The case of Will & Schumacher
Little is currently known about 19th century industrial woodtype manufacturing in continental Europe. A baffling case of a very rare and undated wood type specimen book from Will & Schumacher, held at the Ghent University Library, offers a glimpse into this field of research.
No. 1, 7 Cicero, original wood type as seen on Blatt 1 [sheet 1], “Plakat-Schriften.”, Will & Schumacher, author’s collection (1865–1867).
In the 1860s, manufacturers specialized in the industrial production ¹ of wood type appear in the German-speaking printing trade.² The burgeoning desire for eye-catching typographic posters encouraged jobbing printers to take advantage of the growing repertoire of industrially produced wood type. Researching letterpressed posters and their typographic design in the 19th century is a laborious task of finding scattered pieces, as posters are — by definition — not meant to be kept. A surviving type specimen by Schriftschneide-Anstalt von Will & Schumacher from Mannheim held at the Ghent University Library is a very rare and extensive piece of evidence. The specimen offers a glimpse into a palette of poster typefaces made from wood, available to German-speaking jobbing printers in the second half of the 19th century.³
While non-industrial wood type — a term I would like to introduce — refers to all sorts of moveable type which was cut or carved by hand, industrial wood-type refers to methods involving the pantograph router and prepared patterns, which allowed the production of seemingly identical multiples.⤴
Blatt 1 [sheet 1], “Plakat-Schriften.”, Will & Schumacher, wood type specimen (1865–1867). © Ghent University Library, [BIB.ACC. BIB.ACC.054801.], CC BY-SA 4.0.
The large-format (page size: c. 285 × 445 mm) specimen book has 64 sheets printed on one side in black. It is an extensive collection of fonts made from wood, including rounded Grotesques, Antiques, Egyptians, Italiennes, decorative and three-dimensional typefaces in a wide range of proportions and sizes. Although some interpunction appears throughout the specimen, it should be noted that no numerals are shown. The wood types are numbered consecutively with no further naming. The first entry No. 1 — a rounded Grotesque — starts at Blatt 1 [sheet 1], while No. 328 — a very wide Antique — is the last entry at the bottom of Blatt 101 [sheet 101]. Preceding the collection of 64 specimen sheets is a single page advertisement.
Browsing the numbered sheets one notices a subtle typographic switch in the header between Blatt 50 [sheet 50] and Blatt 51 [sheet 51]. A typeset supplement on Blatt 51 — Zweite Ausgabe [second issue] — reveals it is actually the first page of a second specimen. This observation is further supported by the price tags which are typeset — not handwritten — like the previous sheets.
Detail from Blatt 50 [sheet 50], “Plakat-Schriften.”, Will & Schumacher, wood type specimen (1865–1867). © Ghent University Library, [BIB.ACC. BIB.ACC.054801.], CC BY-SA 4.0.
Detail from Blatt 51 [sheet 51], “Plakat-Schriften. Zweite Ausgabe.”, Will & Schumacher, wood type specimen (1865–1867). © Ghent University Library, [BIB.ACC. BIB.ACC.054801.], CC BY-SA 4.0.
What appears to be one coherent type specimen book due to its binding is actually a combination of two separate specimens by Will & Schumacher. Consecutive numbering reveals extensive gaps in the Ghent specimen book, from Blatt 52 to Blatt 80 and from Blatt 92 to Blatt 99. While the first part is complete, at least 37 sheets showcasing 132 designs are missing from Will & Schumacher’s Zweite Ausgabe.⁴
The advertising for the sewing-machine manufacturer Bassermann & Mondt which — like Will & Schumacher — was located in Mannheim is key to dating the specimen held at Ghent University Library. “Plakat-Schriften.”, Will & Schumacher, wood type specimen (1865–1867). © Ghent University Library, [BIB.ACC. BIB.ACC.054801.], CC BY-SA 4.0.
Although the specimen book does not have a printed publication date, the Ghent University Library dates it at 1860. However, details within the specimen allow me to narrow down and specify its publication date. For this, we shall turn our attention to the aforementioned advertisement preceding Blatt 1. Embedded between the header and printer credits is an advertisement referring to Bassermann & Mondt, a Mannheim located manufacturer and distributor of Wheeler & Wilson sewing machines.⁵ As Bassermann & Mondt were founded in 1865, this collection of specimen sheets must have been produced after 1865.⁶
Now, according to their own statements and advertisements from 1884 onwards, the company was founded in 1861 by P. Will and P. A. Schumacher.⁷ If their specimen was only published after 1865, I question whether Will & Schumacher actually manufactured wood type since 1861.⁸ In an entry from 1863 — listed in Großes Adreßbuch des Handels-, Fabrik- und Gewerbstandes von Baden, a comprehensive directory of active manufacturers in the German state of Baden, Will & Schumacher use the suffix “Druckformen & Walzenfabrik” [manufacturer of printing forms & printer rollers].⁹ Rather than indicating wood type manufacture, this might refer to Will & Schumacher’s original field of work: the supply of printing forms and original patterns for the blueprinting and wallpaper industry, which was a large market in the German Zollverein.¹⁰ Two years later Will & Schumacher were looking for five or six skilled engravers.¹¹ Is it possible that only by 1865 Will & Schumacher started to expand towards manufacturing wood type, thus needing engravers?
