumes whose title pages bore the expression «Ermanno Loescher & C. (Bretschneider & Regenberg)», accompanied by a logo consisting of two animals facing one another in a heraldic pose on either side of a shield with the initials B[retschneider] and R[egenberg]. His interests as a publisher ranged from literature, as evidenced by the volumes Bibliografia analitica petrarchesca and Le satire di Giovanni Giraud, to studies of ancient history and archaeology, with the publication of works such as Beloch’s Studi di storia antica and Huelsen’s Il Foro Romano. This bond with the ancient world remained unshaken, later becoming key to the identity of the publishing house in its subsequent phases of existence.
Max Bretschneider’s work as a book seller continued in Via del Tritone in Rome, once again reflecting his interest in books on art and history. Upon the return to Italy of Max’s son Giorgio Bretschneider from the war in Africa, and his completion of a degree in humanities with a study of the Basilica of Santa Maria Maggiore, he and his sister Erminia took over their father’s business; from then on, the publishing house became known as «L’Erma» di Bretschneider. It was Giorgio who consolidated the company’s nascent publishing activities by circumscribing its sphere of interest to Greek and Roman antiquity, signing contracts with renowned authors such as Doro Levi, Giovanni Becatti, Massimo Pallottino, Santo Mazzarino, still seminal for the study of antiquities today. He was also the first in Italy to embark upon a large-scale programme of publishing reprints, recognizing the importance of making the works of the past available once again to the academic community through these editions.
Giorgio Bretschneider Editore and the establishment of the new brand
In 1973, Giorgio liquidated the company of which he was an owner and founded Giorgio Bretschneider Editore, an independent publishing house strongly characterized by the choice of the ancient world as its preferred field. Thanks to the enthusiasm and competence of Giorgio, who had understood the need to interpret and promote understanding of the ancient world in all its numerous different aspects, the company consolidated its ties to the most prestigious Italian and foreign authors in the fields of archaeology and ancient history. Still today, the Giorgio Bretschneider publishing house boasts long-standing collaborations with the most important universities, giving rise to book series and academic journals such as «Monumenti Antichi» of the Accademia Nazionale dei Lincei, «Archaeologica» and «Studi Etruschi» of the Istituto Nazionale di Studi Etruschi ed Italici, making it a reference point of national and international importance for a large community of scholars.
The publisher Boris Bretschneider and the future of scholarship on antiquity: the third generation
Since 1996, the publishing house has been directed by Giorgio’s son, Boris Bretschneider. His activities and editorial choices are founded upon a staunch and unwavering belief in the values inherited from the family tradition that he continues. As such, he continues to work in the field of the humanities, with special attention to the quality of the publications. At his wishes, in 2021 the publishing house is restyling its graphic design while maintaining the close connections with its history and showcasing the return to its origins thanks to an allusion to the world of Germanic publishing. The new logo thus revisits the initials of the founder through the use of the Optima font. Designed by the German calligrapher Hermann Zapf and inspired by classical scripts, Optima preserves the authority of the Roman capital, modernizing it in a way that fully captures the character of the publishing house and its cultural mission.