On 1 December 1800 the conductor and composer Franz Anton Hoffmeister (1754-1812)entered into partnership with the bookseller and organist Ambrosius Kühnel (1770-1813) for the purpose of establishing a 'Bureau de Musique' in Leipzig. This initial venture extended its activities to printing and music engraving as well as including publishing facilities combined with the sale of musical instruments and sheet music. The publishing side of the business was launched with collections of Haydn's String Quartets, Mozart's Quartets and Quintets as well as the first edition of J.S. Bach's Keyboard Works in 14 volumes to which J.N. Forkel contributed the first Bach monograph ever to be written. As early as 1802, the publishers succeeded in acquiring piano and chamber music from Beethoven, in addition to the composer's First Symphony and Second Piano Concerto.
Carl Friedrich Peters
In 1806 the business passed into the sole ownership of A. Kühnel when it was officially registered under the name 'Neuer Verlag des Bureau de Musique'. Forkel augmented the Bach series by the addition of the composer's Organ Works. Other additions comprised Gerber's Dictionary of Musicians and educational works for piano and violin written by celebrated Viennese/Parisian academicians of the day. In 1812 the range was enhanced by works representative of the early Romantic School, such as those of Weber and Spohr.Following Kühnel's untimely death, the firm was acquired by the Leipzig bookseller Carl Friedrich Peters (1779-1827), who traded from 1 April 1814 under the name 'Bureau de Musique de C.F. Peters'. Despite the economic malaise that followed the War of Liberation (1813-15), catalogues were issued by the publisher, new additions being Theodor Körner's War Songs and John Field's Nocturnes. Negotiations conducted with Beethoven involving the publication of a complete edition of the composer's works fell through.
After a long illness, C.F. Peters died in 1827. The business went to his seven-year-old daughter and was acquired from her in 1828 by her Guardian, the manufacturer Carl Gotthelf Siegmund Böhme (1785-1855). A great lover of music, Böhme widened the publishing activities with a large number of new acquisitions besides attracting Carl Czerny to the staff as editor of the Bach series, including the Solo Concertos, Brandenburg Concertos, the Orchestral Suites and the Art of Fugue. Böhme also played an active role in the formation of the first confederation of music publishers for the purpose of securing legal protection. A most influential body, this alliance included such names as André, Breitkopf & Härtel, Hofmeister, Peters, Schott and Simrock.In compliance with Böhme's last will and testament, the business was converted into a charitable foundation under the control and supervision of the Leipzig City Council. During this period the business was managed by Theodor Whistling, but when he resigned in 1860 the Board of Administrators resolved to dispose of the firm to the bookseller and music dealer, Julius Friedländer. Friedländer introduced substantial improvements to the process of music engraving and drew the attention of the public to 'cheap yet critically accurate editions'.
In 1863, Dr. Max Abraham (1831-1900) became partner, assuming active management. Pursuing definite aims, Max Abraham, who became sole proprietor in 1880, succeeded in realizing two ideas that gave new far-reaching aspects to music publishing: Edition Peters and the Peters Music Library. Originally, publications in Edition Peters were distinguished by the use of lime green covers for editions that were not affected by copyright restrictions, while pink covers were used for original works acquired by the publisher that were. Today, however, this distinction is less rigidly observed across the Peters Group. From the time of their first appearance in 1867, these editions were regarded as a universal token of quality in the music profession. The Peters Music Library, a unique musicological reference library (access to which was granted to everyone free of charge) was founded in 1894, a foundation being created to provide for its continuance. Peters Music Library Year Books published from 1894, and contributed to by leading musicologists, gained world fame as sources of invaluable reference.
The range of works published in Edition Peters underwent a rapid process of expansion. In addition to the growing number of classics in the form of instrumental, vocal and choral works appearing in scores, piano reductions and other forms, the Edition was complemented with many original works written by contemporary composers of the time, including d'Albert, Brahms, Bruch, Busoni, Dvorák, Flotow, Franz, Goldmark, Gade, Grieg, Liszt, Loewe, Lortzing, Meyerbeer, Moszkowski, Raff, Sinding, Smetana, Vieuxtemps and Wagner. Dr. Abraham named his nephew Henri Hinrichsen (1868-1942) as his successor who, after starting as confidential clerk in 1891, had meanwhile become a partner.
