A Living History of Type and Printing Technology
Opening museums with a department dedicated to printing and typesetting seems to be a trend. Leipzig, however, offers a working letterpress printing workshop and a museum of a unique sort, displaying technology reaching back to the first part of the 19th century.
The Werkstattmuseum für Druckkunst (Workshop Museum for the Art of Printing) in Leipzig is one of these recent foundations. The many rare and historically significant exhibits, through which the working methods and the development of the graphic industry can be clearly understood, even by the non-specialist, set is apart from all the others.
The many matrices for typecasting are definitely among its most important resources. There are a total of 30 tonnes. The list of the names of respected punch cutters who have created these typefaces is even more impressive than their number. At the same time, the location under the same roof with the traditional Offizin Haag-Drugulin (OHD) printing office is ideal. They operate letterpress machines and typecasting under commercial conditions.
This combination is unique in the world. It offers the Leipzig facility the chance to present the Gutenbergs heritage to a wide public. Since its beginning in 1995, its wide range of possibilities, particularly for printing research, which still lies in deep obscurity, has made the Leipzig Werkstattmuseum one of the most significant museums of its kind. The remarkable features of this working museum, in which the technological status of the graphic industry can be traced from the Sixties back to the early 19th Century, is the fact that it was brought into existence by an individual: the type enthusiast and owner of a Munich composing room, Eckehart SchumacherGebler.
Back to the Roots
In 1960, following his studies at the Akademie für das Graphische Gewerbe, Eckehart Schumacher-Gebler founded his type setting studio in addition to the family business in Munich. Phototypesetting did not exist at that time. Types for hand setting were ordered from various type foundries. In comparison to todays digital fonts, these were significantly more expensive and also more costly - and heavy - to store.
Typesetting in Changing Times
To keep up with demands from clients, mechanised typesetting was introduced into the Schumacher-Gebler typesetting studio. Monotype, the most perfect system for lead composition, was introduced. The casting of individual letters, as opposed to Linotypes slugs, also provided the benefit of casting for in-house needs - to the disadvantage of the type foundries. Within a short time, however, this remarkable technology was overtaken by phototypesetting. The first phototypesetting devices for display setting were followed by Diatype and Diatronic, Bertholds machines for the jobbing area. If the arrival of mechanised typesetting at the beginning of the 20th Century had brought type foundries heavy losses, in particular through the discontinuation of bulk business, phototypesetting took away the very basis of their existence.
Salvation at the Last Minute
In this situation, it is to the credit of Eckehart Schumacher-Gebler that he, recognising the importance of all this material, used his contacts to type foundries to prevent matrices and other foundry tools from being scrapped. He was awarded the Antiquaria-Preis 1997 by the town of Ludwigsburg (Baden-Württem-0berg) and the Vberein Buchkultur e.V. for this "farsightedness and competence".
Resources from Type foundries and Printing Houses
It was SchumacherGeblers initial aim to preserve cultural artefacts that could never be replaced. This didnt stop at equipment from type foundries. Printing workshops also turned to SchumacherGebler if a cylinder press, a platen press, a linotype machine for a guillotine had to be cleared for new machinery.
The Crafts (Profession) Must Survive as well as the Technology
As well as their significance, the number of the artefacts collected had long since reached a point that made it necessary to consider how it would be possible to make these treasures accessible to the public. In any case, it was intended to have a working museum in which more than tokens of technology would be kept for future generations. The old crafts should also be preserved. SchumacherGeblers ideas tended towards a kind of Noahs Ark. Older and younger colleagues should exchange knowledge, in order to ensure a swift progression from one to the next generation.
