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Detail from a page of the book “Schriftmuster” with the following text written in the Bodoni Antiqua Bold font: In the broadest sense, type is a means ... ABCDEFGHIJKLMNO.

Berlin's Typographical Cultural Heritage

The project “Making the Visible Visible - Berlin's Typographical Cultural Heritage in Open Access” is being carried out by the Stiftung Deutsches Technikmuseum Berlin together with the Staatsbibliothek, the Kunstbibliothek and the Erik Spiekermann Foundation as part of the digiS “Digitization 2021” funding program. The project duration is one year.


The goal is to help typography gain more visibility, to advance the digitization of Berlin's typographic cultural heritage and to improve the basis for further research.

Historical printed matter - type specimen books as well as press proofs from metal, wood and plastic typefaces - are to be indexed, digitized and made available in Open Access. The focus is on typefaces and works from the Berlin based H. Berthold AG type foundry and companies associated with it. The project covers typefaces and typeface specimens that were created between 1860 and 1950. A total of 400 works from the inventories of the Stiftung Deutsches Technikmuseum Berlin, the Kunstbibliothek and the Staatsbibliothek have been selected with 120 fonts coming from the Erik Spiekermann Foundation.

The indexing and digitization will also serve to lay the foundation for a wide array of outreach activities targeting specific groups. The project participants look forward to mutually implementing these after the project period has ended.

Type specimen books and press proofs

The book page displays a composition of black and red upper and lower case letters from the typeface “Tages Antiqua” in various sizes. The letters are loosely grouped around the typeface name in the center of the picture.
Letter composition of the typeface “Tages Antiqua” from the type specimen book “Schriften” published by the Berlin print company “Erasmusdruck”. The book contains numerous specimens of known typefaces such as "Garamond-Antiqua" or “Akzidenz-Grotesk”.

The wealth and diversity of Berlin´s typographic culture in the 19th and 20th centuries is evinced through the presentation of contemporary wood, plastic and metal types and the printed products made with them. In addition, the whole genre of typeface samples and type specimen books that are relevant to economic, art and book history research also reflects this diverse typographic culture.

Type specimen books can range from a few to many hundreds of pages. Foundry and printing companies used them to market their lines of fonts, symbols and decorative elements internationally.
Even though type specimen books are collected and preserved in large numbers in archives, libraries and museums, they are only given a minor role in everyday visual culture. However, they have a social significance that should not be underestimated - especially for the creative industries.

This also applies to the historical letters used for printing and the print proofs made with them. By digitizing and further processing the data, additional fields of application such as the generation of computer fonts based on historical models are possible.


The Stiftung Deutsches Technikmuseum Berlin, the Kunstbibliothek and the Staatsbibliothek are indexing and digitizing all the type specimens in their inventories. The Stiftung Deutsches Technikmuseum Berlin is to begin the work and the other institutions will compare their inventories with those of the Technikmuseum before proceeding with their own indexing and digitization. In this way, the scanning of identical copies will be avoided.

The Erik Spiekermann Foundation is digitizing its wood, plastic and above all metal letters in multiple versions along with the font styles and font sizes from paper printed proofs. This will digitize the five most successful font families from H. Berthold AG: Akzidenz-Grotesk, Berliner Grotesk, Block, Lo-Type und Fanfare. Digitally reproducing the letters has the further advantage of also preparing them for use as computer fonts. The Stiftung Deutsches Technikmuseum Berlin supports the work by providing cataloging services.


Stiftung Deutsches Technikmuseum Berlin

Project Manager: Peter Schwirkmann schwirkmann@technikmuseum.berlin

Archivist: Marcel Ruhl ruhl@technikmuseum.berlin

Assistant Curator Printing and Papermaking : Kerstin Wallbach wallbach@technikmuseum.berlin

Project Assistant: Magdalene Schlösser schloesser@technikmuseum.berlin

Erik Spiekermann Foundation gGmbH

Prof. Dr. h.c. Erik Spiekermann erik@p98a.com

Staatsbibliothek zu Berlin – Preußischer Kulturbesitz

Dr. Christian Mathieu christian.mathieu@sbb-spk-berlin.de

Kunstbibliothek – Staatliche Museen zu Berlin

Dr. Michael Lailach m.lailach@smb.spk-berlin.de