The Lifestory of Hermann Zapf

The Palatino alphabet was designed after many careful studies together with the punchcutter August Rosenberger. Even such small details as the serifs were carefully scrutinized. In 1948 tests in offset printing were made, especially in connection with the weight of the serifs. You see how important such serifs are.
The type Palatino is named after the Italian writing master of the 16th century Giambattista Palatino. I hope he will forgive me once a day in heaven and give me his blessing in using his good name. I had no intention of disturbing his fame.
Optima, designed in 1952, was released 1958 by the D. Stempel AG typefoundry in Frankfurt. It is an unusual sans-serif type. The letters were based on the Golden Section and developed after studies and sketches done in Italy in 1950. It is an alphabet design between a Roman (like Bodoni) and a sans-serif (like Futura). Optima was first intended as a display face. But after showing proofs in 1954 to Monroe Wheeler of The Museum of Modern Art in New York, I followed his suggestion to correct the design into a text type, to later have an opportunity to replace sans-serif alphabets in art books, magazines and other publications. The name "Optima" was not my idea at all. It is for me too presumptious and was the invention of the sales people at Stempels (see Fig. 1).

It goes without saying that life is not always easy for a freelance graphic artist. You have bad times as well as good. I used the bad times to do calligraphic work for myself.

During all those years, I only had a few calligraphic jobs. The biggest was writing out the Preamble of the Charter of the United Nations in 4 languages, including Russian. That was in 1960 for the Pierpont Morgan Library in New York and I was paid 1000 dollars. That was a lot of money in those days. A copy of this work has been on display since 1993 in my permanent exhibition in the Herzog August Library in Wolfenbüttel.

more ... New Developments

Related products