History of the Offizin Haag-Drugulin Printing House (Workshop) in Leipzig
The Offizin Haag-Drugulin has played a significant role in publishing, printing and literary history. Its origins can be traced back to the 18th Century. 1829, when Friedrich Nies from Offenbach acquired the printing workshop, is regarded as the year of its foundation. As early as 1831, Nies had attached a type foundry to the business, which he equipped with typefaces for setting Oriental languages. Since then, the printing workshop has always been a synonym for typographic diversity and quality. At the end of the 19th Century, it was even trying to take the place of the lavishly equipped state printing works in Vienna and Paris in the field of Oriental languages. Examples of its productivity are a widely distributed de luxe edition of the Koran and the fact that Drugulin set up African and Asian printing workshops and provided them with the necessary typefaces. In 1902 the printing workshop published the significant volume "Marksteine aus der Weltliteratur in Originalschriften" (Milestones of world literature in original typefaces), designed and illustrated by Ludwig Sütterlin. It documented the scholarly importance of Oriental typefaces and their aesthetic appeal.
The business experienced its most brilliant period before the First World War. The splendid selection of typefaces brought about relationships with the most important publishing houses: with Paul Cassirer, Eugen Diederichs, Samuel Fischer, Ernst Rowohlt, Schuster & Loffler and Kurt Wolff among others. The magazines "Pan", "Die Insel" and the "Genius" were printed there as well as the Drugulin Imprint, under which Ernst Rowohlt took the risk of publishing carefully designed editions in large print runs. Many first editions of young authors such as Max Brod, Walter Hasenclever, Franz Kafka, Georg Trakl, Robert Walser, Franz Werfel, Karl Kraus and Heinrich Mann became part of the literary history.
In spite of these conditions, business did not always develop smoothly. After the First World War the interest for Oriental books waned. And people no longer had any money for lavishly designed books, once a speciality of the company. In 1928 the company merged with the Haag printing house, which had moved into the area, and it has traded as Offizin Haag-Drugulin since that time.
"Arisen from Ruins"
The graphics quarter in Leipzig, including a highly significant section of the printing workshop, was completely destroyed in the night of 4th to 5th December 1944. The company building in Salomonstrasse, which had only been completed in 1927, was severely damaged and many valuable typefaces were destroyed. It was possible to salvage others after a careful search of rubble and debris. It was extremely difficult to make a fresh start after the collapse. Of course, like all other important commercial enterprises in the eastern part of the country, the Offizin Haag-Drugulin was not spared expropriation. However, even as a nationally owned company, the Offizin Haag-Drugulin remained faithful to its commitment to quality.
A Fortunate Event in the History of the Offizin Haag-Drugulin
Following the reunification of the two German states in 1990, it was planned to re-privatise this complex organisation. At the same time, the part of the business in Nonnenstrasse, in which all the lead typesetting and letterpress printing technology was now located, proved to be particularly problematic. During this period, in which it was more than uncertain whether the immeasurably precious typefaces were to be saved for the future at all, something extraordinary occurred. In a petition to the Trusteeship Administration in Berlin, about fifty German-language publishers pleaded that the part of the business in Nonnenstrasse, which represented the heart of the former Offizin Haag-Drugulin printing shop, at least as far as the type face resources were concerned, should be extricated from the whole structure and a separate buyer should be sought. The Trusteeship Administration - the state agency responsible for re-privatising East German industry - complied with this suggestion, if after some hesitation.
In autumn 1992, the printing workshop and the whole property at Nonnenstrasse 38 were sold to SchumacherGebler. His aim was to maintain the traditional business in its established purpose as a lead type and letterpress printing business. However, he also saw the chance of finally being able to realise his Workshop Museum in this context, in the available free space.
Since then, several years have passed. Even today, Kafka is still printed from lead type in the Offizin Haag-Drugulin. Only the publishers are different; Bertelsmann, C.H. Beck, Klaus Wagenbach, Insel Verlag, the Büchergilde Gutenberg and other publishers now and again find titles in their lists that are particularly suitable for production by lead type. At the same time, they are making an invaluable contribution to maintaining this technology with their commissions. The fine press printers have rather different motives. Bibliophile editions with original graphics often require suitable lead type. Thanks to the Monotype resources that SchumacherGebler brought from Munich, the Offizin Haag-Drugulin can offer a matrix programme that is unique in the world today. Even rare fonts such as Arrighi, Bell, Bulmer, Centaur, Lutetia or Spectrum can be found in many type sizes.
Museum for the Art of Printing: a Magnificent Gallery