This company came into being on December 1, 1800 when the Viennese composer Franz Anton Hoffmeister (1754-1812) and the local organist Ambrosius Kühnel (1770-1813) opened a concern in Leipzig known as the "Bureau de Musique." Along with publishing, the new firm included an engraving and printing works and a retail shop for selling printed music and instruments. The very first music published included chamber works by Haydn and Mozart, plus a 14-volume collected edition of keyboard works by Leipzig's own J. S. Bach, who was nearly forgotten by that time. When Hofmeister departed for Vienna in 1805, the young firm had already issued several works by the emerging Viennese composer, Ludwig Van Beethoven (Opp. 19-22; 39-42). Kühnel continued publishing new works, adding those of composers, Daniel Gottlob Türk, Tomasek, and Louis Spohr, who would have a long relationship with the firm.
After Kühnel's death, the enterprise was sold to Carl Friedrich Peters (1779-1827), a Leipzig bookseller. Despite difficuties arising from the aftermath of war (1813) and depression, Peters managed to add new works by Weber, Hummel, Klengel, and Ries to the growing catalog along with his name (now "Bureau de Musique C. F. Peters") before his death. The next owner was a manufacturer, Carl Gotthelf Siegmund Böhme (1785-1855), who published many works of J. S. Bach after the revival of interest in his work with the assistance of Carl Czerny, Siegfried Dehn, F. C. Griepenkerl and Moritz Hauptmann. Ownership of the company was transferred to a charity run by the City of Leipzig for a short period after Böhme's death (1855-1860).
A new era began with the sale of the company to a Berlin music and book retailer, Julius Friedländer, on April 21, 1860. By 1863, Friedländer took on a partner, Dr. Max Abraham (1831-1900), who was instrumental in transforming the firm into a major international publisher. Abraham recognized the vast potential in improvements to music printing that were introduced by the Leipzig engraver Carl Gottlieb Röder, launching the famous "Edition Peters" inprint in 1867. This series competed vigorously with Breitkopf und Härtel's similar Volksausgabe (People's edition) series, launched at exactly the same time. Two color schemes were used for the covers of this revolutionary inexpensive series: a light green cover for works of earlier composers not affected by copyright restrictions; and pink covers for new, original works acquired by Peters or licensed from other publishers. By 1880, the year Abraham took over the directorship, Peters became increasingly active in issuing new works by contemporary composers of the era. By 1900, fresh works from composers like Brahms, Bruch, Grieg, Köhler, Moszkowski, Reger, Sinding and Wagner greatly enriched the catalog.
Abraham's successor was his nephew, Henri Hinrichsen (1868-1942), who added the works of composers like Mahler, Pfitzner, Reger, Schoenberg, and Wolf. The works of Richard Strauss that were originally issued by Joseph Aibl (later Universal) were acquired by Hinrichsen for Peters in 1932. Hinrichsen's sons Max (1901-1965), Walter (1907-1969), and Hans-Joachim (1909-1940) all entered the business in the 1930s. With the advent of the Nazi regime in Germany, Max Hinrichsen moved to London, where in 1938 he founded Hinrichsen Edition (renamed Edition Peters London in 1975). His brother Walter moved to New York where he founded C. F. Peters Corp. in 1948. By 1940, the Nazi regime forced Henri and Hans-Joachim Hinrichsen to turn over the company to Johannes Petschull (1901-2001), who later established the Frankfurt company in 1950 in an uncomfortable partnership with the Hinrichsen heirs Walter and Max.
In spite of suffering as much damage as other Leipzig publishers from Allied aerial bombing during the war, Peters' Leipzig facility was re-opened in 1947 and transferred to state ownership of the East German regime by 1949. Its first director was Georg Hillner, who was succeeded by musicologist Bernd Pachnicke in 1969. During the communist era, Peters Leipzig issued contemporary works of East German composers like Dessau, Eisler, and Geisler along with those of Soviet composers like Khachaturian and Shostakovich in addition to a fair number of urtext editions of works by Beethoven, Chopin, Fauré, Mahler, Scriabin, and Vivaldi, among others. Following German reunification in 1989, the Leipzig concern was absorbed by the Frankfurt firm, who had acquired the catalogues of M.P. Belaieff (1971), Schwann (1974) and C.F. Kahnt (1989). This resulted disputes over the ownership of the Leipzig concern, which came under the control of the Frankfurt company in 1993.
Various attempts were made to unify the separate Peters firms which had emerged since 1937. Nicholas Riddle, Managing Director of the London company from 1995, realized the three separate firms needed a common ownership and investment in new technology to continue to thrive in the rapidly changing climate of the 21st century. The three companies - Peters Edition Ltd. (London), the C.F. Peters Corporation (New York), the C.F. Peters Musikverlag (Frankfurt/Main) and the Leipzig firm of the Edition Peters at least united in August 2010 to form the Edition Peters Group after the departure of the Petschull heirs. The majority owners of this new group are the Hinrichsen Foundation with the remaining portion owned by Christian Hinrichsen, the grandson of Walter. The steering committee consists of a board led by Nicholas Riddle. At the beginning of 2013, Peters bought back the "Musikbibliothek Peters". Due to this event, it was decided to concentrate the two German branches in one place and at the end of June 2014, the Frankfurt branch (C.F. Peters Ltd & Co. KG) closed its doors, moving back to Leipzig, the place where it all started two centuries before. As for the new name of the company a new logo and layout might be expected in the near future.
Peters is notorious for the practice of affixing "scarecrow" copyright notices to later printings of works first published well before 1900, perhaps the absolute worst of any European publisher. This unfortunate practice already was well under way during by Nazi era of 1933-45 and seems to have only accelerated in those years. Any Peters copyright claim for an edition published before World War II, unless it is for a new work published the very first time, should be regarded as highly dubious. Hopefully, the compilation of Edition and plate number data linked below, along with confirmed publication dates, will greatly facilitate the correct dating of Peters issues. Below are some general tips about Peters scores and the process of dating any particular copy. Such false notices, apparently added to obscure the facts of the original date of publication, are actually a violation of U.S. Copyright law (unfortunately only very rarely prosecuted).