A History of the Frankfurt Book Fair


A colourful and revealing look at more than 500 years of commerce conducted at the renowned Frankfurt Book Fair, from its beginnings in the Middle Ages. Even then, in spite of internal strife and religious upheaval, books were becoming increasingly accessible to those who found their way to Frankfurt to buy, sell, and promote. The fact that King Henry VIII sent Sir Thomas Bodley as his personal emissary to purchase books for the new library at Oxford University is an indication of the Fair’s growing importance outside Germany.

Through the ensuing centuries, the fortunes of the Fair waxed and waned; however, the period following the Second World War brought with it a new spirit of renewal that has yet to lose momentum. In recent years, increasing number of international book fairs have taken the Frankfurt model, and each is finding its own way to further enrich the world of books everywhere.


I approached this history with the memory of all my Frankfurt experiences and found it to be an enjoyable and informative read the history itself is quite fascinating and the optimistic tone in which the book is written is refreshing.

This delightful tome is not only a comprehensive record of the postwar development of the world's largest and most organized book fairs, but also a summary of how today's book industry developed over the past 600 or so years.

He writes with insight ... about the bazaar and the bizarre that make up the world's largest, annual meeting of minds and money.

Winnipeg Free Press (January, 2008)

Peter Weidhaas offers a most entertaining and historical look at the Fair, showing the importance of books through the centuries, and their importance is still as strong today.

Shelf Life (March, 2008)

Fascinating, expertly written, and full of anecdotes and insights, A History of the Frankfurt Book Fair is strongly recommended as a core addition to personal, professional, academic, and community library collections, as well as the for non-specialist general reader seeking to learn more about the origin of the model that all modern book fairs follow.

The Midwest Book Review (May, 2008)

About the Authors

Peter Weidhaas

Posted by Dundurn Guest on December 6, 2014

Peter Weidhaas

Peter Weidhaas served as Director of the Frankfurt Book Fair from 1975 to the new millenium and was ideally positioned to view the last quarter of the twentieth century at the Fair from the inside out. He retired in 2000.

Carolyn Gossage

Posted by Kendra on October 30, 2014

Carolyn Gossage

Carolyn Gossage is the author of books on Ethiopian icons and crosses. She has also published a number of historical titles, including Greatcoats and Glamour Boots and The History of the Frankfurt Book Fair. She lives in Toronto and has taught history and English in Canada and abroad for over twenty years. She is also the author of a number of books including: A Question of Privilege, Canada's Independent Schools (1977).