Did European typesetters produce specimens?

I have a nice collection of type specimens from American type setters that I’ve used for my Daily Type Specimen blog. I prefer type setter specimens to the foundry books because the bindings were intended to be disassembled, making them more durable and easy to scan. At this point I’m not buying more American stuff because I don’t need any more ATF/Lino/Mono specimens. I’d like to get some European stuff to post, but all I can find are bound foundry specimen books, pamphlets, and flyers. Did Europe have a tradition of typesetters printing their own specimen books? Do they turn up in some European bookstores that might be willing to sell them to me? Does anybody have advice on acquiring European type setter specimens?


  • Yes, they did. You’ll have to start seating by the names of the most prolific printing houses. I do not have much of a collection myself in this area, but I know that much has been printed and should be available.

    The most common specimen floating around the German market are those from Offizin Haag-Drugulin in Leipzig. In the mid-1950s, I think, their name was changed to VEB Andersen-Nexö. The Museum für Druckkunst in Leipzig still has a stash of two specimen books printed by this printing house from the 1950s, but the earlier ones are of better quality.

    As I said, I don’t have much of a collection in this area myself. But a friend of mine had some English specimen from The Alden Press (phototype faces) and Riscatype (letterpress printing via hand-setting and Monotype-setting) that were so nice that I bought these myself.

    Maybe some of the bigger Europe-based book collectors on this forum can chime in with more suggestions. From what I’ve seen and heard, Stewf has smashed quite a collection of phototype-specimen in the last year. But I don’t know if those catalogues are from machine manufacturers or typesetting services.
  • Craig EliasonCraig Eliason Posts: 1,330
    Wow, Stewf is about the *last* person I would expect to smash type specimens!
  • Albert_Jan_Pool Albert_Jan_Pool Posts: 79
    edited September 2014
    In Europe, type specimens have been produced by punch cutters / type founders, printing offices and publishers. In the era of metal type, a printing office ‘always’ had its own type setters / type setting office. No one would carry type-set galleys from the one side of the town to the other if this could be avoided ;–) In many cases printers also acted as publishers and sometimes they had a kind of book shop as well. Some of the printers also employed punch cutters and/or type founders on a permanent or temporary basis. Some of these punch cutters and type founders were traveling or did so during their peregrination (peregrination = Wanderschaft; in German, wandern = to wander). As printing offices wanted to show their customers (writers, scientists, churches etc.) which typefaces (e.g. black letter, latin roman and italic, greek, etc), sizes and sorts they had in stock, they also produced type specimen of their own. In many cases, type specimen books were originally not issued as books, but as series of pamphlets. As a consequence of this, you will find specimen books which merely consist of bound series of pamphlets. The famous Haenel specimen books are a perfect example of this. I have seen several of these and in some cases I am not sure if these were bound by the foundry, by a printing office or by a specimen collecting customer. This situation is a bit comparable with Bickhams Universal Penman. Bickham collected writing models which he engraved and printed and issued them as a loose series of pamphlets. As far as I know, he never issued these as a bound book as we are familiar with it today. It were mainly his customers (and during a later phase the libraries) who had these series of pamphlets bound as book. In some cases the pamphlets of type founders, printing houses and publishers were issued as supplements to magazines for the printing industry. The Journal für Buchdruckerkunst, Schriftgießerei … (Magazine for the art of printing, type founding … ) is an example of this. You’ll find it in German libraries, some of these are available as digital resource (Google Books and others).
  • Lars SchwarzLars Schwarz Posts: 114
    edited September 2014
    This hasn't been a typesetters privilege only: many type foundries also produced specimens that came in a ringbound or even single leafs inside a folder. Many foundries also produced drafting patterns in a single sheet manner.

