Portrait of Kis Antiqua Now
Kis Antiqua, a Dutch or Baroque Oldstyle (Holländische Barock-Antiqua), has been a part of the classic repertory of type designers since the 1930s. Today, several interpretations of the original designs by Miklós Kis offer a variety of choices and form the basis for countless critical discussions among experts. Hildegard Korger’s version has its roots largely in the original specimens. She powerfully and decisively transformed the “typographic language” of Miklós Kis yet maintained a sensitivity to the originaldesign. Her design was originally executed for Typoart Dresden in 1988.

After more than twenty years, Korger has now, in collaboration with Erhard Kaiser, redesigned her version of the Kis typeface for Elsner+Flake. What follows is an account by both Korger and Kaiser of Miklós Kis, the creation of Kis Antiqua and their own work process during the redesign. (gf)

The History of the Kis Antiqua
“This is the most beautiful old German Roman typeface.” That was the judgment of Jan Tschichold in his “Meisterbuch der Schrift” which was published in 1952. With this statement, he referred to the typeface known as “Janson” whose “probable” creator was thought to be – by Tschichold and other experts – the type designer Anton Janson (1630–1687) of Leipzig. In 1954, however, Harry Carter and George Buday, the leading Kis scholars, announced that, without any doubt, the true creator of the Janson Antiqua was the Hungarian punchcutter Miklós Kis.

Who was the punchcutter and typographer Tótfalusi Kis Miklós? The Hungarian Kis researcher György Haimann (1) and the former art director of D. Stempel AG, Horst Heiderhoff (2), offer the following information.

Miklós Kis was born in Hungary in 1650. He was a teacher, who moved to Holland to study theology when he was thirty years old. The church requested that he order a Hungarian Bible from the printing company Elzevier and to supervise the typesetting as well as the printing of the book. A printer advised him to seek the appropriate education from the Amsterdam-based type designer and punch cutter Dirk Voskens. In 1683 he completed his apprenticeship, surpassing the design and craft abilities of Voskens, and started to work independently. He ordered the Hungarian Bible for which one or several versions were presented with a title page set in a new roman typeface he had designed himself. This is the earliest documentation of his work as an independent type designer.

The Amsterdam type specimen page from the years 1684/85 displaying the offerings of the Kis workshop, gives the impression of enormous productivity. It shows roman, italic, Greek and Hebrew types. For the Kis/Janson research, this page proved to be the decisive factor in the establishment of the origin of the design.

It is known that Kis also cut other designs and that he maintained active relationships with type foundries and printers in Italy, Poland, Sweden, England and Germany. In 1689, Kis concluded his work in Amsterdam in order to return to Hungary. He stored his matrices with Voskens. His journey took him to Leipzig, where matrices remained, even though a sales agreement with the successor of the deceased Anton Janson failed to materialize.

In 1694 Kis opened, in addition to a printing shop and a type foundry, a punchcutting business in Kolozsvár (now Cluj-Napoca, Romania). He had brought punches and matrices from Holland, but he also continued to cut punches there. He produced a large number of books using his own typefaces. As a typographer, he could have been a strong educational presence in Hungary, but his criticisms of the quality of the printing produced by other companies resulted in discord. However, he concerned himself with the literacy of the Hungarian people and the improvement of Hungarian orthography. In spite of many difficulties, his contributions were manifold, but he was denied the appreciation he deserved. Kis died in 1702 in Kolozsvár.

Apparently, it was impossible for his widow or his successors to retrieve the matrices which he had deposited in Amsterdam and Leipzig and return them to Hungary. They remained in Holland and Germany. As late as 1720, Kis’ roman and italic appeared in a type specimen “Verzeichnis der Holländischen Schrifften” from the Erhardtische Giesserey (Erhard Type Foundry) in Leipzig.

Typoart Kis Antiqua (1984–1990)
At the end of the 1960s, Typoart Dresden, which produced typefaces and was located in the then German Democratic Republic (DDR), developed a program whose central goal was to redevelop precious historical type designs for commercial printing in the DDR.

The production capacity for the redevelopment of these typefaces was small at Typoart; other projects took precedence. Only as late as 1984 was I able to receive a mandate to begin a replication of the Kis Antiqua from Prof. Dr. Albert Kapr, then the art director. In those days the tools for such an undertaking were pencil, brush, tempera paint and cardboard. The cap height of the characters was 6 cm, and that determined the height of the lower case characters. The parameters conformed to those which had been established by the RGW countries (then the Eastern Block nations) for the participation in a type design contest in the early 1970s: 18 units for use on Monotype typesetters, i.e. for the narrowest characters such as “I” and “l” 5 units were appropriate, and for the widest characters such as “M” and “W”, 18 units. At the same time, the principles of the Linotype machine had to be taken into consideration which meant that, for instance, the letter “n” of roman, italic and possibly medium weights had to be designed to fit the same width. There were no overlaps and, of course, no special widths for italics. For phototypesetting, the typeface had to be usable on either system. Towards the end of the 1960s Tschichold had developed the Sabon typeface family according to these parameters. It goes without saying that the design of a typeface which would remain true to the character of historic renaissance and baroque cursives under the above-mentioned technical restrictions would be extraordinarily difficult.
I drew the designs for the book versions of the roman, italic, small caps, lining figures and oldstyle figures, special characters, punctuation marks and accented characters according to the above stipulations. In principle, the conceptual design of the typeface was completed.

