From printing press to present-day specialist publisher and media service provider

1864Publishing newspapers and printing forms

Arnold Wilhelm Bertelsmann

Wilhelm Bertelsmann moves to Bielefeld in 1864. On October 1st of the same year he starts a book and lithographic printing press. The company is called "Gebrüder Bertelsmann" (Bertelsmann Bros.) and is based at the address Obernstraße 4. Wilhelm Bertelsmann, son of the publisher Carl Bertelsmann in Gütersloh (✝1850), publishes various newspapers: "Allgemeiner Anzeiger für Bielefeld, Halle und Wiedenbrück", "Conservativer Volksfreund" and "Westfälischer Hausfreund". At the same time he is also editor-in-chief for these papers.

The company also prints official forms for authorities, churches and schools. After the business has been established it takes over 47 forms from the publishing house "C. Bertelsmann Verlag" in Gütersloh which has been managed by Wilhelm's older brother Heinrich Bertelsmann since 1850.  The varied range of printing services are promoted through the Allgemeiner Anzeiger.

1869W. Bertelsmann

From May onwards the business is trading under the name of "W. Bertelsmann". During the first years the company grows as a newspaper publisher but it also develops into a printing press with up-to-date production technology. Already in 1865 insurance documents specify the "use of a caloric engine" - a steam engine.

1870Expansion of the publishing business

Advertisment: 'Allgemeinen Anzeiger', 01.01.1865

In spring 1870 Wilhelm Bertelsmann aquires the printing business Küster. He relocates the company to new premises at Wellenstraße 160/161. From here he operates his printing and publishing business under the company name of "I. D. Küster Nachfolger" (I.D. Küster Succrs.). By aquiring the "Küster" printing business Wilhelm Bertelsmann also becomes owner of the newspaper "Bielefelder Tageblatt", today "Neue Westfälische" and Bielefeld's oldest newspaper.

1880Newspaper publisher or printer of forms?

Bertelsmann'sche Buchdruckerei

Although Wilhelm Bertelsmann has a keen interest in publishing newspapers, he puts more emphasis on printing forms. At the start of the year 1880 he sells his business "I. D. Küster Nachfolger" (I.D. Küster Succrs.) and the associated newspaper business to his brother Heinrich.

At the same time, on 2nd January 1880, his newly re-organised company is registered as "Bertelsmann Buchdruckerei, W. Bertelsmann" (Bertelsmann Book Printer, W. Bertelsmann). The company focusses on forms, book printing, book binding and bookselling. At this point the publishing programme includes 475 forms.

1890Move to new premises and further expansion

Around 1890 the company moved to Gadderbaum, a suburb of Bielefeld. In 1893 a new production site was built at the address Gütersloher Str. 21–23. At this time the volume of administration remits and bodies in Germany ist growing. As a result more forms for administrative use are needed leading to an expansion of the company's publishing programme which now encompasses all areas of administration.

The publishing programme now encompassed all areas of administration. In 1894 Wilhelm Bertelsmann's sons Friedrich Carl and Friedrich Ludwig became general managers. A section for teaching and learning materials is added to the programme. In the period that followed even patents are filed. In 1900 Gadderbaum was incorporated into Bielefeld.

1905A new name: W. Bertelsmann Verlag

Friedrich Carl Bertelsmann

In 1903 Wilhelm's sons Friedrich Carl and Friedrich Ludwig take over the business from their father. A short time later Friedrich Ludwig dies. Friedrich Carl Bertelsmann is now the only managing director and adds the term "Verlag" (publisher) to the business name.

In 1905 the company is given the name which it carries until today: "W. Bertelsmann Verlag". In the same year Wilhelm Bertelsmann, founder of the company, dies.

1910Transformation and new partners

the new Logo 1910

In 1910 the company is changed into a GmbH (Limited Liability Company). Heinrich and Ernst Pauck, Friedrich Carl Bertelsmann's brothers-in-law become new partners.

