For centuries the smell of printer’s ink has been a typical feature of Vimperk, and over the time, thousands and millions of books left the town for virtually all parts of the world. They were large and small or even miniature ones, they were meant to educate or amuse, they were written by great writers or unknown scribblers, creating a tradition as mighty and as resonant as a bell. Following Pilsen, Vimperk was the second Czech town where books were printed as early as the 15th century. In 1484 Johann Alacraw, a printer from Passau, printed three books here, one of them being the first Czech printed calendar for the year 1485. However, the Vimperk region was not enough of a market for a more substantial number of printed books, and this made Johann Alacraw return to Passau.
This early printing episode was resumed as late as the 19th century by Johann Steinbrener (1835-1909), who started a printing office in Vimperk in 1855, initially producing prayer books and from 1875 also calendars, which were very popular at the time. In 1873 he took part in the World Exhibition in Vienna and gradually expanded to markets in a substantial part of Europe and even overseas. The company continued to develop even after the death of its founder, and by 1930 the production had amounted to more than 34 million calendars and over 96 million prayer books in more than twenty languages. Besides these mainstays, the works in Vimperk printed books for children, as well as others.
Printing was continued in Vimperk after WW II, in the 1950s specialising in the production of books, among which miniature leather-bound books, nicknamed “humming bird books”, and bibliophile prints became particularly famous. The printing works, however, did not long survive privatisation in 1993, with production coming to an end in 2003. Fortunately, book printing did not disappear completely from Vimperk, the tradition being continued by small private companies.