Supplementary Appendix: Leipzig Trade Fairs

The Leipzig Trade Fairs [*]


In its simplest form, the schedule for the commencement of the Leipzig trade fairs was as follows:

1. New Year.
2. Jubilate.
3. Sunday after Michaelmas;
  should Michaelmas fall on a Sunday,
  the fair began eight days (a week) thereafter. [1]

(1) Allgemeiner und besonders Hamburgischer Contorist, 3rd/4th ed., vol. 1 (Hamburg 1782), 248:

Three great trade fairs are held annually in Leipzig: New Year, Easter, and Michaelmas, each lasting altogether fourteen days.

The New Year’s Trade Fair begins on New Year’s Day; should that day fall on a Sunday, however, the fair will begin on the following day, i.e., on Monday, 2 January.

The Easter or Jubilate Trade Fair commences on the afternoon of Jubilate Sunday, and thus 3 weeks after Easter.

The Michaelmas Trade Fair begins on the afternoon of the Sunday following 29 September, when the feast of St. Michael is celebrated.

(2) A. B. Reichenbach, Neuester Wegweiser durch Leipzig und seine Umgegend (Leipzig n.d.[1854]), 173–74:

Apart from the woolen fair, which is held on the second day after the Dresden woolen fair, Leipzig holds three trade fairs. Each lasts 3 weeks, of which the first week is named “Cooper Week” prior to the ringing of the commencement bell. It is during that week that primary business is conducted, indeed so! the en gros transactions are usually even concluded prior to this week. The trade-fair week as such is proclaimed by the ringing of the bell on the town hall at 12:00, and then concluded by that same ringing eight days [one week] later at 12:00. It begins for the New Year’s Trade Fair on 1 January, for the Easter Trade Fair on the third Sunday (Jubilate) after Easter, and for the Michaelmas Trade Fair on the Sunday after Michaelmas [29 September], and should the latter fall on a Sunday, then 8 days [one week] thereafter. It is in this week alone that trade-fair freedom in the strict sense obtains. The third week, or “payment week,” lasts the next 8 days [one week] after the concluding bell-ringing and derives its name from the fact that it is primarily during this particular week that payment transactions are determined. Prior to the beginning of the trade fair, that is, prior to the commencement of Cooper’s Week, no nonresident is allowed to display his firms, under penalty of 50 Thaler. It is still the wares and goods after Easter that primarily draw the attention of buyers, which is also why shoppers reckoned among the so-called Greek trade are especially welcome guests. Such include also the Jewish shoppers especially from the Moldau region, who take care of orders for houses in Constantinople, Thessalonica, etc. The so-called Persians from Tiflis or Grusia, with their distinguished cash shipments, are reckoned among the premier shoppers. . . . [Payments, exchange rates.] The steed or horse market is associated with the Easter and New Year’s trade fairs and is conducted on the Rossmarkt, where between 200 and 400 luxury horses are sold, though recently this particular market has quite declined.

[Christian Gottfried Heinrich Geissler, Leipziger Meßscenen (Scenes from the Leipzig trade fair), 3 vols. (Leipzig 1804–5).]


The booksellers’ trade fair begins during the second week of the Easter fair and lasts almost to Whitsuntide.

[Here the booksellers during the fair (see also below), doubtless the most important part of the fair for Caroline and her acquaintances; from Christian Gottfried Heinrich Geissler, Die Leipziger Messe im Bilde der Vergangenheit (Leipzig [after] 1840); Sächsische Landesbibliothek – Staats- und Universitätsbibliothek Dresden (SLUB).]


