Hermann Zapf Statement

Looking back at his career – a special statement from Hermann Zapf himself!

Hermann Zapf
For the occasion of his 90th birthday, Hermann Zapf has written a statement he wanted to share with you! Here he takes a look back at how he began with type design and his amazing 70 year relationship with Linotype.
70 years with Linotype – this is a long time, normally nobody may stay so long with one company. But maybe it was my luck that I was always a freelancer, not an employee of Linotype, neither at Stempel AG in Frankfurt nor at Mergenthaler Linotype Company in Brooklyn. Perhaps I was therefore treated so well in all the years, and we had discussions only, to trim alphabets to the different phototypesetting systems, developed by Linotype in the sixties and seventies.
Actually I didn’t want to become a type designer. However, due to the problems my father had 1933 with the new rulers in Germany, I was not allowed to study Electrical Engineering at the Ohm Polytechnikum in Nürnberg, which was always my desire. Instead of that I had to take a four years apprenticeship as a photo-retoucher in a printing firm in Nuremberg. This was effectively the last resort.
An exhibition of Rudolf Koch 1935 in Nürnberg sparked my interest in letter forms. I was also not allowed to visit a school of arts in the nineteen-thirties and therefore I had no other chance as learning the writing of lettering than from the books of Rudolf Koch and Edward Johnston.
“Gilgengart-Fraktur” was originally a calligraphic script design for the “Chronik von Oberursel” by me; however I had made sketches for a blackletter before. This font had a bad break due to the ban of all blackletter fonts during the war in 1941; therefore the production of Linotype matrixes was stopped. The war I served in a geographic unit in France.
I have worked with all techniques for font production. In the fifties it was the classical, hand-made hot type, then came the precise artworks for the various photo-typesetting systems, and now for many years is digital drawing for computers. (Everything is described in detail in my book “Alphabet Stories” published by Linotype and the Rochester Institute of Technology in 2007).
Similar to my collaboration with the famous punchcutter August Rosenberger in Frankfurt, who cut my first types “Gilgengart,” “Palatino®&rdquo, and “Optima®” by hand, I have been fortunate to work with Akira Kobayashi from Linotype for the digital conversion of my fonts, which contains such crazy typefaces like “Zapfino®”, etc. I am also very lucky to not have a shaky hand; I am still able to draw characters of 1 mm size with a sharp brush.
But it’s also thanks to many of the other superb employees of Linotype in the technical and marketing departments that I have had such a success with my fonts in the past 70 years. They are never mentioned, but type design is always a kind of teamwork.

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