The most far-reaching innovation in the design of typefaces was the digitization of the draft drawings and the computer-enhanced development of typographic data introduced by Typoart in 1978. Bit by bit a number of technology-based changes, and with them the opportunity for new developments, took place. With their realization I became aware of a great opportunity to approach the original design of the Kis. A larger range of units was now available, namely 54 instead of 18. The pressure to continue with the Linotype system and its adaptation of the roman body width for the italic and medium weights was no longer an issue. For the italics it was possible to create an italics-specific body. The so-called overlaps made it possible to bring parts of letters onto the next type body. With this technique it was now possible to connect ascenders and descenders—even very long ones—more harmoniously, and to create swashes (which were typical of the historic types of the late 17th and early 18th centuries). Eventually, the number of units was increased to such an extent that they no longer posed any problems for the designer.

These changes were introduced bit by bit and adopted in the original drawings. Increasingly, the letters of the Kis grew in authenticity, gained in character and beauty. And yet, I was not satisfied. Because of the many changes to the drawings, the alphabets showed a lack of inner homogeneity, of harmony; they no longer seemed to come from a single source.

After a year’s respite, I started anew with an altered concept. Reduced the median height. This, as well as the “liberation from the units” made it possible for me to change the proportions of the horizontals and to improve certain shapes. I now knew the Kis. As I drew, I no longer clung to the historical patterns.

Typoart saw the Kis replica as a text design, i.e. it was, as was common at Typoart in those years, designed in three basic weights. In contrast to then normal practices, I had drawn the first sketches to a 20 pt weight. Based on this height, the proportions of the counters were kept wider for the 9 pt version, and the spaces on either side were slightly extended. The median height was slightly enlarged, and thin parts were “fattened up” a little. With these changes the text faces differentiate themselves clearly from the headline faces. In no way could a satisfactory result have been achieved through the mere mechanical reduction of the display weight or enlargement of the text weight. For the 48 pt display weight the spaces on both sides were slightly reduced, the space between the letters became accordingly smaller. That is necessary so that the character sequence within the confines of the word or the line don’t separate or appear blocked. In general, the run length of the Typoart Kis has been made somewhat larger than those of the original design.

In the mid 1990s, the Institut für Buchkunst at the Hochschule für Grafik und Buchkunst in Leipzig bought the user rights for the Kis Antiqua. The usefulness of this replica and its aesthetic quality proved itself in the typesetting and printing of a series of papers called “allaphbed”, which were published by the Institut für Buchkunst in 1998.

Replicas of old hot metal typefaces like the Kis Antiqua cannot simply be copied. One has to re-form the historical types with tender care. This demands a large numbers of technical and aesthetic decisions from both the designer and manufacturer. Most importantly, it demands a high level of respect from both parties for the intentions of the original creator of the typeface. At the same time, the willingness by the designer to add his/her own form and design qualities, plays a not insubstantial role, and yet, they should not push themselves into the foreground. The designer of a replica has to function in the role of a servant. Given these prerequisites, the design of such a replica can turn into a meaningful creative achievement.

For the Kis design, Typoart and the designer have consciously sought the extensive approximation to the historical sources while taking the reading and usage practices of our time into consideration. At that former time, Typoart and I were propositioned to base a replica on an especially chosen weight as a prototype. We, however, felt that, moreover, the replica itself should be the prototype, which results from the synthesis of all weights and from which the highest possible level of homogeneity of the forms within the alphabet should be attempted.

We have tried to maintain the characteristic and formal aesthetic best features, but we did have to change some characters from its original sources. In addition, we had to enlarge the complement with various figures, currency symbols and special characters.

Straight small caps were added. Neither Typoart nor I felt that the design of italic small caps was necessary; we feel that the more meaningful emphasis of certain texts within an italic setting can be achieved with the roman small caps.

At the time of their creation, the original typefaces of the Renaissance, the Baroque and Classicism were not designed with bolder weights. This only became necessary later in the 19th century, when a greater extent of usage had to be serviced. The completion of the Kis replica with a medium-weight alphabet was planned and started. Swash characters had already been drawn and deposited with Typoart when the development of the typeface was halted.