(3) Noël Chomel, Gottfried Bürgel, Die wahren Mittel, Länder und Staaten glücklich, Ihre Beherrscher mächtig, und die Unterthanen reichen zu machen . . . Oeconomisch- und Physicalisches Lexicon, sowohl vor Grosse Herren, als Privat-Personen, vol. 6 (Leipzig 1754), 109–10:

Finally, alongside the aforementioned Stapelrecht [see below], the town also holds three grand and wonderful trade fairs, each lasting 14 days, namely, (1) the New Year’s Trade Fair; (2) the Easter or Jubilate Trade Fair; and (3) the Michaelmas Trade Fair, all of which, given the indescribable throng of both native and foreign business and trades people who assemble there alongside other persons of both high and low standing, turn the town into one of the grandest and most complete trade and business locales at least in all of Germany. The New Year’s fair begins on New Year’s Day, or, should that fall on a Sunday, on the next day, that is, the following Monday, and lasts altogether 14 days, of which the last 7 days are called the “payment week,” during which all letters of exchange must be discharged and paid by the 12 January, nor is any protestation acknowledged as valid except till 10:00 in the evening. The Michaelmas trade fair always begins on the Sunday after this feast day; if the feast day itself falls on a Sunday, then the fair does not begin until eight days [a week] thereafter, though if the feast day falls on a weekday, then the fair begins on the following Sunday after the feast day, and then similarly lasts for 14 days, including the payment week, during the latter of which similarly all the exchange notes of Thursday must be paid, and no protestation can occur later than 10:00 in the evening , nor be acknowledged as valid. If on the aforementioned day the beginning of the fair itself has been publicly proclaimed by the ringing of bells, then during the following four initial days the acceptance of exchanges notes specified for such fairs takes place, and during the New Years Fair such can take place at latest the day prior to the conclusion of the market through the ringing of bells, which always occurs on the eighth day; during the Easter and Michaelmas fairs, however, such applies up to Friday morning around 10:00, otherwise there must be a protestation. From this conclusion onward, signaled by the ringing of bells, and up to the fifth day, payment — both per rescontro and cash — must be effected, otherwise, as mentioned above, protestation is to be made.

(4) John Murray (publishers), Murray’s Hand-Book: Northern Germany. A Handbook for Travellers on the Continent: Being a guide to Holland, Belgium, Prussia, Northern Germany, and the Rhine from Holland to Switzerland, 16th rev. ed. (London 1868), 465–66:

Three Fairs are held here annually; — at Easter (Oster Messe, beginning on the 2nd [!] Sunday after Easter), which is the most important. At Michaelmas (beginning 1st Sunday after Michaelmas day), and the Neujahr Messe (beginning on New Year’s day), the least important. They last three weeks, and while they continue, Leipzig is the mart and exchange of central Europe, and is visited by merchants and foreigners from the most distant parts of the globe, sometimes to the number of its actual population. The money transactions at one time amounted to 80 millions of dollars annually, though of late they have fallen short of this sum. The streets and squares are then occupied by temporary booths, in addition to the ordinary shops, in which goods of all kinds are exposed for sale. Every hotel and lodging-house is filled to overflowing; the streets are thronged with strange costumes and faces; Jews from Poland, Tyrolese, Americans, and even Persians from Teflis, Armenians, Turks, and Greeks, are mingled together as in a masquerade.

[Here the arrival of Polish Jews: from Christian Gottfried Heinrich Geissler, Die Leipziger Messe im Bilde der Vergangenheit (Leipzig [after] 1840); Sächsische Landesbibliothek – Staats- und Universitätsbibliothek Dresden (SLUB).]


[The mingling of guests; Christian Gottfried Heinrich Geissler, Leipziger Meßscenen (Scenes from the Leipzig trade fair), 3 vols. (Leipzig 1804–5).]


And most of the countries of Europe send representatives hither with their produce. 300 or 400 guests sit down daily to the table-d’hôte of some of the principal hotels; gardens and coffee-houses are thronged.

The sale of books forms one of the most important branches of commerce here; it alone is said to amount to 10 millions of francs yearly. In fact, the whole book-trade of Germany is centred on the spot, and every bookseller in Germany and the adjoining countries has an agent here. 600 booksellers sometimes assemble at the Easter Fair, to settle their annual accounts and purchases, and there are 130 residents and 40 printing-offices.

