Some notes on the history of Akzidenz-Grotesk

A letter I once wrote to Paul Shaw regarding the history of Akzidenz-Grotesk by Berthold (mind typos and crap grammar).


Günther Gerhard Lange was convinced that Akzidenz-Grotesk doesn’t have its origin at Berthold but goes back to Ferdinand Theinhardt’s foundry in Berlin. Theinhardt, said Lange, cut one of the first later AG-styles, Royal-Grotesk, in 1898. Those fonts came to Berthold via their acquisition of the Theinhardt foundry in 1908. Berthold combined them with other fonts acquired from other foundries and some of their own to form the Accidenz-Grotesk family (early spelling with double-c).

Thus, AG was not designed as a coherent type family but is a collection of fonts from different sources and foundries Berthold bought over the years. However, supposedly for marketing reasons, they were not so keen on displaying that fact everywhere. They rather stated the typeface being a “house cut” from 1898 in all their material, as also widely found in type publications. Both, Royal as well as Accidenz-Grotesk were sold under their respective names until 1926. Later Royal became AG mager (light), Steinschrift became AG schmal (narrow), Bücher-Grotesk from 1896 became AG schmal fett etc. (see GGL in tm 2, 2003). This “combining” of formerly solitary fonts and the idea of a type family, a series of stylistically connected fonts, may be regarded as Berthold’s biggest contribution to AG and future typeface releases.

According to Eckehard SchumacherGebler though, Theinhardt cannot be the creator of Royal nor AG. ESG researched in Friedrich Bauer’s Chronik der Schriftgießereien as well as in Theinhardt’s own Erinnerungsblätter (journal/diary) from 1899. The Chronik states that Theinhardt, born 1820, sold his foundry to the Mosig brothers and Oskar Mommen in 1885 and stopped working shortly after that. He died in 1906.

There is no Royal- or AG to be found in Bauer’s chronicle nor in Theinhardt’s specimen of 1905. Only in the edition of 1908/09 an Accidenz-Grotesk is shown. Berthold bought Theinhardt shortly before the specimen was published and obviously added typefaces from their program (according to a note in Chronik der Schriftgießereien).

However, the Theinhardt specimen of 1905 (or 1895 as Wolfgang Homola states) does show a Breite Grotesque. Maybe a precursor of it all. There has also been a Schmale magere Grotesk, Enge fette Grotesk and Fette Grotesk by Theinhardt. This Breite Grotesque looks similar to Halbfette Accidenz-Grotesk in a later specimen (as Andreas Seidel claims) but might stem from a different source altogether.


Berthold published this ad in the Deutscher Buchdrucker in 1899. Thus there must have been an Accidenz-Grotesk at Berthold before the acquisition of Theinhardt’s foundry in 1908. For a while I suspected those fonts came from Bauer & Co in Stuttgart, which Berthold bought in 1897 (see Schwemer-Scheddin/Klein Types and Typographers), but I didn’t find any in their specimens, alas.

{Images posted by Wolfgang Homola on Typophile}

 

The Seemann Handbuch der Schriftarten from 1926 lists the following as from H. Berthold AG:


Akzidenz Grotesk 1898


Breit, 1908


Halbfett, 1909


Fett, 1909


Breit mager, 1911


Eng, 1912


Royal Grotesk 1902

{Images from Global Type}

 

From the Berthold Chronik, 1921:

{Image posted by Erik Spiekermann on Typophile}

Still quite muddy, the water, but I hope some of those facts could clear it up a little.

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10 Comments

  1. David Wakefield
    Posted 18. August 2015 at 17:17 | Permalink

    I’m rather late in finding this thread. I recently bought an unnamed fount of light caps/figs/accents/points in corps 18, which came from a old printer in Sweden. Naturally, I need to put a name to it, and as it looks to me to be the light (Magere) Akzidenz-Grotesk from Berthold, I’d rather list it as the original Royal-Grotesk, which of course it is. I too note that Seemann records it as a Berthold production of 1902. I also see that Jolles lists a small specimen book ‘Royal und Akzidenz-Grotesk’ which Berthold put out in 1904. All this predating the Theinhardt succession in January 1908. Does anyone know of the whereabouts of a copy of this small specimen booklet? There’s still some deeper research to do here?

