So who is the man behind Friedrich-Bauer-Grotesk? A look at Friedrich Bauer’s curriculum vitae reveals a back and forth between the industry, academia and work as writer and editor. Born in 1863, he began his career at age nineteen in the typesetting department at the Leipzig-based Schelter & Giesecke type foundry. Having spent eight years at Schelter & Giesecke he left to become co-editor of the journal Graphischer Beobachter. In 1898 Bauer was hired as head of printing at the Genzsch & Heyse type foundry in Hamburg and also began to work as co-editor of the journal associated with the Archiv für Buchdruckerkunst und verwandte Geschäftszweige (archive of letterpress art and related branches). During this time he also started to frequently contribute to the prestigious annual printing journal Klimschs Jahrbuch.
In the following years Bauer released his first type designs with his new employer: among them Hamburger Druckschrift (1904), Albingia (1906) and Senats-Fraktur (1907). Genzsch Antiqua was first released in 1906 and gradually developed to a well-built typeface of seven weights, Heyse Antiqua followed five years later—both were flagships for the foundry. During that time, Bauer also pursued a teaching career at the Staatliche Gewerbeschule in Hamburg and in 1920 he advanced to chief editor of Klimschs Jahrbuch. By the 1920s Bauer had become a respected type designer and an esteemed writer, in particular for his articles on technological changes and for his literature for beginners.
The annuals published by Klimsch & Co. bear witness to the developments in the printing industry, in type design, in book arts and of the zeitgeist: Each volume documents the ideas and values of the time in words and pictures. A decisive change can be detected in the 1935 annual; two years after the awful political developments in Germany, the visual culture of the new movement had a rapid and profound influence on the industry. A conglomeration of blackletter faces—Fraktur and Schwabacher, but mostly Gotische typefaces—dominate Klimschs Jahrbuch vol. 28. Georg Haupt takes a look at “German types” (orig. Deutsche Schriften) while Konrad F. Bauer (the son of Friedrich Bauer) describes the idea of “construction” in some of these types (orig. Konstruktion und deutsche Schrift). Friedrich Bauer himself, drew a historic overview of the gothic3 printing type (orig. Die gotische Druckschrift) in the annual published a year earlier (vol. 27). In his conclusion Bauer does mention: “no other type has so many possibilities to offer for artistic activity”,4 however, in the same breath he points out: “only in particular cases it will be worthy of consideration as a book face.”5 Ironically his very own Friedrich-Bauer-Grotesk is one of two6 new sans serifs to be mentioned in the 1935 annual and as such it appears that Bauer listened to his voice of reason. Interestingly the specimen section suggests mixing blackletter and grotesk in several examples.7
Consisting of four weights, Friedrich-Bauer-Grotesk was originally released by J. D. Trennert & Sohn, an Altona-based8 competitor of Genzsch & Heyse in 1934. Bauer also collaborated with Trennert & Sohn during the latter part of his type design career and developed the typefaces Trennert Antiqua in 1926 and Fortuna in 1930 with them. The first set of weights of Friedrich-Bauer-Grotesk contained mager (usually equivalent to light, but can also appear as regular), halbfett (medium), fett (bold) and licht (a term used to describe weights with decorative outlines for display use at the time, but not to be confused with the term light), followed by kräftig (in this case regular) and schmalhalbfett (condensed medium).
Following a trend of the late 1920s and early 1930s, Friedrich-Bauer-Grotesk was designed with a nod to a style based on geometric shapes . Some of its close relatives are Erbar (1926), Futura (1927), Super Grotesk (1930) and NeuzeitR Grotesk (1932). At the same time, some letterforms feature elements reminiscent of Art Deco; the high waist of the capital ‘G’, as seen in Venus (1911), is a typical example of this. This is also true for the capital ‘M’, that has spread stems and an apex that does not touch the baseline.