[Christian Gottfried Heinrich Geissler, Leipziger Meßscenen (Scenes from the Leipzig trade fair), 3 vols. (Leipzig 1804–5).]


They have an Exchange of their own, called the Deutsche Buchhändler Börse, where they meet and transact business.

(5) Leonard A. Wheatley, “Leipzig Book Fair and the German Book Trade,” The Bibliographer: A Journal of Book-Lore 6 (1884) September, 94–96, here 94–95:

The Book Trade of Germany differs from both that of England and that of France not only in its extent but also in its character; for while with few exceptions the books of this country appear in London, and while the majority of French books are issued in Paris, there is hardly a town of importance in Germany that does not contain several publishers. However, though Germany has no centre of production, it has a centre of distribution, and from Leipzig books of the weight of over 7000 tons are sent out annually. In this town is kept a stock of the publications of over 1430 German publishers, and the business is carried on by means of 131 commission agents, who represent 5400 booksellers. Here is held annually the Easter fair, which is largely attended, and where business is transacted to an amount exceeding a million pounds sterling. The important position now held by Leipzig had formerly belonged to Frankfort, but the arbitrary actions of the Imperial Council had driven away most of the publishers from that town; while the more liberal arrangements of the Saxon government attracted them to Leipzig, and its fairs were much attended. Fairs were held at Michaelmas and Easter, and for a short period at the opening of the new year, but eventually the Easter fair was the only one to which the booksellers repaired.

The publishers of Leipzig, who were increasing in number and importance, felt the demand of the Council for three copies of every book brought to the Frankfort fair too great an imposition, and stayed away, and only three of them attended it in 1728.

In 1764 the booksellers of North Germany decided that they would visit Leipzig alone, and in the following year the first union of booksellers was formed, which in 1825 became the Börsenverein (Exchange Union), and which held its first annual meeting April 23rd, 1826, with 258 members and a property of less than twenty-five pounds. The necessity of a union for mutual protection arose from all the various states having their own privileges and only defending the copyright of their own countrymen. The booksellers of Leipzig have a union of their own; in 1811 they elected deputies who acted as a committee, presented petitions to government and made treaties with it. This arrangement was continued until 1830, when a firmer organisation being thought necessary, the Leipzig-Verein was founded, and held its first meeting February 25th, 1833.

(6) Granville Stanley Hall, Aspects of German Culture (Boston 1881), 73–79:

In spite of all that has been so long said and sung about the Fatherland, German patriotism has still a very provincial aspect, of which much less has been heard. Munich, Dresden, Hanover, Berlin, and, in fact, most of the larger and older capitals, are yet popularly represented by distinct types of character — or rather of disposition — universally recognized, and, indeed, cultivated with no little complacency. No type, however, is more marked than that of the gemüthliche Sachsen; and no one is fonder or prouder of his city, dialect, folk-festivals, ancient customs, etc., than the average inhabitant of Leipzig. It has been half-humorously known all over Germany for half a century as the little (klee) Paris. Since its population reached one hundred thousand, about 1870, it is designated as a Gross-stadt; and as its inhabitants are descended from very varied nationalities, and its institutions attract a great number of foreigners, it is quite cosmopolitan, or a Weltstadt. It is, moreover, pre-eminently a Cultur-stadt, or “the German Athens.” Yet it is a rather dirty, unhealthy city, with an atmosphere full of dust and smoke, and with only surface-drainage for many of its streets. It fills but a small space in the guidebooks, and is uninviting and for the most part unknown to the general traveller. Perhaps no city is less adapted to be “done” in a few days by tourists, as Dresden, for example, which is all on the surface, may so well be.

