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Remembering Hermann Zapf (November 8, 1918 – June 4, 2015)
Hermann Zapf was the preeminent worldwide typeface designer and calligrapher who lived in Darmstadt, Germany. He was married to calligrapher and typeface designer Gudrun Zapf von Hesse. His typefaces include Palatino and Optima.
I first met him in 1960. I was the mail boy at the Mergenthaler Linotype Company in Brooklyn, NY and was delivering the mail to his cubicle on the 8th floor. He was adapting Palatino for the Linofilm. One day I got up the nerve to ask “Mr Zapf, what do you do?” He replied, “I correct the errors of my youth.” For example, the lowercase y had a curved calligraphic descender. He straightened it out. Those who stole Palatino from the hot metal version had something different from those who stole it from the phototypesetting version.
Thirty years later I would hold his professorship at RIT. He was a warm, genuine, honest man and we will all miss him.
Zapf was born in Nuremberg. He left school in 1933 for a career in electrical engineering but was not able to attend the Ohm Technical Institute in Nuremberg due to the political regime of the time and needed to find an apprenticeship. His teachers noticed his skill in drawing and suggested that he become a lithographer. He was interviewed by the last company in the telephone directory. They allowed him to become a retoucher, and Zapf began his four-year apprenticeship in February 1934.
In 1935, he attended an exhibition in Nuremberg in honor of typographer Rudolf Koch. This exhibition gave him his first interest in lettering. Zapf bought two books to teach himself calligraphy. He came into contact with the type foundries D. Stempel, AG, and Linotype GmbH of Frankfurt, and in 1938, designed his first printed typeface for them, a fraktur type called Gilgengart.
In April, 1939, Zapf was conscripted. He had developed heart trouble and was given a desk job, writing camp records and sports certificates in Fraktur. He was sent to train as a cartographer where he drew maps of Spain. His eyesight was so good that he could write letters 1 millimeter in size without using a magnifying glass, and this skill probably prevented him from being commissioned back into the army.
Zapf taught calligraphy in Nuremberg in 1946. He returned to Frankfurt in 1947, where the type foundry Stempel offered him a position as artistic head of their printshop.
From 1948 to 1950, Zapf taught calligraphy at the Arts and Crafts School in Offenbach, giving lettering lessons twice a week to two classes of graphics students. In 1951 he married Gudrun von Hesse, who taught at the school of Städel in Frankfurt. Most of Zapf’s work as a graphic artist was in book design.
Zapf transcended type technology. He designed types for hot metal composition, phototypesetting, and digital typography for use in desktop publishing. His most famous typefaces, Palatino and Optima, were designed in 1948 and 1952, respectively. Palatino was named after the 16th century Italian writing master Giambattista Palatino. Palatino became better known after it became one of the core 35 PostScript fonts in 1984, bundled with virtually all PostScript devices from laser printers to imagesetters. Optima, a flared sans-serif, was released by Stempel in 1958. Zapf disliked its name, which was invented by the marketers at Stempel.
Zapf’s typefaces have been widely copied, usually against his will. Monotype’s Book Antiqua shipped with Microsoft Office and is often considered an imitation of Palatino. In 1993, Zapf resigned from ATypI (Association Typographique Internationale) over what he viewed as its hypocritical attitude toward unauthorized copying by prominent ATypI members. At a 1994 conference a panel discussion on designers’ rights he criticized the plagiarism of Palatino. In 1999, Microsoft worked with Zapf and Linotype to develop a new, authorized version of Palatino for Microsoft, called Palatino Linotype.
In the 1980s Zapf worked with Bitstream to make versions of many of his prior typefaces, including Palatino, Optima and Melior, all with “Zapf” in their new names.
Zapf did not work extensively as a calligrapher. His largest calligraphic project was to write out the “Preamble to the United Nations Charter” in four languages, commissioned by the Pierpont Morgan Library in 1960.
Zapf worked on typography for computer programs from the 1960s onwards. His ideas were considered radical, not taken seriously in Germany, and rejected by the Darmstadt University of Technology, where Zapf lectured between 1972 and 1981. With no success in Germany, Zapf went to the US where he lectured about his ideas in computerized typesetting, and was invited to speak at Harvard University in 1964. The University of Texas at Austin was also interested in Zapf, and offered him a professorship, which he did not take.
Zapf and his wife moved to Darmstadt in 1972. In 1976, the Rochester Institute of Technology offered Zapf the Cary professorship. He taught there from 1977 to 1987, flying between Darmstadt and Rochester. At RIT, he developed his ideas further, with the help of his connections in companies such as IBM and Xerox. A number of Zapf’s students from this time at RIT went on to become influential type designers, including Kris Holmes and Charles Bigelow, who together created the Lucida type family. Other prominent students include calligrapher/font designer Julian Waters and book designer Jerry Kelly.
In 1977, Zapf, Aaron Burns, and Herb Lubalin founded Design Processing International, Inc. and developed typographical computer software. It existed until 1986 with the death of Lubalin, and Zapf and Burns founded “Zapf, Burns & Company” in 1987. Burns, also an expert in typeface design and in typography, was in charge of marketing until his death in 1992.