1914World War I and Depression

Towards the end of WWI business becomes more difficult. 1919 the teaching material section is separated from the company and becomes the "Großlehrmittelanstalt Bertelsmann, Inh. Heinrich Pauck" (Teaching Material Institute, propr. Heinrich Pauck). As sole partner Friedrich Carl Bertelsmann leads "W. Bertelsmann Verlag" through the turmoils of the post-war era and the great inflation.

1928Forms and literature for schools and administrative use

W. Ernst Bertelsmann

Wilhelm Ernst Bertelsmann, son of Friedrich Carl, takes over the company management after his father's early death thus continuing the family business in the third generation. The company keeps operating as a publisher of official forms and also publishes literature for schools and administrative use.

1933–1945The company during the Nazi era

From 1933 onwards W. Bertelsmann Verlag is forced to bring some of their forms for office and administrative use in line with the ideas of National Socialism. Instructed by the Nazis the company is also re-organised: W. Ernst Bertelsmann becomes "Betriebsführer" (works manager), the company's workforce becomes a "Gefolgschaft" (fellowship).

1936 the company is changed into a limited partnership; personal liability was deemed important for a German business. The business receives a certificate as an Aryan company.

Some indications suggest that five female forced labourers were employed at the company from 1942 onwards, however, there is no clear evidence or documentation of this. On 1st of March 1937 W. Ernst Bertelsmann joins the NSDAP but does not take on any offices or remits within the party or its suborganisations.

1945New beginning after World War II

20.09.1944: New beginning after World War II

During the bombings of Bielefeld in 1944 and 1945 the buildings of W. Bertelsmann Verlag are devastated. Production suffers a complete breakdown.

In April 1945 the allied forces move into Bielefeld and in July they impose a general ban on all printing activities. In September of the same year W. Ernst Bertelsmann is granted a provisional and conditional operating permission. Before the end of 1945 W. Ernst Bertelsmann is "denazified" by the British military agencies. Despite severely damaged machinery and paper rationing W. Bertelsmann Verlag accepts first printing orders, not least due to the advocacy of local authorities and the administrative bodies of the church.

Only after the currency reform in 1948 the redevelopment of the company gathers pace.

1949Information and guidelines for vocational training and education

Journals: 'Wirtschaft und Berufserziehung', 'Der Ausbilder'

During the post-war years a new subject area is added to the publishing programme: information, guidelines and practical advice relating to vocational training and education.

The publishing programme begins to benefit from W. Ernst Bertelsmann's voluntary engagement in vocational education. In June 1949 the Deutsche Industrie- und Handelstag (DIHT) (German chambers of commerce umbrella organisation) commissions W. Bertelsmann with the printing and distribution of regulations and standards for vocational training in industries.

This is soon followed by the publication of the first issue of the journal "Wirtschaft und Berufserziehung" (Economy and Vocational Education). The journal "Der Ausbilder" (The Vocational Trainer) is added later.

195450 years of "Blätter zur Berufskunde"

50 years of publication series on vocation and training

In October 1954 the Federal Office for Employment and Unemployment Benefit in Nuremberg – today the Federal Employment Agency – commissions W. Bertelsmann Verlag with the production and distribution of the "Blätter zur Berufskunde (BzB)" (publication series on vocation and training). It is a serial edition which is published until 2003 and includes more than 700 titles relating to vocations requiring formal training and to college/university courses. Due to this serial W. Bertelsmann Verlag becomes known across Germany.

1961Technical upgrading of type-setting and print

Jürgen Bertelsmann

In 1961 Jürgen Bertelsmann joins the company. He focusses on modernisation and introduces photosetting and offset printing. In 1972 parts of the company move to a modern commercial site in Bielefeld-Großdornberg. Jürgen Bertelsmann develops system solutions for local authorities.

1982New company headquarters and expansion of the publishing programme

Auf dem Esch 4, Bielefeld (from 1996)

In 1982 Jürgen Bertelsmann becomes managing director. The company departments which have still been operating in Bielefeld-Gadderbaum leave these premises and move to the site in Bielefeld-Großdornberg where W. Bertelsmann Verlag is based today. The range of publications for administrative use is growing further. Publications now include family registers for registrar offices with sales across Germany.