On the other hand, Leipzig is the centre of the German book-trade, with nearly fifty printing-houses, over two hundred bookstores, and a unique booksellers’ exchange. It was the home of Bach, and here his music is best performed. It is the stronghold of Wagnerism; and the great maestro himself, more than once, has personally directed the production of his Nibelungen trilogy here. The new and magnificently equipped opera-house, the Conservatory of Music, the famous Gewandhaus concerts, etc., altogether make Leipzig — if the verdict of its inhabitants is impartial — the musical capital of the world. Homoeopathy and the German scientific agriculture originated here, and are commemorated by monuments of Hahnemann and Thaer. Its university had last semester about four thousand students, and it is rivalled only by that of Berlin. There are certain streets and restaurants where, I have been told, every other man was a professor, an author, or a critic more or less known to fame. Leipzig is in a peculiar sense the cunabula of German socialism and spiritualism. . . .

Meanwhile business has developed a friendly competition with culture, and pressed art and literature to an unusual extent into its service. The history of great firms, descriptions of all sorts of technical processes, and monuments to signalize great financial enterprises, have been admirably finished. The greatest of the annual Messen, or fairs, lasting four weeks, closed yesterday, and attracted over fifty thousand visitors the first day. These, while fostered by some, are, again, in the liveliest competition with other business interests. Every country in Europe is represented, and a few traders from Smyrna and Tunis are reported.

[Christian Gottfried Heinrich Geissler, Leipziger Meßscenen (Scenes from the Leipzig trade fair), 3 vols. (Leipzig 1804–5).]


The town puts on a holiday appearance. Every theatre and concert-hall increases its attractions. Hotels double their prices, and excursion-trains run in all directions at reduced rates. Very many poor students take good rooms at very moderate terms on condition of sleeping in an attic or a hall during the fair, while their places are taken by strangers who are charged high prices. The criminal class is numerously represented among the visitors; and the number of police, post-office, and freight officials is nearly doubled.

In the eleventh century, tradespeople who came from the environs to attend the masses at Easter and Michaelmas took occasion to offer their wares for sale at the close of divine service in the market near by. Soon after, the town decreed that all goods, which, in being despatched from one place to another, had to traverse the great public turnpikes within a radius of sixty miles must be brought to Leipzig, and exposed for sale there for at least three days. This prerogative — Stapelrecht — was repeatedly confirmed to Leipzig by emperors and popes. September and April became very conveniently the great market months. Protestantism eliminated the mass, and war and pestilence and the influence of hard times, or rival markets, now mostly extinct, have repeatedly depressed or interrupted the Messen; but the construction of railroads has given them new life. Preparations are begun weeks beforehand. The city has farmed out to a few agents the right to erect and rent the booths. These are little shanties of from perhaps six to fifteen feet square, made of boards nailed together, a whole side sometimes in a single piece, so that half a dozen can be loaded on to a wagon. In this way they are put up and taken down, and packed in the storehouses, with great rapidity. Between eight and nine hundred of them were occupied last month. The large public squares are covered with them, and every court and passage all over the centre of the town is filled with goods and boxes.

[Here the market square in Leipzig during the trade fair ca. 1844; “Der Marktplatz in Leipzig,” Illustrirte Zeitung (Leipzig 1844).]


[Another view; from Christian Gottfried Heinrich Geissler, Die Leipziger Messe im Bilde der Vergangenheit (Leipzig [after] 1840); Sächsische Landesbibliothek – Staats- und Universitätsbibliothek Dresden (SLUB).]


First comes the wholesale leather market, in which much haggling about the weather is always heard, as a moist air increases the weight of dry-tanned hides. Then cloth, which used to be exhibited in the Gewandhaus (as its name indicates), has its turn. Porcelain, glass, and earthenware traffic lasts longer. The fur-trade in a single market-week, I am told, has sometimes amounted to several million marks; and its storehouses occupy a great part of what was once the Jewish quarter.

[The leather market; from Christian Gottfried Heinrich Geissler, Die Leipziger Messe im Bilde der Vergangenheit (Leipzig [after] 1840); Sächsische Landesbibliothek – Staats- und Universitätsbibliothek Dresden (SLUB).]