Perhaps a strong and unique characteristic in Friedrich-Bauer-Grotesk is the feature of different stroke endings, visible in ‘C’ and ‘S’ and in the respective lowercases. The beginning of the stroke has a diagonal cut, while the terminal ends vertically. Features like these emphasize the type’s feel on the printed page: geometric in appearance, but with a less constructed, more human touch. Interestingly the reversed example of the ‘S’ can be found in Fundamental, a typeface designed by Arno Drescher and released only two years earlier—this one looks like it is the wrong way around.
The licht weight (caps only) is a beautiful addition to Friedrich-Bauer-Grotesk. Most geometric sans serif faces at the time had display companions—also known as Zierschrift—designed in double or triple outlines, sometimes equipped with drop shadows or glow effects. Friedrich Bauer seems to have been influenced by a lettering trend of the 1920s: letters constructed from bricks or tiles that protrude from the brick grid of an entire façade. This feature may have derived from a style known as Brick Expressionism that became popular in German and Dutch architecture in the 1920s, when ornaments on walls where shaped from protruding bricks. Perhaps the lack of italics was a crucial reason why Friedrich-Bauer-Grotesk could not keep up with its well-built competitors Futura, Super-Grotesk or Neuzeit Grotesk typeface.
Friedrich Bauer died in 1943. The same year Trennert & Sohn was almost completely destroyed during an air raid on Hamburg. Their CEO Carl Lange was hired by Genzsch & Heyse soon after and so the foundry took on most of Trennert’s matrices—initially they were licensed but by 1953 the remaining library was purchased. Genzsch & Heyse already had a strong background in releasing grotesk typefaces before the war9, but none of them ever became very popular and so Friedrich-Bauer-Grotesk turned into an essential new part of their library. The licht weight was not re-released, but Genzsch & Heyse added Grotesk-Kursiv, comprised of two italic weights to compliment the mager and halbfett. Eventually there was a demand for a sans serif with flat instead of pointing letter shapes. As a consequence ‘A’, ‘M’, ‘N’, ‘V’ and ‘W’ were redesigned and along with a two-story ‘a’ Genzsch-Grotesk was born. Genzsch-Grotesk did not succeed Friedrich-Bauer-Grotesk, both typefaces were offered side by side in the library.
In 1963 Genzsch & Heyse disappeared from the scene and with it most of its typefaces, thus Friedrich-Bauer-Grotesk was forgotten. Over the years some of the fonts survived in Hamburg and eventually found their way into the letterpress workshop at Hamburg University of Applied Sciences, where Thomas Ackermann and Felix Bonge rediscovered them only recently. Just in time for the 80th anniversary of the typeface they have carefully digitized Friedrich-Bauer-Grotesk, reworked and extended the face—released with FontFontR it is now known as the FF Bauer Grotesk typeface.
Instead of relying on historic prints, Ackermann and Bonge decided to use the original proofs from the workshop supplied by the university’s letterpress instructor Richard Scheffler. Well aware of the squeezed edge effect typical of letterpress prints, they carefully digitized only the mager and fett weights, slightly reducing that effect. While the other weights remained untouched, they developed a new arrangement to include further weights. As the new light weight turned out slightly thinner than the mager, regular was added, as well as a book weight, close to the original kräftig. The gap between book and bold was filled with more fine distinction: medium and demi bold in place of the original halbfett. What’s more, the two type designers equipped all six new weights with respective italics (no revival of Genzsch & Heyse’s Grotesk-Kursiv).
Overall Ackermann and Bonge improved the typeface for better legibility in longer body text. At the same time they preserved the type’s character by emphasizing some of its unique features: pointing shapes in ‘A’ or ‘N’ have been “sharpened”, especially in the bolder weights and the idea of different terminals (as seen in ‘S’) is reintroduced in alternative letters of ‘e’ and ‘g’ for example. Many more alternate characters are included in the FF Bauer Grotesk typeface; among them a two-story ‘a’, one ‘t’ with a loop and another without it, the ‘G’ with a higher and a lower waist and ‘A’, ‘M’, ‘N’, ‘V’ and ‘W’ with pointing as well as with flat apexes.
