Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Berthold Type Foundry

On a recent trip to Berlin, my very thoughtful mother-in-law snapped this shot of the H. Berthold AG Type Foundry building for me.

H. Berthold A.G. was one of the largest and most successful type foundries in the world for most of the modern typographic era. It was established in 1958 by Hermann Berthold. It made the transition from foundry type (hot metal type) to cold type successfully before calling it quits in the digital type era in 1993.

Above image from Ethan Allen Smith, a blog with a great article on Akzidenz-Grotesk complete with detailed photos...worth a look!

The foundry's most celebrated family of typefaces is arguably Akzidenz-Grotesk (released 1896), an early sans-serif which inspired neo-grotesque faces such as Helvetica (designed by Max Miedinger with Eduard Hoffmann, 1957), Folio (designed by Konrad Bauer and Walter Baum, 1957), and Univers (designed by Adrian Frutiger, 1954).

Here are some Wikipedia images that show the differences between the characters of those 4 typefaces, and a comparison of the x-height of Helvetica to Akzidenz-Grotesk.

In 1950, type designer Günter Gerhard Lange embarked upon a long affiliation with the company, for which he designed various original typefaces, including Concorde and Imago, and oversaw the foundry's revivals of classic faces such as Garamond, Caslon, Baskerville, and Bodoni.

Thanks, as always, to Wikipedia for concise information.


Beth Tondreau said...

I love that the German word "Akzidenzschrift" means "display face" or "jobbing type."


In researching the origin of the word "Grotesk" (the German name for sans serif), I looked beyond the Wikipedia stub that refers to William Thorowgood's 1834 introduction of the word "Grotesque." Various sources—among them a Lawson (Alexander, not Bob) refer to Grotesque without giving any credence to the description being a value judgement. I've emailed Paul Shaw, my fave type expert, to learn of any deeper sources.

Suzanne Dell'Orto said...

Can't wait to find out the answer—those German typeface names sound like disasters (fraktur, grotesk, akzidenz!)!

Beth Tondreau said...

Paul Shaw kindly responded to my e-plea and noted that he wouldn't Eye mag. He also suggested I check out James Mosley's book The Nymph and the Grot—which I still need to do. Paul Shaw continued that "usually Thomas Hansard is the source of these negative terms about new types. His book Typographia 1825 is available from Google Books. . . . Just because we do not have a book citation does not mean that the term was not pejorative. I do not see how it could have come about otherwise."

Paul Shaw was diplomatic in writing the obvious.

I did check out T. C. Hansard, who who called the new types monstrosities.

While I'm researching things pejorative, I figured the origin of "grotesque" itself was worth a look. Here's the etymology from Etymonline (I'm too cheap to subscribe to the OED and too lazy to sign up for the free trial):

1561, originally a noun, from M.Fr. crotesque, from It. grottesco, lit. "of a cave," from grotta (see grotto). Used first of paintings found on the walls of basements of Roman ruins (It. pittura grottesca). Originally "fanciful, fantastic," sense became pejorative after mid-18c.

Beth Tondreau said...

Gosh! How embarrassing! So many typos. Here's an . . . um . . . Erratum:

--Paul Shaw wrote that he wouldn't TRUST Eye.

--My line about T.C. Hansard contains one too many "who"s.

While I'm point-picking (I just now noticed that the post's headline is missing an "r" in Berthold."