The common pottery-wares, so indispensable in every German kitchen, are exhibited in scores of cords over more than half an acre of ground. My hand has almost ached for a stone in passing these at night, and I fear the temptation would be too great for most American boys to resist. Here, however, they lie unprotected in the open air a month without injury. Many bushels of earthen dolls as big as my little finger lie on the ground in a dozen muddy piles. Much smaller stocks of marbles and scores of booths devoted to toys, which children of the poorest German parents are sure to have in such abundance, make a perfect boys’ and girls’ paradise.

In the retail booths, where trade lasts longer, almost every thing can be found. A house could be decently furnished, from kitchen and bedroom to library and parlor. Seeds, tools, scientific instruments, every sort of garment or ornament, confectionery, silk, and iron wares, can all be bought at very reasonable rates. Most of these booths are kept by women, who importune each passer to buy.

[Christian Gottfried Heinrich Geissler, Leipziger Meßscenen (Scenes from the Leipzig trade fair), 3 vols. (Leipzig 1804–5).]


One quarter is set apart for side-shows of all sorts.

[Christian Gottfried Heinrich Geissler, Leipziger Meßscenen (Scenes from the Leipzig trade fair), 3 vols. (Leipzig 1804–5).]


And near by hot sausages, cheese, fish, and beer, — each of a dozen different species, the fine points of distinction between which are so familiar to the native palate, — are sold. In the book-market all the latest publications are offered for sale at very moderate rates. The wool-market opens later. That I have never seen; but, judging from the preparations long since begun, it will be a great affair.

The struggle between the retail and wholesale manufacturers and trade, which has now become so active a “cultus” question here, can be admirably studied at the Messe. The small Dorf manufacturer of shoes, rifles, thermometers, oil-cloths, stockings, etc., realizing keenly that he has to compete with machines, generally feels that he can secure his livelihood in the future only by doing good, honest work, devising original patterns, and by persisting in meeting his customers face to face, instead of selling to a third, intermediate party. Accordingly he comes up to the market twice a year, at much loss of time, and hires his old booth in the old place, probably at an exorbitant rate.

[Christian Gottfried Heinrich Geissler, Leipziger Meßscenen (Scenes from the Leipzig trade fair), 3 vols. (Leipzig 1804–5).]


I know an old mechanic whose work is about perfect, and who is so conscientious and painstaking that he can trust no assistant or apprentice with any important part, although he has orders in advance for far more than he can do at almost triple the ordinary rates. He has been offered a large sum to allow his business to be extended under his name and supervision, but cannot bring himself to do so, because he fears the work would not be as thoroughly done as he wishes. Another, a glass-blower, who, like the late Herr Geiseler of Bonn, has already made science his debtor by the thoroughness and ingenuity with which he has more than filled the orders of a few professional patrons, persistently refuses far more tempting offers to work for the trade. I would by no means assert that such men are the rule; but they are very often found, and have given a programme to the large party of small makers and sellers here. In some respects their position is, perhaps, analogous to that of the best old farming families still found in a few New-England communities, but they are far more numerous. According to a recent reviewer, this class puts both art and conscience into business, and is the germ from which the future state will grow, while the socialists accuse the Government of adopting a policy in the new tax-laws which is likely to exterminate this party of business regeneration. The issue must, at any rate, be awaited with great interest.


[*] Though the publishing industry is the primary focus in most of the correspondence from Caroline’s life that touches on the Leipzig trade fairs, books were by no means the only commodity involved in those fairs. Though some of the following descriptions were published considerably after Caroline’s lifetime, they nonetheless provide an informative background to the Leipzig trade fairs, including the book fairs, the latter of which often play such an important role in Caroline’s correspondence and that of her acquaintances. The articles basically increase in length and complexity, providing readers an opportunity to learn more about the fairs if desired. — Initial illustration: the Leipzig trade fair ca. 1800 (contemporary illustration). Back.

[1] The manner in which various authors describe the payment and exchange schedules associated with these fairs could cause some confusion in figuring how long the fairs actually lasted. Back.

Translation © 2014 Doug Stott