The Swiss printing house that started out producing Bibles half a millennium ago now makes its money from... making money.
Five hundred years ago, while sailors were setting off to conquer new continents in the name of the Spanish crown and Michelangelo was painting frescoes in Florence, the Reformation was taking place in Zurich.
But new ideas need a medium to reach new audiences, and that’s where Orell Füssli came in. Christoph Froschauer, a Bavarian, saw the opportunity and took over the small Zurich-based company, grounding their initial success on printing editions of the Zurich Bible.
Five centuries later, business is still strong, although the company has diversified. As a market leader in security printing, Orell Füssli now has a contract with the Swiss National Bank to produce counterfeit-proof notes; it also prints Swiss passports.
And yet, what has endured over the centuries are its books. In his lifetime, Froschauer himself presided over the publication of some 700 titles, some of which can be seen at a current exhibit at Zurichexternal link’s Landesmuseum (running until April 22).
Orell Füssli’s website currently offers eight million titles that can be ordered, while a network of 35 branches sell books, video games, and stationary across German-speaking Switzerland.