1987Further education and training materials of the DIHT-Bildungs-GmbH

The "Deutsche Industrie- und Handelstag" (German chambers of commerce organisation) intensifies its services in the area of vocational education and training by establishing the "DIHT-Gesellschaft für berufliche Bildung – Organisation zur Förderung der IHK-Weiterbildung mbH" (DIHT-Bildungs-GmbH) (a company promoting vocational education; associated with the DIHT).

From 1987 onwards W. Bertelsmann Verlag produces and sells the further education and training materials of the "DIHT-Bildungs-GmbH" (since 2001 trading as "DIHK-Bildungs-GmbH"). In recent years services for the "DIHK-Bildungs-GmbH" have increased and now include editing services and sales through a special online shop.

1989Professional journals at W. Bertelsmann Verlag

The Bundesinstitut für Berufsbildung (BIBB) (Federal Institute for Vocational Education and Training) commissions W. Bertelsmann Verlag with the publication of the journal "Berufsbildung in Wissenschaft und Praxis" (Vocational Training in Research and Practice) – it is the third professional journal in the publishing programme in addition to "Wirtschaft und Berufserziehung" and "Der Ausbilder".

1992The fifth generation: W. Arndt Bertelsmann

The fifth generation: W. Arndt Bertelsmann

After qualifying as an industrial business management assistant and engineer W. Arndt Bertelsmann gathers professional experience in various companies. In 1992 he joins W. Bertelsmann Verlag and establishes 1993 the "W. A. Bertelsmann Fachverlag GmbH". It is joined with the original company as general partner.

The whole business is changed into "W. Bertelsmann Verlag GmbH & Co. KG" (limited partnership with a limited liability company as general partner). 1993 Jürgen Bertelsmann hands all corporate shares over to his son, who is from now on sole managing director.

1993wbv – the brand

1993: wbv – the brand

As part of the rebranding a new brand is developed: "wbv – W. Bertelsmann Verlag – Wirtschaft, Bildung, Verwaltung" (wbv – W. Bertelsmann Verlag – Economy, Education, Administration) thus highlighting the company's commitment to specific subject areas. Over the following years the publishing house wins more and more public bodies and institutions as customers and editors and positions itself as a publisher specialising in economy, education and administration.

1994Publishing partner: Bundesinstitut für Berufsbildung

The publishing programme is extended and the range of wbv services available to public organisations increases. In 1994 wbv and the Bundesinstitut für Berufsbildung (Federal Institute for Vocational Education and Training) enter into a contract about the production and sales of publications.

1995Publications specialising in the economy

The subject area "Economy" benefits from long-term cooperations with authors and institutions such as foreign chambers of commerce. Foreign trade as well as human resources and organisation development are added to the publishing programme as subject areas.

1996wbv and Corporate Social Responsibility

Verein Innovative Berufsbildung e.V.

In 1996 the Bundesinstitut für Berufsbildung (Federal Institute for Vocational Education and Training) and wbv jointly establish the "Innovative Berufsbildung e. V.", an association for innovative vocational training. The intention is to initiate, support and publicly promote forward-looking trends in vocational education and training. The association creates the Hermann-Schmidt-Preis (Hermann Schmidt Award) which recognises outstanding achievements in vocational training. It is awarded for the first time in 1997.

In the same year the "Deutsche Institut für Erwachsenenbildung (DIE)" (German Institute for Adult Education) also gives an award for the first time: the "Preis für Innovation in der Erwachsenenbildung" (award for innovation in adult education). Since 1997 wbv has been sponsor of this award.

1997Publishing partner: Bundesagentur für Arbeit

In 1997 the Federal Employment Office (now: "Bundesagentur für Arbeit" Federal Employment Agency) commissions wbv with the editing and the entire production of their vocation information folders. The folders are available at national job information centres across Germany. Until 2007 wbv updates and publishes more than 1,000 pages on a monthly basis.

1998Publishing partner: German Academic Exchange Service

Publikationen DAAD

Since 1998 wbv has been publishing various titles of the German Academic Exchange Service starting with a guide book series which provides country-specific information for people who consider studying abroad. Current projects include the study Wissenschaft weltoffen (data and facts about international research, published annually since 2001) and the magazin "go-out!" (published annually since 2011).

