In case you missed it, in the past few years your favourite publishing department has started forging a strong relationship with its counterpart at the Johannes Gutenberg University of Mainz. After they came to visit us in Edinburgh back in February (the details of which can be found here), we decided to cement this relationship, when a group of 9 students and 3 professors paid back the courtesy with a visit to the German city last month.
On the first day in Mainz, after arriving very late the night before, we went to visit the museum dedicated to the man himself, the beautiful Gutenberg Museum. With its exhibition of printing presses, the history of publishing, and the display of two original Gutenberg Bibles, this place was a treat to visit, especially for young publishers and book lovers.
After the museum we paid a visit to a local independent bookshop, Shakespeare und so, where we had the first taste of how the book market works in Germany. Working with the Fixed Book Price Agreement, it was interesting to see how
Britain differs from the German market and the benefits and negatives aspects of adhering to each system within both a bookshop and publishing house.
In the afternoon we had the opportunity to experience the University campus, where we were treated to interesting seminars about the German STM market heard more about the Fixed Book Price Agreement.
Visiting the, the classrooms and laboratories of the Book Studies Department, the Mainzer Institut für Buchwissenschaft, we felt like we got the chance to see day to day life on this interesting course. For the perfect ending to our first day in Germany our host organised a beautiful reception topped off with a selection of local food, apple beer and wine. After which we were suitably stuffed and merry.
On day two, bright and early, we took the train South to Heidelberg, and our first stop was the gigantic plant of Heidelberger Druckmaschinen (yes, I’ve called it Duckmaster for a few days), a printing machines factory, just South of the city.
The historic plant, the largest of its kind in the world, is of gigantic proportions, spanning over 9 million square feet and with a workforce of around 6,000. The tour showed us the whole creation of the Heidelberg printing units and focused on their attention for details and constant pursuit for innovation.
After a quick lunch we paid a visit to another German giant: Springer, the one of the largest German publisher and one of the world leading force in STM publishing. Here we had seminars about their history, their brand new digital production process, and their cutting edge process of digitalisation of their books and journals.
For the rest of the afternoon and the evening we visited the beautiful city of Heidelberg with its medieval city centre on the river Neckar, before taking the train back to Mainz after a long but interesting day.
Day three started a little more relaxed than those previous, with a lovely breakfast at the market in Mainz central square followed by a guided tour of the city, highlighted by St. Stephen’s Church and it’s blue windows decorated by Marc Chagall that made the inside magical. In the afternoon we headed back to the University campus for two more seminars before enjoying our last supper, a traditional Rhenian dinner to say goodbye to our hosts.
On our last day in Germany, having a little more freedom in terms of what to do, we decided to take our own adventures and explore, some choosing to stay in Mainz and others visiting Frankfurt for the day, with the only task of donating some of the old title of Merchiston Publishing to a few random Germans. Reconvening at the airport we took our flight back to Edinburgh noticeably shattered yet grateful to have had such a rewarding trip. We thank you again, Mainzer Institut für Buchwissenschaft!