In 1983, Zapf had completed the typeface AMS Euler with Donald Knuth and graduate students in Knuth’s and Charles Bigelow’s Digital Typography program at Stanford University including students Dan Mills, Carol Twombly, David Siegel, and Knuth’s computer science research assistant, John Hobby, for the American Mathematical Society. Euler digital font production was eventually finished by Siegel as his M.S. thesis project. Euler is a typeface family for mathematical composition including Latin, Fraktur and Greek letters. After David Siegel had finished his studies at Stanford and was interested in entering the field of typography, he told Zapf his idea of making a typeface with a large number of glyph variations.
Zapf remembered a page of calligraphy from his sketchbook from 1944, and considered the possibility of making a typeface from it. He had previously tried to create a calligraphic typeface for Stempel in 1948, but hot metal composition placed too many limits on the freedom of swash characters. Such a pleasing result could only be achieved using modern digital technology, and so Zapf and Siegel began work on the complicated software necessary. However, Siegel abandoned the project.
What would become Zapfino was delayed until Zapf presented the project to Linotype. They were prepared to complete it and reorganized the project. Zapf created four alphabets and various ornaments, flourishes, and other dingbats. Zapfino was released in 1998. Later versions of Zapfino used the Apple Advanced Typography and OpenType technologies to make automatic ligatures and glyph substitutions, especially contextual ones in which the nature of ligatures and substituted glyphs was determined by other glyphs nearby or even in different words.
There are many distinguished type designers in the world. Matthew Carter certainly comes to mind. But, it can be said without challenge, that there was only one Hermann Zapf. Fortunatey, his typefaces live on.
The Museum in the news
The Museum was “in the news” in a five page article in the May/June North Shore Magazine. You can read a PDF of the article here.
Pre-press materials wanted
Our curators are planning several exhibits on prepress operations from the 50s to the 90s, including an artist’s work station, platemaking department and proofing. We find we are embarrassingly low or completely missing film negatives, film halftones – both B&W and color — proofs, paste-ups, rubyliths, contact screens, registration punches, etc. If you can part with a few, please contact our executive director at email@example.com.
We want to show how it was done before computers!
Befuddle the masses with a .918 bumper sticker. Join the in crowds like 26.2, 13.1 and 29.92. Order your 5 inch wide sticker by sending a check for $5 made out to the Museum of Printing to:
Museum of Printing
PO Box 5580
Beverly, MA 01950
Library of Type Specimens
Lovely collection of type in use from days of yore. You won’t find any drop shadows but there’s plenty of fine typography (via Vitaly Friedman at Smashing Magazine).
A lost typeface partially recovered
The Doves type was cast into the Thames a hundred years ago. This is one man’s quest to find it. Read more>
They came to the Fair
The 7th Annual Printing Arts Fair took place at the Museum of Printing on a sunny Father’s Day in 2010, punctuated by a very short rain shower. Many families were counted among the 400-plus attendees, who saw demonstrations of papermaking, stone lithography, intaglio printing, Ludlow and Linotype linecasting, and other book arts.
Over 30 exhibitors offered note books, cards, rare books, antique equipment, ephemera, and other articles. Children could print wood type and pictorial cuts as well as Father’s Day cards.
The centerpiece of the event was our steamroller printing (for the second year in a row). Sally Abugov and her band of 28 linoleum block carvers created a wonderful set of alphabetic designs with floral/fauna themes. The individual blocks were printed in different colors and sold at the Fair.
A great time was had by all.
The Monotype Recorder Online
(This discovery courtesy of Mikko Vierumaki and Erik Spiekermann on Twitter)
What is it?
Frankly, we’re stumped.
This device is about 12×14 inches with a handle on one side for moving it, rollers on the impression side for what appears to be positioning it on a track. The relief letters appear to be for pressing against some substrate to transfer the characters or punching into a softer material. The flip side is engraved with the alphabet with various sizes from 30 and 48 to 60 points, and numbers in the upper row at 120 points. And lower row at 30 points. Each character is next to a recessed shaft that looks like a plunger would press against it to make the impression. It weighs over 20 pounds.
If you have any idea what this is, let us know at firstname.lastname@example.org. It has been a puzzlement around here — and our members are pretty darn good a identifying the arcane and bizarre.
MoP Stalwart highlighted in WSJ article
CHICOPEE, Mass. — John Barrett decided to gather a little printing intelligence. “Have you seen any interest in, or need for, hashtags?” he asked a customer he was showing around Letterpress Things, his 6,500-square-foot store in a former paper warehouse in Chicopee, Mass. Read more >
Type families and visual systems
Type lovers! There’s an excellent article on type families & systems on the FontShop website: “From compressed light to extended ultra: Visual systems in type designs“ by Ferdinand Ulrich. Check it out.
History of the Linotype Company by Frank Romano released
No single machine impacted the setting of type as did the Linotype. At the time of the Civil War, typesetting was the second most common occupation in America, surpassed only by farming. Both were done primarily by hand. The Linotype machine mechanized typesetting. Outside of Gutenberg’s invention of movable type no other single machine has had the impact on printing as has the Linotype.