The real purpose of this advertisement was — as is indicated at the bottom of the page — to convince potential clients of the quality and speed of ordering woodtypes manufactured by Will & Schumacher as two lines of text have been typeset in in-house manufactured woodtype designs.⤴
cp. Sandler, Christoph: Handbuch der Leistungsfähigkeit der gesammten Industrie, Band 2, Herm. Wölfert’s Buchandlung, Leipzig 1874, p.84.⤴
cp. Sandler, Christoph: Handbuch der Leistungsfähigkeit der gesammten Industrie, Band 2, Herm. Wölfert’s Buchhandlung, Leipzig 1874, p.99.⤴
According to their printed announcement from August 1st, 1884 they did: “Our woodtypes, made from the best material, have enjoyed increasing sales and popularity for nearly 25 years ...”; Orig.“Unsere Holzschriften, aus dem besten Material gefertigt, erfreuen sich nun seit nahezu 25 Jahren eines fortwährend zunehmenden Absatzes und Beliebtheit…”)⤴
cp. Großes Adreßbuch des Handels-, Fabrik- und Gewerbstandes von Baden: mit Handelsgeographie, Ortsregister und Verzeichniss der Bezugsquellen verschiedener Waaren, Produkte und Fabrikate, C. Leuchs und Comp. Nürnberg 1863, p. 13;⤴
cp. Exner, Professor Dr. Wilhelm Franz: Die Tapeten- und Buntpapierindustrie. Verlag Friedrich Voigt, Weimar 1869, p. 27.⤴
cp. Beilage zum Leitmeritzer Wochenblatt Nr.3 in C.W. Medau (Ed.): Leitmeritzer Wochenblatt Nr.3, Zehnter Jahrgang, 1865, p.1.⤴
Large format advertising sheet for Will & Schumacher, Mannheim. Fabrik für Plakatschriften, c. A3-format, (1867).
Additional evidence from printer periodicals supports my hypothesis and helps differentiate the publication date of the two separate specimens bound together in the Ghent book.
In 1867, within the pages of two independent printer periodicals, Will & Schumacher were designated as a new manufacturer of wood types.¹² Furthermore the Journal für Buchdruckerkunst pointed out their recently published type specimen of wood types was their very first.¹³ Here, congruent with the company name in the header of the first specimen (Blatt 1 to Blatt 50) in the Ghent book, the suffix Schriftschneide-Anstalt is added to Will & Schumacher. It also says a second specimen is already in preparation and soon to be published, possibly a reference to Zweite Ausgabe.
By 1868 they operated an 8 horsepower steam-powered sawmill equipped with circular saws, wood milling and engraving machines, planing machines and veneer saws. In advertisements from the same year they claimed an assortment of up to 550 designs of wood type, which rapidly increased to 800 by December 1869.¹⁴
By 1870 Will & Schumacher published as many as 161 sequentially numbered specimen sheets.¹⁵ Through the common practice of consecutively numbering specimen sheets¹⁶ and the above findings, I can determine the following chronological order for the two specimens in the Ghent book:
1865–1867: Blatt 01–50 + Advertisment Sheet “Bassermann & Mondt”
1867–1870: Blatt 51–101 (Zweite Ausgabe)
Between 1871 and 1874 the company steadily expanded. According to different sources they ranged from 80¹⁷ to 120¹⁸ employees, and their steam-powered engines were now 20 horsepower. Next to broadening their catalogue by offering special printers’ furniture and type cases for wood type, Will & Schumacher functioned as an independent supplier of chestnut, maple, pear, oak and beech hardwood.¹⁹ They even sold pre-built wooden case frames to saddlers.²⁰ Their 1871 revenue was allegedly over 150,000 Thaler. I cannot determine what proportion of their revenue wood type accounted for. However, these numbers imply the company was prospering. From 1873 on they regularly received recognition and prizes for their wood types at several world exhibitions.²¹
Josef Sachs took over the company in July 1873 , renaming it Sachs & Schumacher.²² By August 1884 the company added Erste Mannheimer Holztypenfabrik to their name. One year later Friedrich von Fischer took over the company, eventually leaving in 1889 with Rudolf Sachs taking over Sachs & Cie.²³
