Akzidenz Grotesk roots

xurxo_insua's picture

I am interested in the roots of Akzidenz Grotesk, a truly seminal typeface for the development of sanserif, considered anonymous by various sources.

According to typolexicon.de, the "Royal Grotesk", by German typographer Ferdinand Theinhardt is its direct precursor. Do you know any publication or website where I could find a specimen of this typeface?

In broader terms, talking about the context in which it appeared, Robert Bringhurst in "The Elements of Typographic Style" relates it to the Realist movement in art. Do you know of any other source in which this is further discussed?

Thanks a lot

dezcom's picture

It was released in the U.S., I believe by ATF, as Standard but I think later than 1900.


ovaalk's picture

can we have a close-up please?

This is another interesting thing. They used to have trendy Art Nouveau/Jugend versions of the grotesks. Switch those characters and the typeface turns into "Botha". Sample from the next spread:

Schelter & Giesecke went further with "Columbus":

Those Swiss boys must have shaken their heads.


My Standard "specimen no 539 A" reads "made in Germany by Berthold type foundry... Imported and distributed by Amsterdam continental types and graphic equipment inc." I Can't find the year of printing, which is a common problem with type specimens. I believe its from the fifties.


Nick Shinn's picture

trendy Art Nouveau/Jugend versions

Like a lot of type specimen stuff, one wonders how it would be used "in the field".
With discretion, hopefully.

eriks's picture

Gerstner program was released by Berthold for Diatype, I guess in 1957 after Univers, Before Helvetica...
It certainly wasn't. Diatype was still being developed then. The first usable machines came onto the market in 1961. Gerstner Programm was designed in 1967.

Where these stamps came from? Berthold? Linotype?
These are obviously rubber stamps, set into a composing stick-type-of-device after the individual letters had been stamped onto the ink pad. The whole stick with the rubber letters inside it was then turned around and pressed onto paper or any other material. The sample says "Lettering for windows, displays, exhibitions, shops".

There was another material, called Plakadur, Plakat being the German word for poster. It was a wood/plastic composite that Berthold made its larger "wood" type from. They had a beautiful, fairly light cut of Akzidenz Grotesk Medium which was used for showcard printing machines. They were produced by a small company and sold to department stores for printing large labels, showcards, price cards. Essentially, you placed the type into the bed of the machine, inked it, put the paper on top of the type and ran a pressure roller over it, like a small proofing press. Apart from AG Medium, the had other Berthold faces, e.g. Herold, Block Condensed and Fanfare (by Louis Oppenheim, the Lo-Schrift – now LoType – designer).

eriks's picture

The other AG thread is also still alive:


dezcom's picture

"It was released in the U.S., I believe by ATF, as Standard"

Sorry for my geezer brain fart error before. It was Univers I was thinking of that was released by ATF, not Standard as I mistakenly said before. I still have visions of those large green cards with all the weight specimens :-/


thierry blancpain's picture

my post is a reply to the one one page earlier about those AG-stamps (by ovaalk, see picture)

does anybody has ANY idea where i can get a set of those? or places where i could search? or even just if there was a special name for them?

eriks's picture

does anybody has ANY idea where i can get a set of those? or places where i could search? or even just if there was a special name for them?

As I wrote earlier, they were rubber stamps or made from a composite material, sold under various trade names. One company in Germany was called Neoprint by Gröner GmbH. They made sets in Plakadur and rubber, but i haven't seen them used since the 1980s. They're not made anymore, but – like everything else – probably available on eBay et al.

thierry blancpain's picture

im from switzerland, thats why i thought that brand names could help me, so i asked again. couldnt find "neoprint" on german ebay though.

but thank you erik, i will try again later that month.

eriks's picture

couldnt find “neoprint” on german ebay though.

Gröner GmbH still exist. Just do a search with that and Neopring on Google – i saw a few rubber stamp sets for sale.

thierry blancpain's picture

thank you again. sadly, i couldnt find a full set, not only the stamps. it seems, in the picture i linked a few posts earlier, that there was a system to get a consistent baseline, do you know anything about that?

andreas's picture

At the moment this seller sells 5 neoprint sets.


thierry blancpain's picture

yes, i actually found that one. but its easter-weekend, and altough i've been registred at ebay for almost a year, i never activated my account with the mailed code, nor do i know where it is at the moment - so i have no chance to bid for those :(

ovaalk's picture

Thanks for the keywords and correcting me Erik.

In the book Visual language Gerstner doesn't mention Helvetica, but Univers as influence so I thought it was from those times.

Gerstner writes:
"Berthold marketed the new old Akzidenz-Grotesk as Gerstner Program - in photolithography; in other words, on the very first photolitography machine called Diatype. This cumbersome piece of equipment was soon replaced by a better one. And with that, the Gerstner Program disappeared from the market."

xurxo_insua's picture

It very nice to see the thread reviving two years later.

I attach a specimen of a "Breite halbfette Grotesk" by the Schelter&Giesecke foundry, c.1898 (I guess this is related to the Schelteresche Grotesk, the base for FF Bau, as discussed early in the thread.)

A related topic (on German Grotesks and their relevance in the early development of sanserif) has just started at http://typophile.com/node/19482

Joe Pemberton's picture

David Thometz offered some insights in this other thread: http://www.typophile.com/forums/messages/30/722.html

blank's picture

For anyone who isn't watching the other thread, I've just posted some goodies. http://typophile.com/node/17643#comment-159977

thierry blancpain's picture

i found the following spread in an undated bauer specimen book. ("Hauptprobe: unsere Schriftgiesserei- und Messing-Erzeugnisse: Fabriken in Stuttgart, Berlin SW, Wien, St. Petersburg und Moskau / Bauer & Co., Stuttgart"). at the bottom left it reads "To highlight passages you can use Accidenz-Grotesk on the right side (Page 353). Both typefaces have "the same line"". yes, they say "have the same line".

the cover of the book is Bauer only (a great embossement), but inside there is the H. Berthold AG note on the bottom of every page. whats the ca. date of this? the library couldnt date it.

you can find the full spread here. i cannot garantuee how long this will stay online, so download it if you want to have it.

its a photo of a photocopy, so dont expect too great things.

luxuryluke's picture

Um, what is happening to this thread? Are the winds and mother nature whittling away at the db?
Quite a few messages have been dissolved or truncated.

Not sure what to make of it. Anyone?

Nick Shinn's picture

Scroll down this thread for James Mosley's posted image of an 1850s German sans serif, with lower case:


paul d hunt's picture

Quite a few messages have been dissolved or truncated.

can you prove this? if so, i'm sure the Punchcut people would like to know.

Gershon's picture

This thread and a few others were amazing until about a half hour ago. I was writing a paper on Akzidenz Grotesk myself, and all this conflicting history was blowing my mind, it was like reading a mystery novel about a font. Unfortunately, my professor told me another student chose the same font as me, and I have been reassigned.

It's not all bad though. I might be a few days behind on the project but I got reassigned FF Meta.

blank's picture

Trust me, FF Meta is a much easier font to write about than Akzidenz. Being able to e-mail the designer is such a huge help…

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