Ulrico Hoepli
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Ulrico Hoepli

Craftsmen and entrepreneurs - Wängi 1847 - Milano 1935

Biography

Ulrico Hoepli made a career in scientific publishing. He was the son of a Swiss farmer, and he moved to Milan in 1870. Here, through his sense of enterprise and his great determination, he created an institution that, still today, is of considerable importance in international culture.

Once he had arrived in Milan he took over Theodor Laengner’s bookstore, in Galleria De Cristoforis. Located in the heart of the city, it quickly became a point of reference for high-society intellectuals and professionals in Milan, and the bookstore was stocked with valuable, antique books and texts in all the principal European languages. His meeting with Giuseppe Colombo, the most illustrious theoretician of Lombard industrialization whose “Manuale dell’Ingegnere” (“Engineering Manual”) he published in 1877, proved very important for the young Hoepli. Colombo encouraged his propensity for technical and scientific publishing which, in just a few short years, became the principal characteristic of Hoepli’s catalogue.

Hoepli's donation of the Planetarium, in the Giardini di Porta Venezia (Gardens of Porta Venezia), to the city in 1930 was an event of great importance. The Planetarium was a marvellous example of precision mechanics and optics that, still today, nearly a century later, remains one of the most famous in the world and has delighted generations of visitors.

Anecdotes and curiosities

The idea of constructing a planetarium originated from a specific episode. After the First World War, in compliance with the Treaty of Versailles, the German company Carl Zeiss sent a number astronomical instruments to the Osservatorio Astronomica di Merate (Merate Astronomical Observatory), a branch of the Brera Observatory, as reparations for wartime damage.

The Germans saw a business opportunity, and they added documentation on the planetariums they produced, in the same packaging for the goods that they sent. Hoepli was easily persuaded and thought it a good idea to bring this form of scientific entertainment to Milan.

The name “planetarium” originally referred to the optical-mechanical projector that depicts the night skies and simulates its principal movements.

The whole building is awaiting refurbishment.

 

Related places

Ulrico Hoepli originally came to Milan to purchase Teodoro Laegner’s bookstore in Galleria De Cristoforis. He published his first books in 1871;

Bookstore in Galleria De Cristoforis (no longer exists):

Inauguration of the Planetarium, designed by architect Piero Portaluppi and financed by Ulrico Hoepli;

Bookstore in Via Berchet (still exists):

Following the demolition of Galleria De Cristoforis, the Hoepli bookstore and publishing house moved to Via Berchet. The bookstore suffered bombing damage during the Second World War and it was later rebuilt. In 1958, the new location at Via Hoepli number 5 was opened. The building was designed by architects L. Figini and L. Pollini, and it is now home to the international bookstore on six floors. Today, the publishing house is managed by Ulrico Carlo Hoepli (1935);

Planetario, corso Venezia, 57.

Sources and documents

Decleva Enrico, Ulrico Hoepli, 1847-1935: editore e libraio, Hoepli, Milan 2001.

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