March 14, 2019
The founding of Schiffer Publishing was a gradual process started when the research for Chester County, Pennsylvania, Inventories 1684-1850, by Margaret Schiffer, was discovered in a box in a basement in 1973. The study had been made at the Chester County Historical Society in West Chester, Pennsylvania for the author’s personal interest. She had also published Furniture and its Makers of Chester County, Pennsylvania with the University of Pennsylvania Press in 1966. But when the inventory research was discovered, it seemed to the author’s son Peter, who was an antiques dealer with his father Herbert, and to Peter’s wife Nancy, who was a historical museum curator, that the information the research contained would be of interest to their clients for historical interpretation of antique furniture and accessories used in Chester County. Schiffer Publishing was started in 1974 to mimeograph, ring bind, and distribute that book, and to bring out-of-print historical books about antiques back into circulation. About the same time, Herbert and Peter had written a book about Chinese export porcelain, which they handled in the antiques business, and had sent the manuscript to a small publisher. When that publisher went out of business, before their book was completed, Schiffer Publishing took it on as another project.
After closing their antiques business in Exton, Pennsylvania, each day, Peter and Nancy would come home and work on preparing the books at their kitchen table. As their family grew, they began to write and produce a few books a year and sell them at the antique shows where they showed their inventory of antiques. The company gradually brought out books on clocks, county history, ceramics, ironwork, mirrors, and miniature furniture.
Printing of the early books was farmed out to private printers and, when the print-runs were deemed sufficient, to Science Press in Ephrata, Pennsylvania. As the books inventory grew and storage in the basement of the antiques shop was filled to capacity, after digging out the basement for more headroom, the barn on the farm where the Schiffers lived in West Chester, was converted in 1980, to relocate both the antiques shop and offices and a storage facility for books.
Family members worked together in the antiques business while growing the publishing efforts. In 1984, Peter became the first employee of Schiffer Publishing and in 1985 Nancy became the second. Publishing grew and more employees were hired for distinct responsibilities; typesetters, editors, and shipping room workers joined the team. In the same year, a separate warehouse building was constructed at the West Chester farm to store the growing books inventory.
By 1992, publishing was growing well, and a new facility was built in Atglen, Pennsylvania, where it resides today, with offices and a larger and more efficient warehouse. The focus of the team became books in niche areas of interest with high-quality information and excellent images.
Art papers and special bindings were used more frequently to produce useful references for long-lasting use. The catalogs of Schiffer books grew in size and diversity of subjects. Military history became a separate catalog with its own editors and audience. Arts and crafts how-to books became a distinct subject area. Lifestyle, New Age, architecture, interior design, regional, and supernatural subjects grew in numbers as editors concentrated on their specific areas of expertise. Books for children emerged and found a new audience.
In 2009, Cornell Maritime Press/Tidewater Publishers, of Centreville, Maryland, was acquired, bringing to Schiffer Publishing more books in many of its previous interest areas as well as new subjects: for example, texts for the Maritime academies and industries, Chesapeake Bay regional titles for adults and children, and historical books about the mid-Atlantic states. The subjects continue to expand.
With growth came a transition of leadership to the next generation, as Pete Schiffer heads the company today. He has instituted creative marketing ideas that include a MAP program (Minimal Advertised Pricing) with the Schiffer LTD imprint. We look forward to our future evolution, with great authors, exciting subject areas, and books that make us proud.
The Schiffer Publishing offices, and a complete library, are open to the public during normal business hours, with over 5,000 titles available to browse and/or purchase.
Decks published by Schiffer Publishing: