THE HISTORY OF SPRINGER PUBLISHING COMPANY Ursula Springer New York: Springer Publishing Company, 2008, 224 pp., $70.00
An external observer of the passing scene may assume that a successful business runs itself and is impervious to human forces. If you believe that, and want to grasp reality instead, read this book.
ROOTS IN GERMAN HISTORY
In this work, Ursula Springer, who stepped down after 25 years as President of Springer Publishing Company (the publisher of this very Journal) in 2004, offers us readers a complex historical tale. Issues dealt with include, for example, a compact history of Germany from the mid-19th century through two world wars and to the postwar era and the pernicious forces that demanded of middle-class German Jews in the business world of 19th century Germany that they "convert" to Christianity.
Intense, often bitter, family dynamics of the Springer family are offered, straightforwardly. For those curious about the differences today between Springer and Springer-Verlag, this is where you can read all about it. In summary, the modest publishing empire of the Springers grew and divided several times over multiple generations and included business wars between brothers. This set of issues was harshly exaggerated by the distances (not only geographical) between Germany and the United States. Bernhard Springer established the present company, which is based in New York City in 1950.
THE AUTHOR'S TALE
Much of the interest for readers flows from the author's own story. Dr. Springer, prior to marrying Bernhard Springer in 1963, had created a highly successful career in academia. After receiving her PhD from Columbia University, she became a tenured professor at Brooklyn College and was a recognized authority in the field of education. The following is a characteristic of the author's particular style, with her personal touch, pride, and sensitivity:
One year I was head of the City University's Teacher Education Group. I had to give a formal speech that I prepared well. I brought a new white dress for the occasion . . . I largely read from my notes (they were quite good). At the end, I stepped away from the lectern toward the few steps to the main floor. Bernhard rose from his chair-the first row- walked toward me to help me down the steps, and kissed my hand in a European tradition of grace. I was touched by pride and joy. And many a colleague would remind me later of that scene-women saying they envy me for a husband who kissed my hand. (p. 59)
BERNHARD SPRINGER'S DEATH: 1970; THE FATE OF THE COMPANY
Bernhard died in 1970 of glioblastoma, a malignant brain tumor. They had been married for 7 years. Ursula, faced with the emotional consequences of the death of her husband, also was forced to deal with a major business decision regarding the fate of the company, and without delay. In addition, should she abandon her hard earned and distinguished academic position? Readers of this review, think about the challenge. Ursula was now the sole owner.
There were several inquiries about whether I would sell the company, accompanied by invitations to lunch. My answer was, "You can buy me lunch, but not Springer Publishing Company" (p. 75).
. . . A new phase of life started for me. …