The FF Bauer Grotesk typeface comes with small caps for even more possibilities to stress words in body text. There are numerous sets of figures (including some with a square or circular outline in positive and negative), a vast collection of ligatures and all the diacritics needed for Pro language support. The fonts also include arrows and hands with pointing fingers as well as more Hanseatic features such as an umbrella with raindrops and an anchor (possibly for tattoos). The coat of arms of the city of Altona is also included and is an inside joke for anyone familiar with the history of the typeface.
It may seem astonishing that a gem like Friedrich-Bauer-Grotesk has remained hidden for so many years, but it certainly was not the first and may not be the last one to be rediscovered at a university’s letterpress shop. Fortunately Thomas Ackermann and Felix Bonge found the right tone and revived this almost forgotten face in exemplary manner: sifting and emphasizing its unique characteristics, mending its deficiencies and adding what was once missing. An expansion of the FF Bauer Grotesk typeface based on the schmalhalbfett in the future seems to suggest itself and there may certainly be particular interest in a revival of the licht weight as well. There is much hope that this typeface bearing the name of Friedrich Bauer will now receive its appropriate recognition.
1. A reworked digital edition with annotations by Hans Reichard was released in 2011.
2. Grotesk (literally meaning bizarre) is a German term to describe sans serifs, similar to the use of gothic in the English language.
3. As most German type classification terms are borrowed from art and architecture history, Gotische refers to types released in that historic era or later designed in that particular style. Please see footnote (2) for the typographic use of the term gothic in English.
4. Bauer, Friedrich: Die gotische Schrift. In: Klimschs Jahrbuch. Technische Abhandlungen und Berichte über die Neuheiten auf dem Gesamtgebiet der graphischen Künste, issue 27, Frankfurt am Main 1934, p. 27 f.
5. In fact the volume itself proves Bauer’s second point: Element, released by Bauer in 1934, is used on the title of the yearbook and in the section headlines, but all body text is set in Didot (Monotype series 71–12).
6. The other sans serif mentioned in the volume is Atlantis Grotesk (Wilhelm Woellmers type foundry). Extensions of Rhythmus (Schelter & Giesecke) and Super Grotesk (Schriftguß AG) are also listed.
7. Not to forget the release of Krimhilde (with Ludwig & Mayer type foundry) in 1934, an unusual blend of geometric sans serif elements and the Fraktur style.
8. Altona became a borough of Hamburg in 1938.
9. A 1930s’ specimen catalogue of Genzsch & Heyse is titled Schriften zur modernen Typografie (typefaces for the modern typography) and presents a hand-full of sans serifs. Among them: Monument, Cartolina, Titania, Blockschrift and Elephant.
FF Bauer Grotesk is a trademark of Monotype GmbH and may be registered in certain jurisdictions. Neuzeit is a trademark of Monotype GmbH registered in the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office and may be registered in certain other jurisdictions. FontFont is a trademark of Monotype GmbH registered in The Office for Harmonization in the Internal Market (OHIM) and may be registered in certain other jurisdictions. All other trademarks are the property of their respective owners.
• Bauer, Friedrich: Ursprung und Geschichte der Schriftgießerei J. D. Trennert & Sohn, Altona 1930
• Bauer, Friedrich (ed.): Klimschs Jahrbuch. Technische Abhandlungen und Berichte ueber die Neuheiten auf dem Gesamtgebiet der graphischen Künste, vol. 27, Frankfurt am Main 1934
• Bauer, Friedrich: Chronik der Schriftgießereien in Deutschland und den deutschsprachigen Nachbarländern, Offenbach/Main 1928 (reworked edition with annotations by Hans Reichardt was released in 2011)
• Klingspor-Museum, Offenbach am Main: Digitales Archiv der Schriftgießereien [last opened 10.2014] • Seemann, Albrecht: Handbuch der Schriftarten. Schriften aus den Jahren 1933/1935, 5th supplement, Leipzig 1935
• Trennert & Sohn: Hauptprobe Schriftgießerei Trennert & Sohn, Altona 1930