Some notes on the history of Akzidenz-Grotesk Part 2

First read this post from a few years ago. This article here is only about the things we found since. “We” means Dan Reynolds, with who I talked a lot about this topic lately, and me and some other people mentioned in the text.

But to recap in one sentence – there is every reason to believe that Ferdinand Theinhardt has nothing to do with the design of Royal-Grotesk or Akzidenz-Grotesk as they were available at H. Berthold AG, Berlin. Further things that underpin this statement are:

A shaded sans called Schattierte Grotesk I found in a Bauer & Co Stuttgart (not the same as the Bauer foundry in Frankfurt) specimen from 1895 that I looked at at UvA’s Special Collections in 2011. It appears to be pretty much AG with drop shadow, which also may mean that there was a version of this sans without shadow somewhere. It would have been quite easy to expand a series by a shaded variant, but coming up with these letterforms just to use them in one specialized display style seems unlikely.

That was what led me to believe some styles of AG, like a light regular weight, may have originated at Bauer & Co. I did not find any in earlier specimens though. I had made a note to double check the date of the specimen because having something like AG in 1895 already would be quite remarkable. It’s always hard to date these books exactly. Then last year, John Lane emailed me that he found a full-page ad for Schattierte Grotesk in an issue of Archiv für Buchgewerbe 33/12 from December 1896 – later but still 11 months before Berthold acquired Bauer & Co, which they did on November 9, 1897 [see Bauer, Chronik der Schriftgießereien]. This dates Schattierte Grotesk to at least 1896, so before any AG action at Berthold. And only three years after Berthold picked up casting typefaces at all, which was in 1893. Before that they only made brass rules.

My very scientific Photoshop analysis of old specimens:

Butchered AG ad from Bauer/Berthold from 1899 above and Schattierte Grotesk from the Bauer & Co specimen of ~1895 below

An AG showing (one style, 13 sizes) by Bauer & Co and Berthold in Schweizer Graphische Nachrichten from September 1898 that Joep Pohlen found. 1898 is also the date that Berthold had always given, at least since 1921 when their first publication mentioning a date for Accidenz-Grotesk (early spelling with cc) was published. [See image from Berthold chronicle in Part 1]

Sans-serifs were just a small, rather unimportant position among many wild designs that type foundries offered around 1900.


Neither Dan nor I could find any documents from the Königliche Akademie der Wissenschaften that were printed in something that looks like Royal-Grotesk – the use case the typeface was allegedly commissioned and made for in 1880. I did not even find a single use of any sans in documents from 1880–1910 that I looked at.

Dan found this mention of Royal-Grotesk in »Schriftprobenschau«, Archiv für Buchgewerbe 40/1, January 1903, S. 19:
»Eine neue recht verwendbare Schrift hat die Firma H. Berthold Akt.-Ges in Berlin geschaffen, eine in acht Graden geschnittene Royal-Grotesk, die sich zu allen besseren Accidenzen verwenden lassen und infolge ihres scharfen und sauberen Schnitts zur besten Wirkung gelangen wird. Auf eine kleine, vielleicht unbeabsichtigte Unschönheit möchten wir doch hinweisen. Diese betrifft das Versal-R, dessen Querstrich zu tief steht, was auffällt und störend wirkt, wenn der Buchstabe zwischen B und E steht. Vielleicht ist hier eine Verbesserung noch angängig. Chronos.«

So there must have been a Royal-Grotesk available at Berthold in late 1902 or January 1903 – five years before Berthold bought the Theinhardt foundry. But calling it a “new, quite usable typeface” and critique the design doesn’t exactly sound like this font was around since 1880 and used in public documents. Emil Wetzig has 1902 for Royal in Seemann’s Handbuch der Schriftarten, which is not always correct but often a good indicator.

My internet snapshots of said magazine mention from January 1903

Questions still:

– We need to date the Theinhardt foundry specimen — “Hauptprobe. 1892. Gr. 8o (mit mehrfarbigen Titelblättern)” [Jolles] — that was issued sometime between 1890 and 1905. Everyone seems to give a different date for it, or is talking about different editions? Here Henning Krause’s copy and take on the year (he thinks 1890). ESG based his argument on “Neuheiten. Ferd. Theinhardt, Schriftgießerei Berlin-Schöneberg 1. (specimen 8° without title page) without year (ca. 1902)” as his source and remarks that it’s from 1892 but that it did not come into circulation before 1905, according to additional pages in his issue.

– If Berthold only started its type casting business in 1893, did they even employ punchcutters capable of original designs this quickly? Or did they pick up an almost ready series with the acquisition of Bauer. Need to check both companies’ specimen books from before 1897 again.

– No one could ever show any Royal-Grotesk in use from before 1902/3. Where are the Theinhardt-Royal samples when it allegedly was around since 1880? Until someone comes forward with examples or other proof, could be all please stop repeating and regurgitating the Theinhardt story?

– Did anyone ever find a source or mention before GGL’s 1998 lecture and 2003 interview that stated the connection between Theinhardt and RG/AG? Maybe the idea was not even GGL’s, but someone before him? Where did this hunch come from? Just this one late Theinhardt specimen that included AG?


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  1. Posted 17. October 2017 at 09:44 | Permalink

    Or did they pick up an almost ready series with the acquisition of Bauer?

    Yes. I followed your suggestion and compared the showing of Accidenz-Grotesk as shown in Berthold’s 1900 catalog with Bauer & Co.’s Schattierte Grotesk, which is also in the same Berthold 1900 catalogue. The letterforms in the two typefaces are the same. You were right.

