50 years Theiss Verlag

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Theiss Verlag, probably the leading archaeological publisher in Germany, celebrates its 50th birthday.

They sent me a press release (in German). Unfortunately no special offers on books – but a chance to reflect upon the amasing success of this determined company.

Founded in 1956 in Aalen, Theiss began as a local publisher of books on local and regional culture and history. During the 1970s the company systematically expanded its list with a wide range of historical titles dealing with the entire Southwest of Germany (Baden-Württemberg). In 1976, they published their first archaeological handbook, Die Römer in Baden-Württemberg. It was the first of several similar projects, each time combining a thorough historical introduction with useful tips for the archaeologically interested tourist. They also started publishing major archaeological exhibition catalogues like Der Keltenfürst von Hochdorf (1985).

I started studying archaeology in 1988 at the University of Tübingen, Baden-Württemberg. I remember well the nice archaeology books which Theiss widely advertised during all the years I was a student. Although these books contained the best academic summaries available to students, there was always the perception that here was a publisher who knew how to make money. 

AiD bildAt about that time, Theiss took on the risk of publishing the first popular archaeology magazine for the entire German speaking audience and after more than twenty years Archäologie in Deutschland is still going strong (although it is no longer without competition…). I remember ordering several free inspection copies of subsequent issues and they never felt to arrive – with the same reliability I now receive any Theiss title I indicate as a free review copy.

Over the following decades, Theiss books expanded to other German regions and took over a wide range of archaeological book series, always working closely with the state heritage authorities (Landesdenkmalämter). More than anything it is these strong links between Theiss and the authorities that characterises its publications.

Theiss books are never controversial. Theiss books are solid, well illustrated, well written, academically reliable, and approved by the ‘experts’ in charge. Theiss therefore represents a very different publishing culture than what exists, for example, in the United Kingdom where commercial publishing companies are more than willing (and able) to develop their own academic agendas…

We will of course continue to review Theiss books in the European Journal of Archaeology!

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