cp. Meyer, Johann Heinrich (Ed.): Journal für Buchdruckerkunst, Schriftgießerei und die verwandten Fächer. Verlag von Johann Heinrich Meyer, Braunschweig, Nr. 7; 1867 and Alexander Waldow (Ed.): Archiv der Buchdruckerkunst und verwandte Geschäftszweige. Band 4, No. 1, Leipzig 1867.⤴
cp. Meyer, Johann Heinrich (Ed.): Journal für Buchdruckerkunst, Schriftgießerei und die verwandten Fächer. Verlag von Johann Heinrich Meyer, Braunschweig, Nr. 7; 1867.⤴
cp. Meyer, Johann Heinrich (Ed.): Journal für Buchdruckerkunst, Schriftgießerei und die verwandten Fächer. Verlag von Johann Heinrich Meyer, Braunschweig, Nr. 6; 1870.⤴
New specimen sheets including their wood type designs were — in accordance with the previous ones — given the next consecutive number. This was the only way to identify the designs when placing an order.⤴
cp. Sandler, Christoph: Handbuch der Leistungsfähigkeit der gesammten Industrie, Band 2, Herm. Wölfert’s Buchandlung, Leipzig 1874, p.99.⤴
cp. Amtlicher Bericht über die Wiener Weltausstellung im Jahre 1873. Friedrich Vieweg und Sohn, Braunschweig, 1874, p. 695.⤴
In: Beilage zum Schwäbischen Merkur, Nr. 31. 2. März 1871, p. 503⤴
In: Allgemeine Zeitung, Nr. 246, Verlag der J.G.Cotta'schen Buchhandlung. 1872⤴
1873 Wien: Verdienst-Medaille; 1877 Nürnberg: Prämierungs-Diplom; 1878 Berlin : Verdienst-Medaille; 1880 Mannheim: Goldene Medaille; 1883 Amsterdam: Goldene Medaille; 1885 Antwerpen: Silberne Medaille; 1888 München: Auszeichnung/Goldene Medaille; 1889 Melbourne: 1. Preis [Agents: F. Berndt & Co., 1 Flinders-lane W., Melbourne.]; 1895 Lübeck: ––; 1895 Strasburg: ––; 1896 Baden-Baden: ––; 1914 Leipzig: ––.⤴
P. Will reappears in 1876 as machine manufacturer for Joseph Vögele a Mannheim-based manufacturer of rails. In: Zeitschrift der Vereines Deutscher Ingenieure. Band 20, Heft 12, Berlin, 1876, p. 14⤴
Alexander Waldow (Ed.): Archiv der Buchdruckerkunst und verwandte Geschäftszweige. Band 26, Heft 2, Leipzig 1889⤴
Small-format advertisement for Will & Schumacher, Mannheim, “Archiv für Buchdruckerkunst, 10. Band, Heft 6” (1873).
Small-format advertisement for Sachs & Schumacher, Mannheim, “Archiv für Buchdruckerkunst, 10. Band, Heft 7/8” (1873).
Small-format advertisement for Sachs & Schumacher, Mannheim, “Archiv für Buchdruckerkunst, 22.Band, Heft 5” (1885).
Small-format advertisement for Sachs & von Fischer, Mannheim, “Archiv für Buchdruckerkunst, 22.Band, Heft 6” (1885).
Visually striking specimen books by Sachs and Cie.²⁴ from the 1900s onwards survive, but offer little information on the company itself. By then the wood types by Sachs & Cie. had sales representatives in different German cities and dependencies throughout Europe.
Advertising poster for “Première fabrique de caractères en bois, Sachs & Co., Mannheim (Bade)” and its Brussels based dependent Mr. F. Nauss, Rue St. Lazare 11, author’s collection (c. 1900s).
Furthermore, they expanded their market offerings by producing multi-script wood types — like Cyrillic — from their existing catalogue.²⁵ In 1914 they were the largest factory specializing in wood type manufacture in Germany, becoming a joint-stock company under the name Sachs und Co. A.G. Mannheim.
A single 1926 advertising sheet held in the Mannheim city archive is one of the last printed items of an earlier age recalling the company. While this advertisement mentions wood types, it seems as if Sachs and Co. A.G. shifted their focus towards supplying equipment, wooden cases and typographic cabinets to printing houses. On November 1st, 1929 company liquidation proceedings were initiated. The extensive bombing of the Mannheim city during World War II might explain why few written records or documents of Sachs and Co. A.G. are found today.
“Große Holztypenprobe”, Erste Mannheimer Holztypen-Fabrik Sachs & Co., Mannheim (1902).
Images courtesy of Pierre Pané-Farré.