    Bauer & Co.’s 1895 catalogue, which features Schattierte Grotesk, does not include any sans serif design that is similar (i.e., they did not have an unschattierte Grotesk). Either they started working on one, and did not finish it before Berthold acquired them, or Berthold saw the Schattierte Grotesk and realized that it might sell well without the drop shadow.

    In the Berthold 1900 catalog, the page that shows Schattierte Grotesk includes mention of both H. Berthold in Berlin and Bauer & Co. in Stuttgart on its footer. The Accidenz-Grotesk page only mentions H. Berthold in Berlin. Both pages mention that design patent registrations had been filed for the typefaces (indeed, Bauer & Co.’s 1895 catalog already mentioned this for Schattierte Grotesk). The 1900 Berthold catalog only includes one weight of Accidenz-Grotesk (in 13 sizes). Later Berthold catalogs, from e.g. 1909, include several weights of Accidenz-Grotesk, as well as one weight (presumably the only weight ever made) of Royal-Grotesk. Already in that 1909 catalogue, a small passage of text mentions that Royal-Grotesk can be combined with Accidenz-Grotesk in text. At some point after the 1950s, Berthold renamed Royal-Grotesk as Akzidenz-Grotesk mager, finally bringing it “into” the family.

    I should reiterate, so that it is on the Internet for people to read, that you have believed for many years that the source for Akzidenz-Grotesk must have laid with Bauer & Co. in Stuttgart, and not with Ferdinand Theinhardt in Berlin. In this hypothesis, I believe that you were very correct.

  2. Indra Kupferschmid
    Posted 18. October 2017 at 21:04 | Permalink

    Thanks for looking into this and the confirmation, Dan!

    For you others, here is the release note of Schattierte Grotesk by Bauer & Co in Archive für Buchgewerbe issue 12, volume 33, December 1896

    »Die Schriftgiesserei Bauer & Co., Stuttgart und Düsseldorf, veröffentlicht unter den heutigen Schriftproben eine schattierte Grotesk und bietet unseren Lesern mit dieser Schrift ein beliebtes, sehr verwendbares Material, das sich in ähnlicher, älterer Ausführung seit jeher einen Platz auf allen guten Accidenzien erworben hat.«


    Full-page ad:

  3. Indra Kupferschmid
    Posted 18. October 2017 at 23:15 | Permalink

    Just for me to recap the timeline of things that we know (may add to this later):

    – 1893 Berthold expands business into type founding
    – 1895 Schattierte Grotesk Bauer & Co in specimen book
    – 1896 Bücher-Grotesk at Berthold (later AG condensed)
    – Nov 1897 Berthold acquires Bauer & Co
    – 1898 release of first styles under name Accidenz-Grotesk
    – Sept 1898 joint ad showing AG in Schweitzer Graphische Nachrichten
    – 1899 joint AG ad in Deutsche Buch- und Steindrucker
    – 1900 Berthold (+ Bauer) Probe showing AG and Schattierte Grotesk
    – late 1902 release of Royal-Grotesk?
    – Jan 1903 release note for Royal-Grotesk in Archiv für Buchgewerbe
    – 1908 Berthold acquires Theinhardt foundry (and add their offerings to the Theinhardt specimen book of 1908/09)

  4. Posted 20. October 2017 at 15:37 | Permalink

    1898 release of first styles under name Accidenz-Grotesk

    Instead of styles, I would write style or sizes here. Since the 1898 and 1898 ads just show different sizes of one style of Accidenz-Grotesk (what would later be the “Regular” weight of the family), and since the 1900 Berthold catalogue also only shows multiple sizes of one style, I think that the other sizes were added later. As in, sometime between 1900 and 1909ish. Several copies of Berthold catalogues that I have seen, which are attributed by various libraries to either 1909 or 1911, contain the following styles of the “family”:

    – Royal-Grotesk [already in 1909/1911, this was promoted in Berthold catalogues as being combinable with Accidenz-Grotesk]
    – Accidenz-Grotesk [i.e., the Regular weight]
    – Halbfette Accidenz-Grotesk
    – Fette Accidenz-Grotesk
    – Breite Akzidenz-Grotesk
    – Accidenz-Grotesk Skelett
    – Breite magere Accidenz-Grotesk
    – Schattierte Grotesk
    – Royal-Grotesk [Cyrillic version]
    – Accidenz-Grotesk [Regular weight of the Cyrillic version]
    – Schattierte Grotesk [Cyrillic version]

    That is the order that the fonts appear in the catalogues, i.e., going by the page numbers. You could just add one more line to your timeline:

    – 1911 (at the latest) Berthold type specimen catalogues include fonts of Royal-Grotesk, Accidenz-Grotesk, Halbfette Accidenz-Grotesk, Fette Accidenz-Grotesk, Breite Akzidenz-Grotesk, Accidenz-Grotesk Skelett, Breite magere Accidenz-Grotesk, Schattierte Grotesk, Royal-Grotesk Russisch, Accidenz-Grotesk Russich, and Schattierte Grotesk Russich.

  5. Posted 21. October 2017 at 14:18 | Permalink

    According to the book 100 Jahre Berthold, from 1958, the very big Berthold type specimen (which some libraries date to 1909 and others to 1911) is from 1911.

  6. Indra Kupferschmid
    Posted 1. November 2017 at 01:50 | Permalink

    Oh yeah I meant style, singular.

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