1999Publishing partner: Deutsches Institut für Erwachsenenbildung (DIE)

Since 1999 DIE (Deutsches Institut für Erwachsenenbildung 0 German Institute for Adult Education) publishes its publications at wbv. As a result the subject area "adult education" is included in the programme. Various DIE book series and journals are published at wbv.

2000Specialist publisher and media service provider

2000: new Logo

At the start of the 21st century wbv is a publisher with a publishing programme specialising in vocational guidance and training, vocational training and education research and further education. Services include publication projects such as books and websites, customer services for subscribers as well as comprehensive support for editors and authors - from drafting the manuscript to selling the product. As a media service provider wbv can win several institutions as new editors.

2001New editors and projects

Publications of the following public bodies are realised at wbv: "Deutsche Gesellschaft für Personalführung (DGFP)" (a German organisation for human resources management), "Hochschulrektorenkonferenz (HRK)" (German Rectors' Conference), "Bundeszentrale für politische Bildung" (Federal Agency for Civic Education) and the Goethe Institute.

2001Empirical education research – educational studies at wbv

Empirical education research – educational studies at im wbv

In empirical education research ever more comprehensive data are gathered and analysed. wbv specialises in informative visual presentation of complex data and publishes a series of educational studies: since 2001 DAAD (German Academic Exchange Service) and the"HIS Hochschul-Informations-System GmbH (today DZHW)" (higher education information system) publish the study "Wissenschaft weltoffen" (data and facts about international research).

Since 2003 the OECD publishes the study Bildung auf einen Blick ("Education at a Glance", published every second year since 2006) in cooperation with wbv. The "Deutsche Institut für Internationale Pädagogische Forschung (DIPF)" (German Institute for International Educational Research) is in charge of the report Bildung in Deutschland (Education in Germany) which is published every second year since 2006. In 2013 the "Institut für Hochschulforschung (HoF)" (institute for higher education research) publishes the national report Bundesbericht Wissenschaftlicher Nachwuchs (research results on qualifications in academic post-doctor degree careers) at wbv for the first time.

2001didacta – education trade fair

didacta – education trade fair

In 2000 "didacta", the biggest German trade fair for education, is held for the first time. In 2001 wbv starts attending "didacta" with a company stall. Since then wbv has been represented every year.

In addition, wbv publications are presented at numerous conferences, congresses and events throughout the year.

2002New media and digital publishing

Already at an early stage wbv takes advantage of the new internet technology and develops "wbv", a web portal offering new sales opportunities. Also since 2002 the guidelines for vocational training and education are made available by wbv as a digital download.

2003Structural change

As part of a re-organisation effort and with the discontinuation of the "Blätter zur Berufskunde" (series on vocation and training published by the Federal Employment Agency) by the Federal Employment Agency the company's printing press and bookbindery are closed in March 2003.

The already existing network of suppliers and partners is extended in order to maintain the full scope of services. Official forms including those for registrar offices finally become redundant. However, family registers as organisers for important documents such as marriage or birth certificates remain to be popular.

wbv sells its extensive range of family registers nationwide and is today market leader in this segment.

2004wbv Symposium

Manfred Kremer, BIBB

On the occasion of the 140th company anniversary wbv holds its first symposium (wbv-Fachtagung). At this event in autumn 2004 speakers and delegates discuss the topic "Perspektive Bildung" (Education Perspectives). The format proves to be successful: in 2014 the wbv Symposium takes place for the 10th time.

2005Digital publishing: law collections

Also in the field of expert information wbv quickly focusses on electronic publishing. From 2005 onwards wbv develops a XML-based editing system for cross-media publication of expert information.

2006Expert information systems: Protestant churches and passport regulations

Expert information systems: Protestant churches and passport regulations

With this system the law collections of a number of German Protestant churches and the Evangelical Church in Germany are maintained, updated and published. Since 2013 a version of the system is also available for mobile devices. In 2010 the same editing system is used to publish an electronic edition of the loose-leaf collection "Passrecht" (passport regulations) which is also available online.

