If you bring up the name Typoart as a former manufacturer and seller of hot metal type for hand setting as well as for brass matrices for linecasting machines and, later, as a provider of digital fonts to the RGW-countries of the Eastern Bloc States, you will most likely be confronted with a questioning look. Only experts tended to be aware of the names of East-German typographers and type designers some of whom may have received some name recognition in the West through the activities of Professor Dr. Albert Kapr and his circle. Even when Elsner+Flake began to offer Typoart designs in PostScript format for the first time in the West in 1985, the interest in using these faces was minimal as there was little or no awareness of the high level of professional quality standards practiced by these East-German type designers. The proliferating and vast font offerings of Western firms like Adobe, Linotype and Scangraphic were overpowering and easily available. For years, type providers like the International Typeface Corporation (ITC) manufactured complete typeface families consisting of eight to sixteen weights. These designs were acquired worldwide and then offered to manufacturers under advantageous conditions first in analog and later in digital form.

In order to understand Typoart’s position in the world of type design, one has to take a look at the conditions that existed during the time of the Soviet occupation after World War II. In reality one could only speak of three more or less functioning type foundries in Eastern Germany during these years which had, furthermore, suffered from war-related damages, the demands of the Soviet government for reparations and the political reorganizations of the founding years of the DDR (German Democratic Republic). We are talking about the foundries Schelter & Giesecke AG, the Ludwig Wagner KG, both of Leipzig, and the Schriftguss KG of Dresden.

The Schelter & Giesecke AG was the oldest of these foundries. It was established on July 24, 1819 by the punch cutter Johann Andreas Gottfried Schelter and the type founder Christian Friedrich Giesecke. The first typecasting machines were set up as early as 1845. Later, type- casting machines were built by the type shop itself. For a long time, Schelter & Giesecke held a position of leadership in the German printing and typecasting business. The company remained largely undamaged during World War II, however, in 1946, it was taken over by the government with the excuse that it had been used for military production during the war. As a government-owned company, the major emphasis of its production remained the manufacture of printing equipment for the Soviet Union until well into the 1950s.

The type foundry Ludwig Wagner AG was established in 1902 in Leipzig. The veteran punch cutter Ludwig Wagner took over the small foundry Gundelach & Ebersbach in 1901. The beginning of his modern type production and the extension of his business happened before 1914. The large manufacturing facilities in East Leipzig suffered extensive bomb damage during World War II. In 1949, the company was given new facilities in the Southwestern part of Leipzig. Because of the increasing pressure of the state for government involvement in the company, the management of Ludwig Wagner AG closed the company in 1960 and moved to the German Federal Republic (West Germany).

The company Schriftguss KG, which was founded in 1922 as the successor of the company Brüder Butter, was also damaged by bombs during World War II, but it was able to begin production again in July 1945. During the same year, however, the Soviet military administration in Germany ordered the disassembly of the company as a form of reparation for war damages. A committee of workers was able to persuade the authorities to give them the machines and some materials towards the rebuilding of a foundry.

As a result of political decisions, the Schelter & Giesecke AG and the Schriftguss KG were ultimately taken over by Typoart. In April 1961 the company Ludwig Wagner AG in Leipzig and die Norddeutsche Schriftgießerei in Berlin were also taken over. It has been estimated that over one third of all the printing types were destroyed during the war which created a large demand for typefaces after the war. Because of the lack of raw materials in the former German Democratic Republic lead type could only be acquired in exchange for scrap metal. The production of brass matrices had to be rebuilt from scratch. Thus, it took well into the fifties before, under the direction of Herbert Thannhaeuser, who had become the artistic director of Typoart in 1951, before the development of new typefaces could even be contemplated.

The first typefaces that Thannhaeuser took into consideration for the production program of Typoart were his own designs “Liberta Antiqua”, “Typoart Garamond” and “Magna.” All three faces were produced for handsetting and as matrices, and, after appropriate re-working, taken into the digital type offerings of Typoart in the early 1980s. In June 1951 the production of types for linecasting was officially begun with the design of the newspaper type “Primus”. For years, “Primus” remained the most popular newspaper type in the German Democratic Republic. Later, the company H. Berthold AG ordered the typeface for production on a Diatronic Type Disk to be used on the phototypesetting machines for the government publication Neues Deutschland.

Early in 1959, inspired by the Hochschule für Grafik und Buchkunst in Leipzig, a contest was created for the design of new text types. 104 designs were submitted, a much larger than anticipated participation. One of them was the “Leipziger Antiqua” by Professor Albert Kapr who became the artistic director of the type foundry after the death of Herbert Thannhaeuser in 1963. With his artistic background and his organizational talent, Albert Kapr was quickly able to set new priorities. He established an artistic/technical board of advisors which consisted of experts from publishing houses and printing companies as well as artists, in order to continue the development of a type program that was more clearly geared at the end user. Among other projects, Kapr produced a production plan which, in cooperation with other socialist countries, sought the development of more than 40 typefaces.

