Tschichold, Jan: Inscribed offprint of “Glaube und Wirklichkeit.” [St. Gallen: Verlag Zollikofer & Co., Juni 1946].

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“Glaube und Wirklichkeit”

Jan Tschichold

Jan Tschichold: “Glaube und Wirklichkeit.” [St. Gallen: Verlag Zollikofer & Co., Juni 1946]. Text in German. First separate edition. Publishers offprint from the June 1946 issue of Schweizer Graphische Mitteilungen, featuring Tschichold’s answer in his famous dispute with Max Bill over the direction of modern typography. Octavo. Plain stapled wrappers. 10 [paginated: 233-242] pp. 9 printed examples. SIGNED by initials on back of front cover and INSCRIBED “To Hanns Oberudorfer / with compliments / from J. T.” Front wrapper stained with badly bumped upper spine corner, but a good copy of this key Modern Typography document.

8.25 x 11.75 Publishers offprint featuring Jan Tschichold’s response to Max Bill’s article in the May issue of “Schweizer Graphische Mitteilungen.” First separate publication of this famour rebuke, enhanced by Tschichold’s elegant inscription.

“Schweizer Graphische Mitteilungen” was a leading platform for discussion of the modernist, asymmetric typography, and therefore published Max Bill’s “On Typography” where he accused “one of the well-known typographic theorists” who (allegedly) recently had “remarked that the 'neue typographie' (...) was obsolete today; for the design of normal printed matter, such as books and, above all, literary works, it is unsuitable and should be abandoned.” Bill was referring to Jan Tschichold, who promptly countered in the next issue. And so the Bll versus Tschichold dispute went down in typographic history.

“It seemed to Tschichold that the Third Reich and Second World War had changed many things forever. This view formed a principal theme in his published response of 1946 to Max Bill’s accusation that he had betrayed the cause of modern typography. Tschichold’s wise essay, with a title worthy of Goethe—“Glaube und Wirklichkeit (Belief and Reality)”—is a key text in understanding his shift from modern to traditional mode. Tschichold’s argument is complex and perhaps self-contradictory: while he maintained that the ‘creators of New Typography and related initiatives were, like myself, most vehement enemies of Nazism,’ he asserted that: “Its intolerant attitude conforms most particularly to the German bent for an absolute, and its military will to order and claim to sole domination reflect those fearful components of the German character that unleashed Hitler’s rule and the Second World War. This became clear to me only much later, in democratic Switzerland.” — Christopher Burke, p. 293

Tschichold’s principal claim for the new typography is that it is characteristic of the modern age. Writing at a time when many new mass produced products appeared on the market, his intention was to bring typography into line with these other manifestations of industrial culture. Similar to the Russian Constructivists, Tschichold lauds the engineer whose work is marked by “economy, precision,“ and the “use of pure constructional forms that correspond to the functions of the object.”

Tschichold strongly believed in the Zeitgeist argument that each age creates its own uniquely appropriate forms. That belief allowed him to formulate a set of principles for his time and reject all prior work, regardless of its quality. One of the characteristics of the modern age for Tschichold was speed. he felt that printing must facilitate a quicker and more efficient mode of reading. Whereas the aim of the older typography was beauty, clarity was the purpose of the New Typography.

Jan Tschichold (German, 1902 – 1974) was a typographer, book designer, teacher and writer. Tschichold was the son of a provincial signwriter, and he was trained in calligraphy. This artisan background and calligraphic training set him apart from almost all other noted typographers of the time, since they had inevitably trained in architecture or the fine arts.

Tschichold's artisan background may help explain why he never worked with handmade papers and custom fonts as many typographers did, preferring instead to use stock fonts on a careful choice from commercial paper stocks. After the election of Hitler in Germany, all designers had to register with the Ministry of Culture, and all teaching posts were threatened for anyone who was sympathetic to communism.

After Tschichold took up a teaching post in Munich at the behest of Paul Renner, both he and Tschichold were denounced as "cultural Bolshevists.”Ten days after the Nazis surged to power in March 1933, Tschichold and his wife were arrested. During the arrest, Soviet posters were found in his flat, casting him under suspicion of collaboration with communists. All copies of Tschichold's books were seized by the Gestapo "for the protection of the German people.” After six weeks a policeman somehow found him tickets for Switzerland, and he and his family managed to escape Nazi Germany in August 1933. Apart from short visits to England in 1937-1938 (at the invitation of the Penrose Annual), and 1947-1949 (at the invitation of Ruari McLean, the British typographer, with whom he worked on the design of Penguin Books), he lived the rest of his life in Switzerland. Jan Tschichold died in the hospital at Locarno in 1974.

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