From heavy books to app: every child in Germany is familiar with the ‘Diercke International Atlas’ from the Westermann publishing company. The traditional printing and publishing group has been a permanent fixture of Braunschweig’s economic life for nearly 180 years and exemplifies a successful combination of an ability to transform and an awareness of tradition.
Georg Westermann: from apprentice to publisher
It all began in 1838 with the opening of a small publishing house by George Westermann. The son of a goldsmith from Leipzig, who learned his trade with the renowned Vieweg publishing company in Braunschweig, he established himself with a broad and sophisticated selection of books and magazines. He also operated his own print shop starting in 1845. Dictionaries and works on the topics of ‘geography’ and ‘history’ in particular quickly brought the publishing house prestige and sales. George Westermann developed an extensive cultural network and maintained personal contacts with authors such as Charles Dickens. Works by the English novelist were just as much part of the Westermann publishing programme in the 19th and 20th centuries as the writings of Theodor Storm and Wilhelm Raabe.
Diercke International Atlas: career of a classic
The publishing company’s long-term success, however, came thanks to its maps for use in schools. The first school atlas for higher educational institutions appeared in 1853, followed by primary school atlases printed by the millions. Innovations in the field of printing technology, especially in colour printing, resulted in affordable maps of high printing quality from the outset.
The ‘Diercke International Atlas’, probably the publishing company’s most famous work, first arrived in schools in 1883. Countless updates to details and instruction-oriented revisions and adaptations have been part of its history to today. Germany’s reunification in 1990, for example, resulted in corrections on 160 of a total of 270 pages!
The Westermann publishing company entered the field of computer cartography in 1991 and offered the first interactive CD-ROMs with digital map material in 1999. An Internet supplement for each map in the Diercke International Atlas has been available since 2008, many of them now also in 3D.
Another milestone was reached in 2015 with the publication of the ‘Diercke International Atlas digital’. It allows all maps of the print edition to be accessed online and viewed in different versions according to certain criteria. Michael Albrecht, Head of Cartography for the Westermann Group, lists the ingredients for a good map: ‘We need photographs for map production, which are obtained from satellites, aircraft and also drones, experienced editors who supplement the data with their research, very good hardware and software, and of course skilled cartographers who transform the material into maps.’
The Westermann Group today: from Braunschweig to the entire world
Today, the Westermann Group is one of Germany’s largest suppliers of educational media. The company’s portfolio offers materials for almost every area of learning, from primary school, to vocational training, and beyond. One of the focal points is the development of digital education media such as apps and learning platforms. The spectrum ranges from the completely interactive mathematics textbook for primary school use, to the ‘kapiert.de’ learning portal, to classics such as the ‘Antolin’ portal, which encourages reading.
More and more of the Westermann Group’s products have been making their way to the international market in the meantime. For example, children between the ages of two and 13 years in 35 countries play and learn with the popular Tutor Systems.
The familiar Schroedel, Diesterweg, Westermann, Schöningh, Bildungsverlag EINS and Winklers publishing companies have come together under the umbrella of the Westermann Group. Other publishing companies and branches produce educational media especially for the Austrian and Swiss markets. A total of 1,300 people are employed in Braunschweig and at the company’s other locations. Interested? The publishing company is regularly seeking qualified editors, educational consultants, product managers and web developers.