Johann Friedrich Steffenhagen (1744–1812) became the court printer for the Duke of Kurzeme (Courland) in 1769. By introducing new business principles he soon also became the leading publisher in the region and especially a leading figure in publishing books in Latvian. His and his descendants' ability to choose which books to print and perceive readers' wishes, to keep up with the latest in contemporary printing and book design, as well as his energetic, entrepreneurial temperament made the Steffenhagen publishing and printing house one of the success stories of its time.
The Steffenhagen publishing house has particular significance in the history of the Baltic Enlightenment and in the formation of early Latvian literary culture because it furthered the education of Latvians. While the Steffenhagens also printed books in Russian, German, Estonian, Lithuanian, Polish, French, Latin, Greek and Hebrew, the business achieved most of its success through printing books in Latvian – religious books, secular literature, newspapers, almanacs, textbooks.
The Rare Book and Manuscript Collection at the National Library of Latvia contains unique documents from the company's archives that reveal the Steffenhagens' business history. The documents show how free-market principles came into book publishing in Kurzeme during the Enlightenment. The exhibition offers access to documents from the Steffenhagen archives and family-history resources, and the books they published over a period of 150 years. The J.F. Stefenhāgens un dēls (and Son) publishing company operated in Jelgava from 1769 until 1919.
Exhibition catalogue is available for purchase at the souvenir shop (Friends Room) on Level 1. Price 8 EUR .
Venue: Exhibition Hall, Level 5
Researchers and writers:
Pauls Daija, Lilija Limane
Kristiāna Kirša, Anda Boluža
Ainārs Egle, Jevgenijs Sisojevs