Collecting Rare Books and First Editions - Petermanns Geographische Mittheilungen
By Frank Werner
If you want to collect first editions of travel narratives, first mentions of certain places or peoples, or if you are simply interested in the fascinating explorations made in the second half of the 19th and early 20th century, you should look into:
Petermanns Geographische Mittheilungen
The magazine “Petermanns Geographische Mittheilungen” (PGM for short) was founded in 1855 by August Heinrich Petermann, who was a brilliant cartographer. It appeared until 2004. Most of the important discoveries made in the 19th and early 20th century were published here first, always accompanied by maps drawn by Petermann and his staff. Often, these were the very first maps of the region ever to be made. Heinrich Barth, Adolf Overweg, Nachtigall, Sven Hedin, and Alfred Wegener, to name but a few, sent their notes to Gotha in Thuringen where Petermann lived after he worked in Potsdam, Edinburgh and London . The results of the expeditions were often already published while the adventurers were still travelling. From 1860 on, Petermann supplemented the “Mittheilungen” with the “Ergänzungshefte”, which contained longer research reports, and often several maps. In a few instances, the “Ergänzungsheft” was the only publication by that author, because he died before he could write his book. Carl Mauch was one of those unhappy explorers.
From the beginning 12 instalments of the PGM appeared per year. They were usually bound up at the end of the year, mostly in the mauve boards supplied by Perthes, the publisher. The last fascicle of the year or the first of the next year contained the title and index page of the annual. Usually, the maps that accompanied the monthly instalments were bound together at the end of the volume.
The annual volumes are not that hard to find, complete runs from the very beginning to 1945 are rather more difficult to buy as a set but can be assembled. The prices for the monthly instalments range between € 25.- and € 60.-, depending on what the fascicle contains. Prices for the annuals are between € 150,- and € 250.-. So - not an expensive field, but one that has many interesting and sometimes downright fascinating details to offer. It does help, however, if you read German.
The collecting tip is presented here by permission of the author. Brockhaus / Antiquarium has recently published a special catalogue devoted to "Petermanns Geographische Mittheilungen”.