Greif and its predecessors

After the Great Northern War (1700-1721), Estonia went through a deep recession in terms of culture and printing. The printing press of the Tallinn Upper Secondary School was the only operational book printing facility. Printing was also done, albeit on a much smaller scale, in the book printing press established in Põltsamaa County to serve Southern Estonia. This is where, in 1766, Dr Peter Ernst Wilde started to publish the first periodical handbook for Estonian peasants called Short Lessons (Lühhike öppetus). However, the printing house did not really take off Michail Gerhard Grenzius started work as its manager.

In 1789, Grenzius moved his printing press to Tartu, where he mostly published the Dörptsche Zeitung at first. Later, he acquired the right to print Estonian-language books. His vigorous action as a publisher and printer made Tartu the chief printing city of Estonia.

In 1802, the University of Tartu was reopened and Grenzius became the “university’s typographer”. The printing house remained in his ownership.

In 1814, a German man from Lübeck named Johann Christian Schünmann established a new printing house in Tartu. Grenzius was unable to compete and in 1817, sold his company to Schünmann.

In 1840, Schünmann died and the printing house was inherited by his widow Justine, who employed Carl Gottlieb Mattiesen as the company’s business manager. Mattiesen was an Estonian man, born in the small town of Avinurme as the son of a forest ranger. He had worked for Schünmann for a long time, first as an apprentice and later as a senior factory worker. So, first as a typesetter, and later as the owner of a printing house, Mattiesen was the first Estonian among the foreign printers who were running businesses in Tartu at the time.

In 1848, Mattiesen received a permit to establish a new printing house and joined the two: his own company and the printing house he had rented from Schünmann’s widow back in 1846. He christened the new venture as the Printing House of Joh. Chr. Schünmann’s Widow & Carl Mattiesen (Joh. Chr. Schünmanni Lesk & Carl Mattieseni trükikoda).

Once C. G. Mattiesen died, the printing house went to his son, Carl Emil Johannes Mattiesen, PhD. He was known as a multi-talented man, and among other jobs, also held the position of Mayor of Tartu.

His widow Emmy inherited the printing house in 1888 after Emil Mattiesen passed away, but August Hahn became its de facto manager. Under his management, Mattiesen’s printing house was the most perfect printing house in Estonia and all of Russia before World War I.

In 1929, the Grenzius-Schünmann-Mattiesen printing house was sold to the association PLC K. Mattiesen’s Printing House (O/Ü K. Mattieseni Trükikoda). Its largest shareholder and CEO was cand.zool. Hans Männik, who was also the director and founder of the publishing association Nature (Loodus). Richard Mölder worked as its business manager.

In 1939, PLC Loodus (O/Ü Loodus) purchased the printing house building.

In 1940, PLC K. Mattiesen’s Printing House (O/Ü K. Mattieseni Trükikoda) was nationalized and named the Hans Heidemann printing house after a prominent member of the Estonian labor movement.

In 1959, the three remaining printing houses in Tartu – the one named after H. Heidemann, the Tartu Kommunist (Tartu Communist, formerly Postimees (Postman)), and the Pioneer (formerly Noor-Eesti (Young Estonia) – were merged. The result was called the H. Heidemann Printing House. As of 1973, it was one of the departments of the Estonian Printing Industry. In 1990, the Hans Heidemann Printing House was reorganized into an independent state company called the Tartu Printing House (Tartu Trükikoda).

In 1992, the assets of the Tartu Printing House were rented by PLC Greif, which had been established at the initiative and with the participation of the company’s employees. In 1996, Greif became the owner of the printing house.

In 1996, the most unique bookshop in Tartu and probably in all of Estonia was opened on the historical premises of the Mattiesen printing house. The printing house transferred its manufacturing activities to the building of the former Young Estonia printing house, which received a large extension in 2003.

In 2009, Greif opened a new production facility on the outskirts of Tartu in Lohkva. The modern equipment in the new facility makes the production process and logistics considerably faster. The building has 7858 square metres of space; 4217 square metres of it are dedicated to manufacturing and 1386 square metres to storage. The employees now have considerably better conditions thanks to spacious changing rooms, rest areas and a canteen. A recreation and park area surrounds the building.

In September 2015, Greif became a member of the Association of Estonian Printing & Packaging Industry. The main goal of the association is to bring Estonian printing and packaging companies together and foster cooperation between them, and by doing so boost the entire printing and packaging industry in Estonia, fair competition, and beneficial economic conditions.