Breitkopf, son of a publisher and printer, studied history and languages at the university of Leipzig from 1737 to 1740. 1745 he joined the company of his father. His special interest in typography was quite stimulating for the publishing house. About 1750 he created a new type, the Breitkopf Gothic Type, which became the best and mostly used Gothic type of his time.
1754 he introduced a new technique to print notes with mobile types, which improved the quality of printed music decisively. Through this invention he was able to bind all important composers of his time to his publishing house, which he managed from 1762 until 1794 and which is today the world-oldest music publishing house (Breitkopf & Härtel, Leipzig).
From 1776 he intensively worked on a new technique to make maps with mobile printing types. 1777 he published the first map, which was printed with the new technique - a map of the surroundings of Leipzig. An accompaning text gives a description how to make maps with this new technique, which he later also used for the printing of portraits and even Chinese characters. For a second proof of the newly invented process he created a highly imaginative and humorous map of the Kingdom of Love ('Das Reich der Liebe').