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Within the past century and a half the concept of typography as a special art distinct from the ordinary mechanics of printing has gained ground. Originally typography was another term for printing, but the meaning has changed. Typography now covers choice of paper, ink, design of layout, type forms, and illustrations.

Impetus was given to this modern attitude, after nearly four centuries of fairly static practice, by the technical improvements of the 19th century: the inventions of lithography and the halftone screen process of making blocks for pictures; rotary and power-driven presses in place of flatbed; and machine in place of hand typesetting, ensuring fresh type for every job instead of worn pieces. Probably most significant of all in this last respect was the solid-line setting machine, the Linotype – line o' type – invented by a man of German-Jewish origin, Ottmar Mergenthaler (1854–1899), and first used in New York in 1886.

The Private Presses

Typesetting by hand has, however, never lost its votaries. This can be seen in the rise during the last hundred years, especially in the U.S. and England, of the private presses, whose aim was not commercial profit so much as beautiful books. An authoritative survey, The Private Presses, written by Collin Ellis Franklin, a Jewish publisher in London, appeared in 1969. At the same time, after centuries of dependence on relatively few styles of type, there has been a widespread renaissance in type and book designing, not to mention the opportunities afforded by the tremendous growth of advertising. Jews have been prominent in these modern movements. As early as the 1870s, for example, a National Typographical Society was founded in Milan, Italy, among whose activities was the holding of exhibitions of printed matter. One of its chief supporters, elected president in 1881, was Emilio Treves, son of the rabbi of Trieste, who was director and editor of 15 journals. Eminent among the founders of the finest private presses was Lucien Pissarro (1863–1944), the artist son of the French impressionist, Camille Pissarro. His Eragny Press (1894–1914) is among the two or three credited with bringing wood engraving back into the hands of artists. He also designed a new type known as the Brook type. One of the services to printing performed by the private presses, and the commercial presses in their wake, has been the encouragement of illustrators and type designers, and in both these fields – sometimes combined – there have been a great many Jews. The revolutionary halftone screen process, which enables any sort of picture or photograph to be faithfully reproduced for printing in black and white or color, was perfected in the late 19th century by Georg Meisenbach (1841–1912) and Max Levy.

In Britain

One of the presses to introduce distinctive typography was the Hogarth Press, established in 1917 by Leonard Woolf and his wife Virginia, and now part of a large commercial group. One of Francis Meynell's two partners in the fine Nonesuch Press which he founded in 1923 was Vera Mendel. In 1917, a firm originally founded in 1863 to print music, the Curwen Press, began to achieve fame by turning to general printing. Associated with it was a Jewish artist who played a great part in its art work and patterned papers, Albert Rutherston, brother of the artist Sir William Rothenstein. In 1920, their nephew Oliver Simon joined Curwen, later to become its head. He was one of the greatest experts on typography, on which he wrote some standard works. His brother Herbert and other members of the family were also associated with the firm. Oliver Simon greatly influenced the revival of good printing by founding, and editing from 1923 to 1927, The Fleuron, a fine typographical annual, and the journal Signature (1935–54), as well as by founding, in 1924, an international association of distinguished typophiles called the Double Crown Club.

Other Jews who have figured prominently in typography in England are Dennis David Myer Cohen (1891–1969), who founded the Cresset Press in 1927; John Gustave Dreyfus (1918–2002) of the Cambridge University Press; Barnett Freedman, artist, letterer, and lithographer of genius; René Ben-Sussan, Salonika-born French artist; and two men of German birth: Hans P. Schmoller (1916–1985) of Penguin Books, and Berthold Wolpe (1905–1989), designer of books, symbols, and numerous typefaces. One of the last typefaces, Albertus, which he created for the U.S. Monotype Corporation in 1932, was described nearly 40 years later as perhaps the most successful modern display face that has yet been designed.

In Other European Countries

Jewish typographers include Imre Reiner (1900–1987), who was born in Hungary but became known for his work in Switzerland, where he designed Corvinus and other types; and two Dutchmen: Sem L. Hartz, engraver and art director for the famous printers Enschedé, and S.H. de Roos (b. 1877), who as chief designer to the Amsterdam Type Foundry had several typefaces to his credit. Russia was very late in producing its own type; until the latter half of the 19th century, type was generally imported.

The first native type foundry and printing machine factory was established, probably some time in the 1870s, by a St. Petersburg Jew, Isidore Goldberg. In 1886, he founded the first typolithographic establishment in Askabad, Transcaspian Territory, and the following year, remarkably in that antisemitic period, was decorated with the Order of St. Stanislas for his services to printing.

In the U.S.

Simon’s counterpart in the U.S. was Elmer Adler, who established Pynson Printers in 1922 to do fine printing. Modern typographers of eminence in the U.S., where Jewish names in the craft form a high proportion, are J.B. Abrahams (b. 1884), calligrapher; Peter Beilenson and his wife Edna (Peter Pauper Press); Lucian Bernhard (1883–1972), designer of Fraktur, Bernhard Gothic, Modern and Berlin Sans FB and nearly 40 other types; Joseph Blumenthal (1897–1990) of the Spiral Press, designer of Monotype Emerson; Henry Dreyfuss (1904–1972), designer of complete magazines, especially for the McCall Company; William Henry Friedman, printing educationist; Reuben Leaf, specialist in Hebrew lettering; Robert Leslie, Alvin Lustig, Sol Marks, and Sidney Solomon of Macmillan, New York. An American Jewish expert, N.I. Korman, dealt with the development of electronic typesetting and gave an authoritative precast of its future in an article entitled "The Editorial Revolution" in the 1968 edition of the printers' handbook, the Penrose Annual.

Source: Encyclopaedia Judaica. © 2007 The Gale Group. All Rights Reserved.