After Dr. Abraham's death in 1900, Henri Hinrichsen continued to manage the enterprise as sole proprietor, achieving considerable success. Among the most important acquisitions were Wolf's Lieder, the Kaiserliederbuch, works by Mahler, Reger, Pfitzner, Schoenberg, the J. Rieter-Biedermann Publishing House (founded in Winterthur in 1849) and seven Symphonic Poems by Richard Strauss. The publication of Urtext editions of the classics was developed considerably during this period. In 1931 the eldest son, Max Hinrichsen (1901-1965), became a partner. The next two sons, Walter Hinrichsen (1907-1969) and Dr. Hans-Joachim Hinrichsen (1909-1940) also occupied executive positions in the company.
Max Hinrichsen went to London in 1937 where he established Hinrichsen Edition Limited and introduced his own independent series of publications comprising editions of old English masters, educational works, the Musical Year Book and contemporary literature. A much-respected figure in London's musical circles, he also acted for a time as impresario, organizing and promoting concerts and musical artists. Some time after Max Hinrichsen's death the company was renamed Peters Edition Ltd., the name it bears today, making more evident its role as a publisher of Edition Peters. Not long thereafter the Hinrichsen Foundation was established as its beneficial shareholder, with the purpose of distributing its profits in the form of grants to qualifying individuals and musical organizations. The firm has played a significant role in the constant renewal of the edition while maintaining a commitment to the publishing of contemporary music.
In 1939 Geheimrat Dr. Henri Hinrichsen and Dr. Hans-Joachim Hinrichsen were forced to yield to the Nazi Regime and the Leipzig company was confiscated and administered by the so-called Trustee of Jewish Property. Walter Hinrichsen had emigrated to the United States in 1936, but along with many other members of the family, neither Dr. Henri Hinrichsen nor Dr. Hans-Joachim Hinrichsen survived the Holocaust.From 1939 the Leipzig company was managed by Dr. Johannes Petschull. In 1940 he acquired the firm of Henry Litolff's Verlag (Braunschweig) on behalf of C.F. Peters, and relocated it to Leipzig. After the end of the war he eventually received a license from the Soviet military authority to continue publishing. However, in 1948 the firm was formally confiscated by the East German authorities and turned into a state owned and managed enterprise. During the subsequent forty years, driven by goals and disciplines quite different from those of the western companies, it built on its background by producing a large number of high quality Urtext editions and was notable for a very substantial publishing program of contemporary Eastern European composers.
Following his appointment as U.S. Music Officer for the American Zone in Germany from 1945 through 1947, Walter Hinrichsen founded C.F. Peters Corporation in New York in 1948. Owing to the atmosphere of uncertainty in Germany, he set about reprinting the main works in Edition Peters, followed shortly afterwards by the publication of contemporary U.S. composers, many of them today ranking among the most prominent. Within the American music publishing field, he achieved legendary status for his unstinting support of his composers and his tireless efforts to generate enthusiasm for their works. Simultaneously Max Hinrichsen was republishing Edition Peters in London. This subsequently caused a famous case in the English High Court that confirmed the inheritance of Edition Peters by the surviving Hinrichsen heirs. C.F. Peters Corporation, New York, remains one of the premiere publishing houses of America with an unrivalled history of involvement in and support for American contemporary music.
In 1971 the management of M.P. Belaieff, founded in 1885 in Leipzig, passed into the hands of the Frankfurt house of C.F. Peters. Along with it came an exhaustive repertoire of Russian composers ranging from the national era down to the present day. Further expansion was made in 1974 when the Schwann Edition, part of the Schwann publishing concern (originally founded in Neuss and headquartered in Düsseldorf since 1878) was acquired. In 1989 the Frankfurt house acquired the firm of C.F. Kahnt, founded in 1851 and widely recognized for its publication of Gustav Mahler.
Following the reunification of Germany in 1989, the Leipzig firm came into the hands of C.F. Peters, Frankfurt. although most of the activities of the company have since been transferred to Frankfurt, a small Peters office remains today in Leipzig as a sign of the Peters companies' deep respect for the rich heritage from which they sprang and an invaluable source of information on their rather unusual history.
Today's catalogues clearly reflect the development that has taken place since the Second World War. Each of the companies has undertaken a substantial share of the production of the Edition Peters catalogue; each has in addition developed its own contemporary publishing policy in ways most appropriate for its own field of activity. Today the companies work very closely together, managing their activities so as to maintain and develop the Peters tradition for today's world on behalf of their composers and customers. Between them they make available on a global basis over 15,000 titles ranging from the renaissance to the avant-garde compositions of today.