For an independent publisher, hitting the 10- or 20-year anniversary mark is a major feat. For De Gruyter, a fiercely independent and mission-driven academic publisher founded in 1749, its staff is processing what it means for the company to have reached its 273rd anniversary, along with how they plan to evolve it over the next couple of years.

“I find it fascinating how it has survived through world wars, through so many historical hurdles of human history,” said Steve Fallon, v-p, Americas and strategic partnerships, at De Gruyter. “When I was approached about opening a Boston office in 2011, the company was described as kind of a sleepy, dusty organization, and then they decided to make some investments, with the idea of putting new life into the organization.” Today, De Gruyter’s backlist of 110,000 scholarly books plus its 800,000 journal articles are all available at

De Gruyter’s origins go back to Frederick the Great of Prussia’s decision to give the Königliche Realschule in Berlin permission to open a bookstore, and a mandate to publish important works of literature. It changed hands in the late 18th century, when Georg Reimer took over and formed Georg Reimer Verlag. Walter de Gruyter joined Reimer Verlag in 1894 and before the turn of the century was running the company.

Already an established publisher with authors such as Heinrich von Kleist and Johann Gottlieb Fichte, de Gruyter acquired the publishing houses Göschen, Guttentag, Trübner, and Veit and in 1919 and merged them into a new company officially called Union of Scientific Publishers Walter de Gruyter & Co. Known today simply as De Gruyter, the publisher consists of eight imprints with offices in Berlin, Basel, Beijing, Munich, Vienna, Warsaw, and most recently Boston.

“We’ve been operating under the radar, though with a very well-known brand for quality and its prestige, but also very German,” Fallon explained. “Our authors are leading academic scholars, just not ones that show up on the New York Times bestseller list on a regular basis.”

De Gruyter’s backlist includes books by Goethe, the Brothers Grimm, and Nietzsche. The company was also the first to publish American linguist and philosopher Noam Chomsky, when its Mouton imprint released his dissertation in 1957. “Chomsky’s dissertation was too forward thinking for the time and was rejected by the MIT Press,” Fallon said. “So it fell on De Gruyter to publish it.”

Aaron Sanborn-Overby, acquisitions editor at De Gruyter, said, “One of the biggest things that attracted me to De Gruyter was its independence. Its identity is a family-owned publishing house that puts its mission first.” That mission is to support scholarly research, and disseminate and promote that knowledge via a global publishing platform.

De Gruyter’s publishing strategy entails looking for books that can’t be put into defined categories, and for emerging concepts and new studies. “One of our new book series is on video games and the humanities,” said Rabea Rittgerodt, senior acquisitions editor. “It started as a Twitter thread and expanded into more incoming proposals and publications than nearly all other history series published by De Gruyter.”

De Gruyter has also been expanding its global digital distribution platform through partnerships with a variety of publishers. This effort led to the integration of thousands of digital articles into the platform, which allows the company’s partners to increase their reach and visibility. “Our goal for the company is to work with every major university press in North America,” Fallon said. “And we want to provide partnerships through global distribution, digitization, and marketing.”

De Gruyter’s digital ecosystem has grown enough to allow for the launch of a nonprofit foundation called De Gruyter eBound, which aims to make publishing even the most niche texts sustainable through subsidies and other support that promotes, as Fallon explained, “the idea of global access.”

Open access is also a publishing focus at De Gruyter. “There’s a lot of uncertainty or even misinformation about it, because you do have a lot of pay-to-publish, which is a bad thing,” Sanborn-Overby said. “The question becomes about quality and what’s being achieved by the services.” De Gruyter hopes to change any negative perceptions through continued efforts of its digital distribution and inventive partnerships.

Since the pandemic, De Gruyter has increased its outreach across academic institutions, copublishing with different presses, with an aim to be, Rittgerodt explained, “more diverse in every direction so that they may work with people from all regions, all life paths, and career stages.”

Since opening the Boston office, De Gruyter’s staff has grown from three employees to 30, and the U.S. now ranks as its second-largest market, trailing only Germany, with more growth expected. “We are going to be on a hiring spree,” Fallon said. “We’re going to create a much stronger editorial mission with our American author community over the next couple of years.” One early objective is to expand the number of publishing partners the company works with, he added.

Members of the de Gruyter family, which has been involved with the publisher for five generations now, continue to serve on its advisory boards. And while over the course of the publisher’s history, the family has embraced changes and added companies through acquisitions, they remain determined to keep it independent. “There’s never even been a discussion about being for sale,” Fallon said. “That’s always been one of our values as a publishing house, and that’s nice in this day and age.”