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Berlin's typographic cultural heritage: type specimens from H. Berthold AG are being digitised.
© Stiftung Deutsches Technikmuseum Berlin

The richness and diversity of typographic culture in Berlin in the 19th and 20th centuries can be seen in contemporary wooden, plastic and metal typefaces and the printed products made with them. Just how diverse Berlin’s typographic cultural heritage is is demonstrated, among other things, by the type specimens and type specimen books relevant to economic, art and book history research. Foundry companies and printers marketed their range of typefaces, characters and ornamental elements with the help of such sample books, which ranged from a few sheets to many hundreds of pages. Although type specimen books are preserved in large numbers in archives, libraries and museums, their significance for everyday visual culture and the creative industries is underestimated, according to the German Museum of Technology Berlin.

The aim of the project “Making the Visible Visible – Berlin’s Typographic Cultural Heritage in Open Access” is therefore to give typography more attention, to advance the digitisation of Berlin’s typographic cultural heritage and to improve the basis for further research. The project is being carried out by the Stiftung Deutsches Technikmuseum Berlin together with the Staatsbibliothek zu Berlin, the Kunstbibliothek der Staatlichen Museen zu Berlin and the Erik Spiekermann Foundation as part of the digiS funding programme Digitisation 2021. The project will run for one year. Historical printed matter (type specimen books and press proofs of lead, wood and plastic types) will be indexed, digitised and made accessible.

According to a statement by the German Museum of Technology, the focus of the project on Berlin’s typographic cultural heritage is on typefaces and works by the Berlin type foundry H. Berthold AG and companies associated with it. The focus is on typefaces and type specimens that were created between 1860 and 1950. A total of 400 works were selected from the holdings of the Stiftung Deutsches Technikmuseum Berlin, the Art Library and the State Library. 120 typefaces came from the Erik Spiekermann Foundation. The foundation digitises wood, plastic and, above all, lead type in several versions as well as typefaces and type grades from paper printing. The five most successful typeface families of H. Berthold AG are thus digitised: Akzidenz-Grotesk, Berliner Grotesk, Block, Lo-Schrift and Fanfare. By digitally tracing the letters, the typefaces will also be prepared for use as computer fonts.

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