In order to satisfy the growing demand for printed materials, the leadership of the DDR established print centers under the leadership of “Zentrag”. These were equipped with the most modern typesetting systems from the West since no comparable technology could be delivered by Eastern firms. With this development, however, “Zentrag” put itself into a dependency relationship with type foundries in the West. A further development was that the typefaces that had been used thus far and those which had won prizes could only be used in a small number on photo typesetting systems. Furthermore, the image carriers were expensive and had to be bought with foreign currency that had been allotted for other production areas. These problems made it necessary for “Zentrag” to develop its own capabilities for the manufacture of phototypesetting image carriers. On January 1, 1970, Typoart was put under the management of “Zentrag” and thus was owned by the SED. In June 1971, Typoart began with the production of type disks for the “Linotron 505”. This was followed by the production of type disks for the manual phototypesetting system “Diatype” and for the “Diacomp”
system. Now, for the first time, it was possible to sell large numbers of typefaces like “Maxima”, “Liberia”, “Typoart Garamond”, “Tschörtner” and the “Leipziger Antiqua.”

A contest which was began in 1968 and judged in 1971 furthered the development of unique typefaces considerably. Of the 77 presented designs, 17 text typefaces and 9 advertising faces received prizes. The first prize went to Gert Wunderlich for his typeface family “Maxima”. For the re-design of the classicistic “Prillwitz-Antiqua” Albert Kapr was awarded the second prize.

In accordance with the new technical developments and typesetting requirements, the now five DDR printing centers were equipped with high quality photo typesetting systems like the “Digiset” system in 1979. Until then, “Zentrag” had introduced the digitization of outlines that had been developed by the company URW of Hamburg, to Typoart. This technology was, after a series of thorough tests, installed by Veronika Elsner in Dresden in 1978 and included the training of users. The computer-guided manufacturing process made it possible for Typoart to make the existing Typoart typefaces which existed for both handsetting and as matrices available to users relatively quickly.

The basis for the digital production were the established, mainly re-worked text faces but also designs from the first contest such as the “Maxima” by Gert Wunderlich or the “Prillwitz-Antiqua”. In order to offer new advertising designs, Typoart sponsored yet another idea contest in 1984 which reached a remarkable level of participation with 103 submissions from 39 designers. The winning designs like “Kleopatra”, “Biga”, “Zyklop”, “Quadro”, and “Molli” could be found in the type offerings of Typoart as early as 1988.

The digital type complement, which Typoart had developed for the “Zentrag” by 1989, included, according to the general classification as established by the DDR, four Renaissance designs (“Bembo”, “Chinesische Antiqua”, “Garamond”, “Lektor”); seven Baroque designs (“Baskerville”, “Fleischmann”, “Fournier”, “Kis Antiqua”, “Leipziger Antiqua”, “Primus”, “Timeless”); four classicistic designs (“Fette Antiqua”, “Prillwitz”, “Schmalfette Antiqua”, “Walbaum”); five sans-serif faces (“Norma Steinschrift”, “Maxima”, “Minima”, “Publica”, “Super”); five variants (“Biga”, “Eckmann”, “Kleopatra”, “Liberia”, “Molli”, “Quadro”, “Zyklop”); zwei Calligraphic designs (“Hogarth Script”, “Stentor”) and three broken types (“Caslon Gotisch”, “Luthersche Fraktur”, “Schwabacher”).

In order to judge this typeface program which is small when compared to Western offerings, one has to consider that each typeface had to be produced for three different weights. One has to also point to the multi-lingual complements and the extension of many of the faces to Cyrillic or Greek versions.

The changes that came with the re-unification in 1989 and the accompanying privatization of government-owned companies led to the abrupt cessation of type design by Typoart. For all the divisions of the company Typoart, which was changed into a GmbH (a Company with Limited Liability) in 1990, this was problematic since the development of typesetting technology in Eastern and Western Europe, between the years 1980 and 1990, had run along quite different lines and was, at this time, undergoing a re-construction everywhere. Following the takeover of Typoart GmbH in May 1991 by the company HL-Computer, Berlin-West, Typoart was divided into several different subsidiaries with different areas of responsibility. One division, for instance, concerned itself with the translation of typographic data that was left on the computers at the time of the transition into digital font formats so that they could be offered to the then Desktop-Publishing market. Because of the price reductions for fonts and the lack of orders this division was quickly closed and has not been re-opened to this day.

Eckehart SchumacherGebler took on the task of finding sensible uses for the equipment and hot metal types of the printing division of Typoart. In 1991 he established a Studio for Typography, Typesetting and Printing on the premises of the former Typoart company which is still in existence today under the leadership of the Managing Director Manfred Richter. In addition, SchumacherGebler acquired the nearly complete set of matrices for the hot metal types offered by Typoart for his culturally and historically unique collection of hot metal types and matrices. He also acquired the first, in advance of mass production, installed phototypesetting computer “Typoset 240” with its set of fonts. Today, the matrices collection is owned by the “Museum für Druckkunst” which he founded in Leipzig.

Elsner+Flake began offering digital Typoart typefaces as early as 1985 in the font formats PostScript and True Type, and, since 2002, in the Open-Type Format. Because of the increasing interest and the appearance of a many re-digitizations the company decided in 2004 to offer the complete Typoart program which is based on the original digital data of the years 1989/90 which ElsnerFlake already has in IKARUS format and which has been authorized by Albert Kapr. This offering takes place in cooperation with the former managers, Typoart designers who are still working and all actual legal entities. To this end, license agreements were written with Gert Wunderlich, Hildegard Korger, Erhard Kaiser, Karl-Heinz Lange, the “Museum für Druckkunst”, Leipzig, and Eckehart SchumacherGebler, so that the hot metal designs of Typoart can be offered once again as re-designs. (gf03/09)

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