Blue Pencil no. 18—Arial addendum no. 3

The Arial thread that I began a few weeks ago keeps attracting comment. Indra Kupferschmid, the German typographer, has sent me a series of emails full of some provocative questions about Monotype Grotesque. I have taken the liberty (with Indra’s approval) of quoting the most pertinent parts of her emails. I am also posting her supporting images. Indra writes, “I never heard of a “New Grotesque” [from Monotype] from 1956. Why would they stop developing it when every single foundry in Europe brought out Neo-grotesque typefaces in the following years?” I think that Indra’s question is a good one, but that it is backward. The question should be: why would Monotype have considered revising its successful Monotype Grotesque in 1956 in the first place? What were they responding to? “What makes me a little skeptical,” Indra continues, “are the adaptions that were made to Monotype Grotesque 215 in 1961. Twelve new characters became more Helvetica-like. (But, making it even less Arial-ish.)”

12 Alternate characters for Monotype Grotesque (1961)

It does not seem surprising to me that Monotype retrofitted Monotype Grotesque 215 with Helvetica-like alternate characters following the success of Helvetica. The company had done a similar thing before with Gill Sans, creating Futura-like alternate characters for the German and Swiss markets. P.M. Handover, in Monotype News Letter 69 (March 1963), wrote, “German protocol in sans serif typography allows a variety of faces. ‘Monotype’ Grotesque 215 is liked because of its relative weight and the Gill Sans Serif, of which certain letters have recently been recut for the German market, is often seen.… In Britain the advertising agencies, long loyal to Gill, are swinging in favour of series 215, influenced by Swiss advocacy of this design.” (“Grotesque Letters: A history of unseriffed type faces from 1816 to the present day”, p. 9) Interestingly, she did not mention the redesigned Monotype Grotesque characters cited by Indra. (And they are not shown on p. 10 in the Monotype Grotesque 215 specimen.)

“It is also worth noting,” says Indra, “that Haas always said that the huge success [spread] of Akzidenz Grotesk in hand-set and Monotype Grotesque for machine composition was one reason to start the endeavor that became Neue Haas Grotesk. Monotype was really big in Switzerland, way more than Linotype. The deal with the latter [German Linotype for Helvetica] was made because the Monotype market seemed to be more or less taken by Monotype Grotesque and Linotype was the only real alternative. Plus, Linotype was really big in Germany and in newspapers. And it was big in the United States.”

Indra is also interested in Monotype’s claim that, “The new Ideal Grotesque design is a composite of the Monotype Grotesques, Berthold’s Ideal Grotesk and Venus. The three faces are closely related, making it a natural to bring them together into one well-integrated typeface family. As part of the process, [Rod] McDonald is adjusting the weight of the caps to bring them into better harmony with the lower case. All characters will also be re-proportioned to some degree, and new weights will be added to the originals.” On Ideal Grotesk and Venus she says there were two different typefaces named Ideal, the first issued by Otto Weisert in 1905 (featured on p. 313 of the 1907 Klimsch Jahrbuch) and a second one that is identical to Venus, issued by Bauersche Giesserei in 1907. The latter was a “me-too” face from Klinkhardt. One of Indra’s key sources for the background of the early 20th century sans serifs is the series of Klimschs Jahrbuchs [graphic arts yearbooks issued by Klimsch & Co., a Frankfurt photo-engraving firm, from 1900 to 1939] surveying which, as she points out, claimed that they only included “original” typefaces and not , in her words, “ones cast from bought matrices or galvano-copied [electrotypes]”. Thus, there is no showing of Klinkhardt’s Ideal Grotesk (issued in 1908) in the Klimschs Jahrbuchs. Ideal Grotesk was acquired by Berthold in 1920. Klimsch Jahrbuch 1907 Weisert’s Ideal-Grotesk is visible five lines down on the left side. Across from it is Halbfette Venus from Bauer. (An interesting design that I was previously unaware of is Moderne Grotesk from Flinsch, three lines down on the right. Indra says that it “looks similar to Breite (halbfette) Grotesk by Schelter & Giesecke, 1890”.)

Seeman’s Handbuch der Schriftarten (1926) detail

This showing of Venus and Klinkhardt’s Ideal Grotesk is from the 1926 edition of Seeman’s Handbuch der Schriftarten (another essential reference book for those researching 20th century German metal typefaces). Apparently Seeman had no problem showing copycat typefaces.

In discussing whether or not Arial is a clone of Helvetica it is inevitable that we have bumped against other cases of type imitation/type copying—in varying degrees of closeness—in the past. As interesting as the debate is about Arial and Helvetica, the bigger story is the general one about the often close relationships between typefaces, the same story that John Downer tried to sort out nearly a decade ago.

48pt Gill Sans with alternate characters (from ABC of Lettering and Printing Types vol. B by Erik Lindegren (Askim, Sweden: Erik LIndegren Grafisk Studio, 1965)

The alternate characters in this version of Gill Sans are A, M, a, d, g, p, q, and 5.

Thanks to Hans Reichardt for the scans of the images from Klimsch Jahrbuch. The Monotype Grotesque with Helvetica-style alternates is courtesy of Alfred Hoffmann. Paul Shaw made the Gill Sans with Futura-style alternates scan.