The definitive history of the machine, the people and the technology can be found in the 463 page History of the Linotype Company, released by Museum of Printing’s President Frank Romano. The book is available through the museum.
Copies are available at the museum on Saturdays from 10 am to 4 pm. If Frank is there, he will be happy to autograph your copy.
The price is $65 for members, $75 for non-members, plus tax. If you can not make it to the museum, send a check for $93 (including tax and shipping) to the Museum at PO Box 5580, Beverly, MA 01915.
The History of the Linotype Company is 11 × 8½ inches in small coffee table orientation. It includes hundreds of photographs sourced from around the world, including ads, product brochures, maintenance manuals, Linotype’s periodicals and special publications and more, including many personal accounts, correspondence and memories of the company and typesetting. One of the 18 chapters is devoted solely to the business of typesetting over the last 140 years.
The Linotype machine was king for nearly seventy years, dethroned only by the “new” technology of phototypesetting. The Linotype Company was a strong leader in the creation and marketing of phototypesetting units and systems until that technology was replaced by personal computers, page make-up software and direct to plate and direct to press technologies.
A follow-up book, The History of Phototypesetting, by Romano was also published in 2014.
Want to see a working Linotype? Come to the Museum’s Printing Arts Fair on Father’s Day, June 21.
Dirty Shirts reorganize museum
“A dozen volunteers did more in a few hours than I could have done in a week,” said Ted Leigh about Saturday’s Dirty Shirt Day.
The Dirty Shirts completely reorganized the Print Gallery’s east wall, moving presses, re-arranging two proof presses, composting stones type and cut cabinets among other things creating expanded demonstration and workshop areas. Museum staff is putting together the workshop schedule for the spring and summer to take advantage of the revitalized space.
The volunteers also managed to stage and move other equipment in preparation for modifying other exhibit areas.
“It was good work,” one volunteer said, “but a lot of fun too. I got to talk with other printers and learned a lot about other shops.” The volunteers came from as far away as eastern New York, northern Vermont and western New Hampshire.
William Bonser died recently. He was co-founder of the Museum of Printing, retired teacher of printing at Groton School, and former executive for the Lowell Chamber of Commerce. He has held the title Director Emeritus of the Friends of the Museum of Printing. Bruce McIntosh informed us. His friend Kate Wilcox posted on Facebook.
Read about us in the Globe
North Andover museum makes printing indelible
NORTH ANDOVER — For some people, the world’s gradual transition from ink on paper to pixels on a screen is fraught with emotion. But there’s one place north of Boston where print still reigns supreme.
Earn the Big Bucks by volunteering at the Museum of Printing
The Museum is looking for volunteers to help with projects such as:
- Working in our Gift shop (Saturdays)
- Identifying and creating a type inventory — both wood and hot metal
- Assisting staff with exhibits and collections
- Helping move equipment
- Creating signage for equipment
- Cleaning and organizing type — especially our large collection of wood type
- Cleaning and organizing the museum
- And much, much more . . .
For each hour worked you earn a “Big Buck” worth a $1 credit in our gift Shop, Letterpress Store or applied towards workshops, equipment or anything the Museum of Printing offers.
Stop by any Saturday, 10 am to 4 pm and see if you would be interested in earning the “Big Bucks” or contact our Executive Director Kim Pickard at
CALL FOR HALFTONES
The museum is looking to mount an exhibit on photographic reproduction and find we are embarrassingly low on a few things. We need your help.
If you have a few of these to spare and can send them to us we can continue with exhibit planning.
- Halftone screens
- Metal offset plates with black and white and color halftones on them we can cut up as necessary. If you can accompany this with a few printed examples of what was printed by the plates it would be greatly appreciated.
- Flexible plates with halftones
- A rotogravure plate
- Any non-offset plates for printing images
We are especially in need of color separations and proofs.
Have a question or donation? Contact Kim Pickard, Executive Director.
Linotype: The Film
Linotype: The Film is a feature-length documentary centered around the Linotype type casting machine. Called the “Eighth Wonder of the World” by Thomas Edison, it revolutionized printing and society. The film tells the charming and emotional story of the people connected to the Linotype and how it impacted the world.
via Doug Ely
Upside Down, Left To Right: A Letterpress Film
You’ll enjoy this beautiful short film about letterpress and one of the few remaining movable-type printing workshops in the UK, situated at Plymouth University, featuring Paul Collier.
The Type Heritage Project
We’ve found an ambitious website getting underway that will be of interest to all type lovers: The Type Heritage Project. From their website:
The Type Heritage Project [THP] discovers and documents the histories of digital display fonts originally designed between c1800 and World War I:
Pre-digital tradename(s), year of issue, name and nationality of the designer and/or metal or wood (letterpress) producer.
Based on many years of spare-time research, a series of textbooks is planned. Volume I explores quintessential Victorian faces, a spectacular trove of innovative gems.
Sample PDFs of typical specimen spreads and chapter introductions are available.
This site is intended to supplement the THP textbook series with historical context interpreting all volumes and to become a history-intensive hangout for a community of researchers, revival font developers and forum participants.