Renner Antiqua

The Redesign of Renner Antiqua

How was this typeface revived and updated for 21st-century digital typesetting? Patrick Strietzel explains below. “‘I don’t understand why this typefaces was never digitized,’ Jovica Veljovic said to me in 2004. This serif design by Paul Renner has almost been completely forgotten. Renner Antiqua has a baroque touch, and clearly shows the influence that blackletter still had on German typefaces in the 1930s.

“Renner himself worked on two versions of this typeface. The second – matrices for the Linotype machine – was published years after the first. Even with this time for updates, Renner was still not happy with his design. During my revival, I faced a great challenge; namely, to filter Renner’s original concept from the typefaces’ partially conflicting stages of development.

“Although the type was hand-setting before Linotype matrices were manufactured, Renner designed the typeface with an eye on the Linotype machine. This required adaptating traditional aesthetic notions: for example, the Linotype machine could not support any kerning. Renner’s original sketches do show light consideration of the machine’s technological constraints – a necessity for any good typeface – but for the design process be completed successfully, a constructive collaboration between the designer and the manufacturer would be necessary.
Scan of two 1937 sketches by Paul Renner for Renner Antiqua
“Unfortunately, this is not how Stempel’s relationship with Renner seems to have progressed, as may be witnessed in a series of occasionally bitter letters with suggestions for corrections written to the foundry illustrate. The resulting product was not seen as very effective. Christopher Burke writes, ‘Marrying the calligraphic element with an appropriate form of serif seems to have been a long process in the development of the type, and it is perhaps this unresolved mismatch of elements that makes Renner-Antiqua a less successful outcome of Renner’s gothic/roman experiments than his Ballade typeface’ (Paul Renner: The Art of Typography, [1998] p. 163).

Above, the fourth row shows Renner Antiqua. The rows above and below highlight letters in orange from other typefaces similar to Renner Antiqua
“Stylistically, Renner Antiqua stands somewhere between a seriffed gothic and a baroque type. The letterforms vary greatly in Renner’s sketches. On the one hand, he drew things that may be left aside for more modern, formally better forms. On the other hand, there were also charming details that had been removed by the foundry during the production.

“I paid special attention to the redesign of the italics. In comparison with the very narrow roman, Renner’s drafts for the italic were a bit too compact to correspond well or to be readable in small sizes. But the Linotype matrices for the Italics, which required regular and italic letters to have the same width, were not better. Here, the italic looked too distorted, and the connection with the original broad pen drawings had been lost.

“Like many typefaces from the first half of the 20th century, Renner’s designs for the bolder weights show a high level of formal difference from the regular.”
Left, scans of Renner’s original drawings. Middle, the new, digital Renner Antiqua. Right, scans of Renner Antiqua as metal type

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