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The founding of Schiffer Publishing was a gradual process started when the research for Chester County, Pennsylvania, Inventories 1684-1850, by Margaret Schiffer, was discovered in a box in a basement in 1973. The study had been made at the Chester County Historical Society in West Chester, Pennsylvania for the author's personal interest. She had also published Furniture and its Makers of Chester County, Pennsylvania with the University of Pennsylvania Press in 1966. But when the inventory research was discovered, it seemed to the author's son Peter, who was an antiques dealer with his father Herbert, and to Peter's wife Nancy, who was a historical museum curator, that the information the research contained would be of interest to their clients for historical interpretation of antique furniture and accessories used in Chester County. Schiffer Publishing was started in 1974 to mimeograph, ring bind, and distribute that book, and to bring out-of-print historical books about antiques back into circulation. About the same time, Herbert and Peter had written a book about Chinese export porcelain, which they handled in the antiques business, and had sent the manuscript to a small publisher. When that publisher went out of business, before their book was completed, Schiffer Publishing took it on as another project.

After closing their antiques business in Exton, Pennsylvania, each day, Peter and Nancy would come home and work on preparing the books at their kitchen table. As their family grew, they began to write and produce a few books a year and sell them at the antique shows where they showed their inventory of antiques. The company gradually brought out books on clocks, county history, ceramics, ironwork, mirrors, and miniature furniture.