The Lifestory of Hermann Zapf

Alphabets and Pages of Calligraphy
A noteworthy product of those post-war years, when we worked in truly miserable conditions, is the publication "Feder und Stichel" ("Pen and Graver", see Fig. 1). The 25 plates were cut in metal by the punch cutter August Rosenberger. I designed them between 1939 and 1941 and Rosenberger cut them during the air raids on Frankfurt - just imagine! He was one of the great masters of his trade. In 1949 the book was printed in the printshop at D. Stempel AG.

Between 1948 and 1950 I gave calligraphy lessons at the Arts and Crafts School in Offenbach, which is now the School of Design. I was not the class teacher for calligraphy, that was the job of my friend Karlgeorg Hoefer. I only taught lettering twice a week to the two classes of graphics students.

In 1951 I married Gudrun von Hesse. She was a teacher at the Städel school in Frankfurt. Suspicious minds might believe that I was marrying away the competition, just as big companies do today. But there’s no truth in that. I think my wife demonstrated her remarkable independence and artistic skills at her exhibition "Bucheinbände - Graphische Arbeiten - Alphabete für Druckschriften" ("Book Binding - Graphic Design - Alphabets for Printing Types") in Darmstadt in the autumn of 1998.

My main work as a graphic artist involved book design for publishing houses. I worked for Suhrkamp, Insel, the Book Guild Gutenberg in Frankfurt, Hanser in Munich, Dr. Ludwig Reichert in Wiesbaden, Philipp von Zabern in Mainz and various other publishers. As a matter of principle I did not work for advertising agencies.

Other important areas of activity included the development of printing types, such as Palatino, Optima, etc., alphabets for hot metal composition, then for phototypsetting, and finally for the digital resolution of types. You’re sure to find some of my types on your Mac or PC.

more ... The Typefaces Palatino and Optima