It is not enough to reduce or enlarge a basic drawing mechanically for the design of headline or text typefaces. An all-encompassing reworking of both basic designs is necessary so that the text types will still be legible after extensive reduction on the one hand, and, on the other, the headline types will retain their beauty.

Shortcomings that were germane to historical hot metal types and their printing matter have disappeared from the computer-generated offerings; and with that also a specific level of beauty and grace. The computer has brought perfection to the typographic image but also a certain monotony. That does not mean, however, that for instance, bleeding edges (Schmitzrand) (*3) as they occur during letterpress printing, should be imitated. With the Kis Antiqua we attempted to avoid sterile monotony and to keep the type image lively by consciously and sensibly working in different grades of thickness, variations in size and the angle of the italics.

Hildegard Korger, Leipzig 2009

The Kis Antiqua Now Typeface Family
In the course of re-vitalizing its Typoart type library, Elsner+Flake decided in 2006 to bring out the Typoart Kis Antiqua by Hildegard Korger in a reworked form and with an extended character complement as an OpenType Pro variation.

Within the complement of data in the Ikarus format owned by Elsner+Flake since 1989 the following was already available: roman and italic versions with lining and oldstyle figures and fractions, superscript and subscript figures, roman small caps, punctuation marks, accents and symbols. As used to be the case at Typoart Dresden, the characters were drawn at 9, 20 and 48 pt which pre-supposed a modification of the 20 pt original drawings. As already mentioned, a number of swash characters had been completed for the italic version, and the concept for the medium-weight roman and italic had been drawn up. Because of the privatization of the company Typoart as part of the German reunification via the “Bundesanstalt für vereinigungsbedingte Sonderaufgaben” it had, however, been impossible to continue with the work in progress or to complete it.

Until 2006 the technical possibilities for the revision and realization of type designs had been hugely expanded and the process improved. The character complement of the acquired Typoart Kis Antiqua had to be adjusted to contemporary technical standards and extended to meet the requirements of an OpenType Pro complement, which, in this case, also contained the need for new letter spacing. With the addition of a somewhat lighter book version and a medium cut, the Kis Antiqua was to become a family of typefaces.

It was important not to water down, formally or stylistically, the aesthetic and artistic model, the specific character of the individual types and the complete typographic image which was an integral aspect of the Typoart Kis Antiqua, as the transfer to the complementary characters and especially the new, heavier cuts took place.

Following discussions with Ms. Korger, Elsner+Flake commissioned Erhard Kaiser to execute the redesign. Of primary consideration for this choice, according to Günther Flake, was Erhard Kaiser’s education which he had received at the Hochschule für Grafik und Buchkunst in Leipzig in the field of type and typography as well as his work on the design of a replica of the Fleischmann typeface and its extension to a full typeface family for the Dutch Type Library (DTL) and through which he had gained international name recognition. Once again, he could prove that he possessed a high degree of sensitivity and excellent levels of knowledge and craft in the area of type design.

Veronika Elsner and Günther Flake gave Korger and Kaiser free creative reign, while standing by for advice and, as much as needed, technical support.

Kaiser reworked all the characters of the delivered Typoart Kis Antiqua with great care. This re-working included especially the elimination of mistakes in form and contour of existing data which had occurred in the past, possibly in the process of electronic conversions. This Typoart Kis which came into being between 1984 and 1990 can now be found in this new version of the headline cut. Based on this headline cut (TB Pro Regular and Italic) the Kis Antiqua Now family of typefaces consists of a somewhat heavier book typeface (TB Pro and Italic) and a markedly heavier variation (TB Pro Semibold and Italic). The Kis family thus consists of six weights.

The book weight (TB Regular and Italic), which is used for this text, did not come into existence by mere mechanic-electronic “fattening up”. Such a revision would have, in addition to other problems, led to an irregular pattern which would, furthermore, have appeared as too tight; the italic would, because of its narrow set, become completely unusable. For the book type and its italic, therefore, the original drawing was minimally enlarged, i.e. “opened up”, also in the spacing [letterfit], and measured individually for each character. This process was even more important for the design of the semibold weight. The possibilities of mechanic-electronic modification are only applicable for the “raw material” of a letter. For fine-tuning the computer is only used as a tool in support of the “hand work” for which Kaiser was able to go back to his experience as a designer during “pre-computer” times.

The Kis Antiqua Now Semibold (TB Pro Semibold and Italic) turned out to be the most difficult part of the work. Especially the derivation of the italic from such a tight-running original as that of the Typoart version, the import of its graphic uniqueness, its elegance and gracious impression, was quite demanding. The present semibold Kis Antiqua is usable for text typesetting, matches the regular weights but shows a distinct contrast.

