Monday, February 4, 2013

Quest for Souvenir Part 2


Continuing the story of Souvenir, Schelter & Geisecke was founded in 1819 and created many popular fonts. In the early 1900s there were issues with American companies copying German designs. Printing was undergoing a technological change from fixed metal typesetting to a more mechanical setup with hot lead molds. This led to companies going back to older fonts and reworking them for hot metal typesetting.

One such font made was Souvenir by Morris Fuller Benton of the American Type Founders. But where did he get the idea for the font? Did he make it up from scratch? In comes Schelter & Geisecke and their type specimens. Google Books has a copy of Von der Schrift und den Schriftarten which lists a couple of fonts by Schelter & Geisecke.

The image below shows "Ferreteria" in Schelter-Kursiv font, then "Sargento de primero" in Leipziger Latein-Kursiv-- both from the font sample book linked above.


The last "Sargento de primero" is ITC Souvenir from fonts.com for comparison.

So what ever happened to Schelter & Geisecke? Why is it we can go and buy Souvenir today over at MyFonts? But we can not find Schelter-Kursiv or Lepziger Latein-Kursiv?

It actually survived up into World War 2. After the war, the company was in the Soviet controlled zone and was nationalized into a state run operation. In 1951, all of the type foundries under East German control were consolidated into one entity known as VEB Typoart. The forces that drove Typoart were far different than its American counterparts.

The world wide publishing industry had another revolution with the advent of phototypsetting. Much like the development of hot metal typesetting, there was a renewed interest in developing fonts for the new technology. In 1971, Ed Benguiat was hired to make the "digital" versions of Souvenir by ITC. It was during the 70's that the popularity of Souvenir reached its greatest height. It was used in signs, Playboy magazine, advertisements, and just about anywhere you could find text (including the Moldvay Dungeons and Dragons booklets).

But such popularity did not occur back in the Soviet Union. Typoart was more interested in utilitarian fonts for state projects. With the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1990, Souvenir had long faded into a passe font forever linked to the 70s. Typoart was transformed into a private company but it suffered difficulty trying to adjust to the free market. In 1995, it declared bankruptcy and the legal status of its font collection is in limbo to this day.

Jay Rutherford has put up a digitized collection of some of the VEB Typoart fonts, but none of them are similar to Schelter-Kursiv, Leipziger Latein-Kurisv, or Souvenir. And, so, that ends the quest for Souvenir, for now. There does not appear to be any similar "open licensed" font out there at the moment. Perhaps, an individual or company that is pursuing the current new wave of development will stumble upon the old Schelter-Kurisv samples and find inspiration from them. And develop something that will mimic the slants and soft edges of Souvenir. But until that day, the best option is to head over to one of the big font foundries and purchase the Souvenir font. Or to forgo attempting to mimic the font, and choose something different with a "free for commercial use" license. Google Web Fonts and Font Squirrel are two great services for finding "open licensed" fonts.

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