  2. Indra Kupferschmid
    Posted 18. August 2015 at 18:05 | Permalink

    Interesting! Feel free to email me a photo of the type, but I don’t doubt that you identified it correctly. There is indeed some more research to do. I can ask SchumacherGebler if he has a copy of the specimen booklet, though since I have a lot of this info overheard from him, he would have mentioned it perhaps. Incidentally I will be at the library of the Gutenberg museum this week where the specimen collection of Hans Reichardt is housed. I’ll keep an eye out.

  3. David Wakefield
    Posted 20. August 2015 at 09:26 | Permalink

    Hi Indra, many thanks for your instant reply. I have tried to send you shots of the fount, through your email address I have found on your old LinkedIn page, but they have come back as wrongly addressed. Let me have your current details and I’ll resend them. Or let me know how I can post them on this page?

  4. Indra Kupferschmid
    Posted 20. August 2015 at 09:32 | Permalink

    Ha, I have a LinkedIn page? I thought I deleted my account there 3 years ago, scary. My address is on the about page, indra @ kupferschrift

  5. David Wakefield
    Posted 20. August 2015 at 10:04 | Permalink

    I have sent to that address but they bounce back? Strange. I have indra@kupferschrift.de is this correct?

  6. Indra Kupferschmid
    Posted 20. August 2015 at 10:06 | Permalink

    How weird. Try kupfers @ gmail, will look into the Kupferschrift issue asap.

  7. David Wakefield
    Posted 20. August 2015 at 11:27 | Permalink

    This is getting weirder. Tells me I have an incorrect address as Kupfers@gmail is this correct?

  8. David Wakefield
    Posted 20. August 2015 at 13:36 | Permalink

    Indra, have you now received my 3 emails? They are in my sent box. ?

  9. Posted 30. March 2016 at 03:14 | Permalink

    Hi. I came across this thread in my search to solve one of the greatest typographical mysteries of the twentieth century. What is the typeface used on the movie poster for Woody Allen’s 1977 film Annie Hall?

    http://originalvintagemovieposters.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/02/Annie-Hall-LB.jpg

    It resembles Akzidenz Grotesk, but thinner and a little compressed, which led me to the modern typeface Theinhardt, designed by François Rappo in 2010.

    http://www.optimo.ch/typefaces_Theinhardt.html

    Which leads me to Ferdinand Theinhardt’s Royal-Grotesk, of which samples are scarce. Here’s a photograph of a early Berthold specimen book.

    https://www.flickr.com/photos/n1ke/6920980157/

    and so I arrived on this thread, which may have solved the mystery among the seven typeface samples at the end, but are linked to a dead web site! (Don’t go to the old Global Type site, evil now lurks there.)

    However, those missing samples are pulled from the Handbuch der Schriftarten from 1926. I couldn’t find that edition, but would a 1924 edition do?

    http://www.klingspor-museum.de/HandbuchderSchriftarten/HandbuchderSchriftarten.pdf

    At this point, I’m convinced the movie poster designer used Royal-Grotesk and photographically compressed them. This doesn’t seem an impossible claim to me, as the designer demonstrates professional photographic skill in the wonderfully textured photo of Keaton and Allen.

    I’m a technologist by trade. I claim minor design cred as I supported print designers in the 1990s. I’m curious what your professional opinion is regarding my conclusion.

    Thank you.

  10. Indra Kupferschmid
    Posted 23. April 2016 at 21:33 | Permalink

    Ha, what a fantastic comment! Yes, maybe this is Standard (the name of AG in the US) Light photo-type. I’m not sure though, I only have a very scarce photo-type specimen only showing 8 glyphs (among those 4 caps). The tag line in lowercase looks very close to Helvetica, maybe a mix or also a version of AG. Linotype sold the typeface under the name Basic Commercial. Maybe we find some photo-type specimens of that. I’ll keep an eye out.

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