Before the advent of printed books a general trade fair in Frankfurt was the place for selling manuscripts. The beginning of a fair focused on printed books is attributed to Johann Fust and Peter Schöffer, who had taken over Gutenberg's printing operations after a legal dispute. The fair became the primary point for book marketing, but also a hub for the diffusion of written texts. During the Reformation, the fair was attended by merchants testing the market for new books and by scholars looking for newly available scholarship.
Until the end of the 17th century, the Frankfurter Buchmesse was the most important book fair in Europe. It was eclipsed in 1632 by the Leipzig Book Fair during the Enlightenment as a consequence of political and cultural developments. After World War II, the first book fair was held again in 1949 at the St. Paul's Church. Since then, it has regained its preeminent position.