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Schriftkünstler: A historiographic examination of the relationship between handcraft and art regarding the design and making of printers' type in Germany between 1871 and 1914

Reynolds, Daniel John Andrew

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    "description": "<p>The visual appearances for most of the letterpress-printing typefaces published in&nbsp;Germany during the twentieth century are attributed to specific designers. Typefoundries,&nbsp;or the firms who manufactured those products, presented them as collaborations&nbsp;between individual artists and themselves as corporate entities. Only on rare&nbsp;occasions were the internal workers within the firms who produced the final forms of&nbsp;the products ever mentioned by name in publications about them, unlike the typefaces&rsquo;&nbsp;designers; however, from the earliest surviving drawings prepared by those&nbsp;typefaces&rsquo; designers, as well as from their written accounts about the type-design and&nbsp;type-making processes, it is clear that the work they submitted to the foundries could&nbsp;not have been implemented exactly as-is. In this research, I have analysed German&nbsp;typefounding in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries through the surviving&nbsp;process and production drawings made for products, as well as through accounts&nbsp;written by participants involved in these steps. The typefaces for which accounts have&nbsp;survived only represent a small fraction of those mentioned in the history that&nbsp;follows. To form that narrative, I have used a synecdochic approach, relying on these&nbsp;parts to describe the industry as a whole.</p>\n\n<p>A typefoundry&rsquo;s products did not necessarily all originate in-house; but inside of&nbsp;the firms who did collaborate with external designers, the initiative to do so must have&nbsp;come from the respective company owners and directors, who would have believed&nbsp;that products based on the work of external contributors could prove financially&nbsp;successful, enabling their businesses to grow, and strengthening their &ldquo;corporate&nbsp;identities&rdquo; or reputations. The various foundry owners and directors who did this may&nbsp;have been influenced by one another, but by 1900, it was not uncommon in German&nbsp;industrial manufacturing for businesses to collaborate with external artists and&nbsp;designers in this manner. Not all of the individuals who foundries collaborated with&nbsp;were &ldquo;artists and designers;&rdquo; for example, some were academics with experience&nbsp;reading and writing other scripts. Nevertheless, all collaborators must have been able&nbsp;to offer foundries knowledge that they did not already have institutionally, be that&nbsp;linguistic or stylistic. Many collaborating designers would not have been aware of the&nbsp;exact details regarding typeface manufacturing; they were not &ldquo;insiders&rdquo; in the&nbsp;process, and could only have been responsible for part of a product&rsquo;s final design. In&nbsp;some cases, I believe it was more likely that the firms&rsquo; punchcutter employees were the&nbsp;ones responsible for bringing the products to their final forms, instead of the external&nbsp;designers or foundry owners, directors, and other staff members. Yet at roughly the&nbsp;same time that the foundries were beginning to ascribe product authorship to specific&nbsp;individuals, these craftsmen &ndash; who as a professional group had been physically&nbsp;responsible for sculpting each typographic character to appear in print for centuries&nbsp;&ndash; were becoming redundant. New type-making machinery introduced from the 1870s&nbsp;onward helped to make them obsolete. Punchcutters were not part of typefoundries&rsquo;&nbsp;twentieth-century brand identities, even though they were integral employees within&nbsp;the organisations.</p>\n\n<p>By collaborating with external designers for the design of new printing types,&nbsp;rather than continuing to entrust these entirely to their internal type-making staff,&nbsp;German typefoundries supported the development of a new professional activity&nbsp;during the early years of the graphic design profession: typeface design. The work that&nbsp;external designers performed unfolded in an environment where it had already&nbsp;become commonplace for the manufacturers of various goods to entrust the appearance of their products to &ldquo;designers,&rdquo; a new professional denomination primarily&nbsp;made up of individuals trained in art academies or arts and crafts schools (Kunstgewerbeschulen).&nbsp;Many type designers also came from that milieu. Some of the individuals&nbsp;who designed printing types during the late nineteenth and early twentieth&nbsp;centuries also designed books and magazines, as well as tables and chairs, tea services&nbsp;and wine glasses &ndash; even whole buildings. During that time, most of the type-making&nbsp;workers inside of the foundries were anonymous to customers; they are also mostly&nbsp;anonymous to historians who investigated them later, including myself. Their&nbsp;anonymity was a result of the work they performed not being considered &ldquo;worth&nbsp;mentioning;&rdquo; it was just handwork, not art or design. Despite the individual craftsmen&nbsp;working inside typefoundries not being seen at the time as &ldquo;authors&rdquo; or &ldquo;coauthors&rdquo; of&nbsp;the final products, their potential contributions should be added into future explanations&nbsp;of typefaces&rsquo; origins. I hope that my research will cause other writers to use a&nbsp;more nuanced phraseology when it comes to the authorship of industrial-era foundry&nbsp;types&rsquo; designs. This kind of more-detailed specification may also be applicable to&nbsp;other industrial goods produced in Germany during its Imperial period, as well as to&nbsp;many of the typefaces produced in Germany and in other countries after 1914.</p>\n\n<p>I gathered the new information presented below, both so that it could be published&nbsp;for the first time, as well as to prevent its being forgotten; it should remain visible for&nbsp;future generations of designers and design historians to access. My findings may help&nbsp;enrich the design history discipline&rsquo;s understanding of the type-designing and&nbsp;type-making practices in operation within industrial typefounding in imperial&nbsp;Germany, explaining why German typefoundries during the late nineteenth and early&nbsp;twentieth centuries began to collaborate with external artists and designers, instead of&nbsp;continuing to develop new products entirely in-house.</p>", 
    "language": "eng", 
    "title": "Schriftk\u00fcnstler: A historiographic examination of the relationship between handcraft and art regarding the design and making of printers' type in Germany between 1871 and 1914", 
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        "affiliation": "Hochschule f\u00fcr Bildende K\u00fcnste Braunschweig", 
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