Persöhnlichkeiten aus Gotha

Art & culture


Gotha’s glamorous history has been shaped by important personalities from various fields, such as politics, science or art and culture. They have made the city nationally and internationally famous through their extraordinary work or remarkable success and therefore influenced the ducal residence’s special status. You can find a small selection of personalities here.


Publisher, lexicographer

Joseph Meyer (1796 – 1856)

The “encyclopaedia” is famous as a reference or dictionary everywhere. The fact that a large part of ...

The “encyclopaedia” is famous as a reference or dictionary everywhere. The fact that a large part of its origins is in the former ducal seat of Gotha is probably less well known. Carl Joseph Meyer, the son of a Gotha shoemaker, was born in Gotha’s Querstraße on 6 April 1796. Following a commercial apprenticeship in Frankfurt am Main, he took over the management of this father’s textile goods business and worked as a trading assistant and English teacher later on. He founded the world-famous “Bibliographisches Institut” in Gotha on 1 August 1826 and published the “Bibliothek der Deutschen Klassiker” with 150 volumes in the same year. The successful series of atlases followed shortly after. He topped off his creative works with the issue of a “Great encyclopaedia” in 52 volumes, mainly known under the title “Meyer’s Lexikon” today.

As a committed publicist and campaigner for universal public education, he later published the “Meyers Universum” reference work in 17 volumes and his “Groschenbibliothek”.

He worked at his publishing company and on producing his extensive publishing programme until the end of his life in 1856. It can be said with a clear conscience that Josef Meyer is one of the most important publishers in Germany in the first half of the 19th century.