    Feel free to send me a PM if you are looking for any specific European specimen.
  • No one would carry type-set galleys from the one side of the town to the other if this could be avoided ;–)
    I assumed that much, I just wasn’t sure how the foundries and typesetters split responsibility for marketing. These relationships seem to be more complicated than in the USA due to the international type trade, whereas in the US the twentieth century was dominated by a handful of companies trading out of New York City.
    As a consequence of this, you will find specimen books which merely consist of bound series of pamphlets.
    Are there common terms that can be used to find these in the catalogs of booksellers? I’ve tried schriftproben and letterproef but that rarely yields results, whereas “type specimen” always turns up plenty of American stuff.
    Feel free to send me a PM if you are looking for any specific European specimen.
    I’m really just looking for mixed specimens with loose (three-ring or brad) bindings from defunct typesetters that can be posted online with a Creative Commons license like I do with the American stuff.
  • Lars SchwarzLars Schwarz Posts: 114
    edited September 2014
    D. Stempel AG had »Skizziervorlagen«, Bauer the »Typokartei« and »Plakatschriften« (I'm currently selling two of those) and C.E. Weber a »Schriften Kartei« (they also published a rare 4-ring, grey colored specimen).

    Monotype had the Alphabet Sheets and Desk Catalogue for example. There's a huge binder by Layton (typesetters) called »Layton's Serif Typefaces« (mostly Monotype UK faces).

    D. Stempel AG also issued monthly collections by post incl. loose sheets of specimen. Klingspor also had various folders for single faces that incl. loose sheets with specimen and they had the »Schriftkartei« in multiple parts that came as ringbound.

    Stephenson Blake issued at least 2 ring bounds (one for wood), Ludwig & Mayer had at least 3, Nebiolo at least 1, Fonderie Olive had 1. I believe there are many many more ...

    For Monotype (UK and Lanston) Harold Berliner's three-ring comes to my mind. D. Stempel AG had two in house 2-ring (one brown, one red), but that are impossible to find at any 2nd hand book seller.
  • Not quite what you want then, but fwiw Berthold also published and sold type books. I have two here Berthold Body Types E2 and Berthold Headlines E3. These two are comprehensive photo-typesetting catalogues.
  • Nick ShinnNick Shinn Posts: 2,015
    I have lots of these from the mid 20th century:
    Casterman, imprimeurs, Tournai
    Benhams, London
    The Western Type Book, Bristol, 1960
    E. Keiser KG, Augsburg
    Weisbecker, Alphabette, Frankfurt
    Type faces for DISPLAY, Hazell Watson & Viney, Aylesbury, 1955
    Book Types from Clowes, London, 1950
    I'm hanging on to them!
  • Nick, but all of those are bound, aren't they? I believe James is only looking for loose binding ones.
  • Nick ShinnNick Shinn Posts: 2,015
    edited September 2014
    I think he is looking for non-foundry specimens that are easy to scan.
    Most on my list above are stitched. Some are easier to flatten and scan than others.
    The Benhams specimen has “Cerlox” (comb) binding.
  • The little brown Benham's book of printing types! Correct! Just had been looking at the spine and forgot that has the cerlox inside.
  • James, maybe I could help with a few interesting specimen items from Germany (ca. 1700…1950). Printing enterprises usually produced their own specimen books or samplers. – Give a notice when you’re interested.
  • Filip BlazekFilip Blazek Posts: 14
    edited September 2014
    As far as I know, every larger printer in Czechoslovakia produced their own type specimen book. It was an important reason for designers to send a work to a certain printer. Unfortunately the selection of typefaces after the WW2 during the communist era was very limited to a small number of text and display fonts. Because of the planned economics, (state owned = all) publishing houses were required to collaborate with certain (state owned = all) printing presses so the option to choose a typeface on a designers side was extremely limited.

    I own a dozen of such specimens from different printers from 20th Century. From time to time they are available on Czech ebay alternative (aukro.cz) or in second hand book stores. For instance, there are three specimens available here http://www.antikvariaty.cz/index.php?action=ShowImages&id=161179 at CZK 500 = approx USD 25.
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