Notes on the history of Akzidenz-Grotesk Part 2a – Timeline

A timeline of events related to the history of Akzidenz-Grotesk (to be updated as we discover new things):

1893: Berthold expands business into type founding

1895: Schattierte Grotesk Bauer & Co is shown in specimen book

1896: Bücher-Grotesk shown/released by Berthold (later AG condensed)

November 1897: Berthold acquires Bauer & Co

1898: release of first styles under name Accidenz-Grotesk

28 April 1898: registration of 13 sizes of Accidenz-Grotesk (regular) at the German Musterregister and published in Deutscher Reichsanzeiger

September 1898: joint ad by Bauer & Berthold mentioning 13 sizes of AG (regular) in Schweitzer Graphische Nachrichten

1899: joint AG ad by Bauer & Berthold showing 13 sizes in Deutsche Buch- und Steindrucker

1900: Berthold (& Bauer) Probe showing AG and Schattierte Grotesk

late 1902: release of Royal-Grotesk

January 1903: release note about Royal-Grotesk in Archiv für Buchgewerbe

1908: Berthold acquires Theinhardt foundry (and add their offerings to the Theinhardt specimen book of 1908/09)

1911 (at the latest): Berthold type specimen catalogue published including 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.

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 we 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?


Some notes on the history of Akzidenz-Grotesk

A letter I once wrote to Paul Shaw regarding the history of Akzidenz-Grotesk by Berthold.

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 1880. 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 Mammen in 1885 and stopped working shortly after that. He died in 1906.

There is no Royal or AG to be found in Friedrich 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 (this according to a note in Chronik der Schriftgießereien).

However, the Theinhardt specimen of 1905 (or 1895 as Wolfgang Homola states, they obviously worked on it for many years) 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. Breite Grotesque looks similar to Halbfette Accidenz-Grotesk in a later specimen (as Andreas Seidel claims) but might stem from a different source altogether.

Images by Wolfgang Homola posted on Typophile, now on Luc Devroye’s site

Berthold published this ad below in the Deutscher Buchdrucker in 1899. Thus there must have been an Accidenz-Grotesk at Berthold long 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 (apart from a shaded grotesk).

The Seemann Handbuch der Schriftarten from 1926 lists the following as from H. Berthold AG:
Akzidenz Grotesk, 1898
Royal Grotesk, 1902
Akzidenz Grotesk, breit, 1908
Akzidenz Grotesk, halbfett, 1909
Akzidenz Grotesk, fett, 1909
Akzidenz Grotesk, breit mager, 1911
Akzidenz Grotesk, eng, 1912

From the Berthold Chronik, 1921:

Image posted by Spiekermann on Typophile

Still quite muddy, the water, but I hope I could clear up some things a tiny bit.

Read also Part Two of Some notes on AG with things we found since 2012