In cooperation with Elsner+Flake, Kaiser undertook comprehensive completions and extensions for all six weights of the Kis Antiqua, which were artistically approved by Hildegard Korger. The extended character complement of the Kis Antiqua exceeds – in the interest of an opulent offering for typographers – in each of its six weights what is generally expected by the OpenType Pro complement.

The standard-type offering was generally supplemented with € and ¥ (in each two widths), Dutch Gulden [Florin], @ und ¶ . In the two regular italics, in addition to ¶ we offer an alternative version: ¶.

Small Caps were expanded by several extra glyphs and separate numerals. The italics were given small caps and small caps figures. All six weights are now offered with small caps and small caps figures.

The existing ligature complement fi fl ff ft was enlarged with fj tt ffi ffl fft ffj ct st (for the semibold version the ct and st were not included); further, the long ſ and its ligatures were added: si sl ss st sj ssi. For all three italic weights, the ligatures gg und gy were created. As was already the case with the Typoart Kis, the f- and ſ-ligatures received different angles in order to liven up the typographic image. More pronounced than in the Typoart Kis the endings of the descenders vary in form and size.

For the numerals the expanded complement, as stipulated by the OpenType Pro assortment, contains, in addition to the normal offerings: proportional lining figures as well as oldstyle tabular figures. Since the Kis family is also completed with figures for small caps, these are offered in both proportional as well as tabular. For the text weight figures with proportional design the zero and the eight were widened slightly more than the tabular figures. Furthermore, the following were expanded: superscript and subscript figures together with their solid fractions, which are available in both proportional and lining. Superior and inferior numbers with the fractions and finally, ordinals and superior letters. These were not just mechanically reduced. Instead, they were designed with more weight and width as the original characters as well as slightly more open. Mathematical characters have the same tabular spacing and and have been adjusted to the position of the small cap figures.

In its time, Typoart was very interested in enriching Kis italic with a number of swashes in the text weight. A small number of swashes have been traced to printing done by Kis. Others were newly created in the style of J and after the study of historic sources. It is a conscious decision not to design a full alphabet of swash characters: I L O S U W X are missing; a clearly possible extension was emphatically decided against. It was also not the custom in the time of the creation of the Kis typeface to add complete swash alphabets. The swashes which were finished in 1990, but were unable to be realized by Typoart, are now presented here.

In deference to the formal clarity and good legibility of the small sizes of the italics and italic small caps, Kaiser added an alternative J respectively as well as a second swash M. In addition, he added the characters TH, k and - to the existing complement and the already mentioned ct- and st ligatures. All of these forms can be found in the historical sources. For the semibold italics, swashes were not considered from the start.

Based on the original minuscule accents, all text accents were newly designed and all others revised. In all six typefaces, the text accents are larger than the small caps accents, and these are larger than those of the miniscules. All the accents which are part of a character received adjustments in their curve structure in the interest of a more beautiful typographic form in all weights. For text applications, the French positions are offered in markedly larger and higher versions than the positions for the general setting.

Kerning for this classic roman typewas measured very carefully by Erhard Kaiser. It is not exaggerated, as is often the case with other typeface designs. It was a design decision to keep the space between the uppercase and the subsequent lowercase letters slightly wider than those between just lowercase letters. Following period, comma and other punctuation marks, the Kis family shows tighter word spacing; similarly before the uppercase letters T V and W.

At certain intervals in the course of the almost 2-year-long work on the Kis family of typefaces3600-dpi film proofs were made. These were used by Kaiser and Korger for their mutual corrections. In July 2007, an eight-page type specimen, printed offset on a variety of papers, was created as a trial test for the new Kis Antiqua Now. The technical completion of the typeface, the font production, was the responsibility of the companies Elsner+Flake and Apply Interactive, who took over the definition and programming of the features.

The cuts of the Kis Antiqua Now are presently offered as OpenType Pro Fonts. In addition, codepage-based complements in the OpenType format and TrueType in west and central European versions are available.

Hildegard Korger, Erhard Kaiser
Leipzig 2009

1 György Haiman, Tótfalusi Kis Miklós. Der Schriftkünstler und Typograf. Budapest 1972
2 Horst Heiderhoff, “Zur Rehabilitierung des Nikolaus Kis”. Aufsatz im Jahrbuch Imprimatur, Neue Folge Band viii, 1976, Gesellschaft der Bibliophilen, Frankfurt am Main
3 Schmitzrand [ink squeeze]: while printing, the ink is squeezed out of the hot metal letter. This leads to the effect, that the printed character is always bolder than the hot metal letter itself.

Kis-Antiqua Now, typeface portrait PDF, German (148 KB)

Kis-Antiqua Now, typeface sample PDF (1,4 MB)

Portrait Typoart Kis Now PDF (200 KB)

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