2006ProfilPASS: highlighting skills and competencies

ProfilPASS, ProfilPASS für junge Menschen, eProfilPASS

In 2006 the "Deutsche Institut für Erwachsenenbildung (DIE)" (German Institute for Adult Education), the "Deutsche Institut für Internationale Pädagogische Forschung (DIPF)" (German Institute for International Educational Research) and the "Institut für Entwicklungsplanung und Strukturforschung (IES)" (institute for development planning and structural research) develop the "ProfilPASS" – a tool for assessing adults' vocational skills and competencies. The ProfilPASS is used by counsellors across Germany as part of a resources-based counselling approach. wbv acts as a consultant for the editors and manages the sales as partner in a public-private partnership.

A ProfilPASS version for young people is developed in 2008 (ProfilPASS für junge Menschen).

2006Jobstarter project

In 2006 wbv becomes the main service provider for publications issued by "Jobstarter", a project run by "BIBB" ( Bundesinstitut für berufliche Bildung - Federal Institute for Vocational Education and Training). wbv manages various projects such as brochures and flyers including the composition of text, editing and layout. "Jobstarter" is a programme to support the dual vocational training system in Germany and is funded by the Federal Ministry of Education and Research.

2007Publishing partner: Bundesministerium für Bildung und Forschung (BMBF)

Publishing partner: Federal Ministry of Education and Research

In 2007 Bundesministerium für Bildung und Forschung (BMBF) (Federal Ministry of Education and Research) and wbv enter into a publishing agreement. On behalf of ministry departments and other funding bodies wbv takes on the project management of various publications including the composition of text, editing and layout. Responsibilities also include ensuring the accessibility of download files for users with special needs.

2008Publishing partner: Institute for Employment Research

Since 2008 Institut für Arbeitsmarkt- und Berufsforschung (IAB) - Institute for Employment Research publications are published at wbv including "IAB-Bibliothek" (IAB library), a research-based book series which contains a compendium on the labour market ("Handbuch Arbeitsmarkt"). In addition wbv operates the IAB-Bookshop on behalf of the IAB institute.

2010e-Book & download

W. Arndt Bertelsmann

At wbv the production of e-books becomes standard practice: the backlist is digitalised and almost all new releases are offered as e-books. Many project publications are made available as download files.


For the "ProfilPASS" wbv develops, sets up and administrates a special social network: It provides ProfilPASS counsellors with a platform for exchange with their colleagues. More and more counsellors use the ProfilPASS because of its versatility when working with different target groups.

2011Certified quality and knowledge management

TÜV Nord

2011 "TÜV Nord" (Technischer Überwachungsverein Nord – the official technical control board covering the north of Gemany) certifies wbv according to DIN IS0 9001. Every important process at wbv is optimised and documented. During annual audits "TÜV Nord" checks maintenance and improvement of wbv processes. wbv was last re-certified in 2014. A wbv Wiki and a wbv blog facilitate and improve knowledge management within the company.

2011wbv Journals: a digital journal library

wbv Journals

In September 2011 "wbv Journals" goes online with several professional journals. wbv offers editors new ways of publishing and marketing journals. Subscribers receive a free digital issue of their journal in addition to the printed copy. Readers can use full-text search for all journals and can buy and download individual articles.

2013wbv Open Access

wbv Open Access

In 2013 wbv publishes a text for the first time as Open Access (OA). Unrestricted access to text material is fast becoming a standard practice in science-related communication. Instead of the ISBN number the DOI (Digital Object Identifier) becomes the main meta data specification. With “wbv Open Access“ the publisher offers a free publication channel.

2014150 years of wbv

2014: a new logo

On 1st of October 2014 wbv can look back on 150 years of company history. To celebrate this anniversary wbv treats itself to a new logo. Website and online shop are thoroughly revised and revamped.

For the 60 members of staff (editorial team, media and IT, marketing, sales, service centre and finances) the company anniversary is an event to be celebrated - and an incentive for contributing to the future of publishing with creative solutions.