In 1892 Franz Steiner was born as the son of a print shop owner in Gräfenhainichen near Leipzig, Germany. After an apprenticeship as a typesetter, he took over the management of his father's business, which was expanded with a second print shop in 1927. Early on, Steiner began to specialize in highly demanding field of scholarly typesetting, particularly in the area of old and rare foreign languages and Middle Eastern works. As a result of this he was able to build up close ties to both the German Oriental Society (Deutsche Morgenländische Gesellschaft) and the Prussian Academy of Sciences between the two world wars, connections which would later stand him in good stead.
Although Steiner's businesses survived the Second World War undamaged, he decided to leave the Soviet occupation zone and, over 50 years old, start over again in West Germany. He was supported in this by the American military government, which had already organized the westward move of several leading publishers before withdrawing from Leipzig. Thus, in 1946 Franz Steiner was able to open an academic printing house once more in Wiesbaden, the Wiesbadener Graphische Betriebe. Many of his old employees made the move with him. In May 1949 Steiner received the license to found his own publishing company, which he named the Franz Steiner Verlag.
At this point his old connections proved invaluable. Back in the 1930s Steiner had already become acquainted with Helmuth Scheel, the director of the Prussian Academy of Sciences and of the German Oriental Society. After the war, Scheel worked to re-establish both societies in Mainz and to help found the Academy of Sciences and Literature Mainz.
The same year that his new publishing house was founded, Franz Steiner was able to sign long-term contracts with both institutions, and from the very beginning he worked closely with the Emergency Association of German Science (Notgemeinschaft der Deutschen Wissenschaft), the precursor of today's German Research Council. Among other things, he was able to purchase the West German license for the first postwar edition of the German dictionary "Duden", which had been published in Leipzig in 1947.
The new publishing house quickly took root, and Franz Steiner became a central figure in the reestablishment of scientific publishing in postwar Germany. Until his death in 1967 he remained in charge of the company, and his vision for the company's thematic focus lives on to this day.
Four years after Franz Steiner's death, his son Claus Steiner sold the firm to the Athenäum publishing group of Harcourt, Brace & Jovanovich (New York) and left the company himself shortly thereafter. The "American years" were only a short interlude, however. In 1974 Karl Jost, who had joined the house as production manager back in 1953, oversaw the move to join the publishing group of the Deutscher Apotheker Verlag, where a nephew of Franz Steiner was one of the directors – and initiator of the negotiations.
When Karl Jost retired, Vincent Sieveking took the helm in 1977. Under his leadership the house moved in 1984 from Wiesbaden to Stuttgart, the headquarters of the publishing group. There it remains situated to this day.
Vincent Sieveking, a Slavist and Anglicist by education, headed the publishing house for 24 years. During his term the house undertook a major expansion of their program in the area of history. In addition to classical and ancient studies, new focus areas were established, including university history and the history of science, Eastern European studies, the history of medicine as well as social and economic history. To this day, the series and journals in these areas remain a cornerstone of the reputation of the Franz Steiner Verlag as one of Germany's leading specialist publishers in the humanities.
Since 2001, Thomas Schaber has headed the publishing house. Schaber holds a doctorate in political science and has built on the program planning strategy of his predecessors while continuing to evolve the company's traditional publishing focus. He has also added new publishing lines such as the non-fiction segment that has complemented the company's portfolio since 2008.