Hermann Zapf


Hermann Zapf, one of the most significant type designers of the twentieth century, died in Germany this week at the grand age of 96. While some of his typefaces bear his name—Zapf Dingbats, Zapfino, Zapf Chancery—his most famous typefaces are Palatino, Optima and Melior. When he left school in 1933 it was his ambition to be an electrical engineer, but instead he ended up as an apprentice photo retoucher. He became interested in lettering after seeing an exhibition of the work of Rudolph Koch. Using Koch’s book, The art of writing, and Writing and illumination and lettering, a textbook by Edward Johnston, he taught himself calligraphy at home using a broad-edged pen. Print historian Gustav Mori first put him into contact with the D. Stempel AG type foundry and Linotype GmbH in Frankfurt. He designed his first printed type for them in 1938, a fraktur type called Gilgengart. During the course of his career Zapf designed for hot metal, cold type and digital technologies. He was also a cartographer, teacher and book designer.

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