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German Grotesks and the origins of sanserif

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Nick, I'll try to explain my point more clearly (I wasn't trying to say what you comment)

It's clear, as you said, that some aspects of those Grotesks have not fully evolved (namely the optical unbalance of some characters). Their full evolution would only come with neogrotesques, like Univers.

I was trying to point out the fact that neogrotesques are (roughly said) but optically polished and systematized Grotesks.

The basic formal appeals of neogrotesques (say what makes them beatiful), –e.g. their stark and robust simplicity, a kind of plain but precise synthetization– are already there in the German grotesques of the preceding century.

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We're generally agreeing, but the point I'm making is that the evolution has not been from ugly to beautiful, that's only the way it appears to some of us now.

"Optical polish" is even tone, but there is nothing inherently beautiful about this quality. Many would consider the polishing excessive, resulting in a smooth but dull finish.
The condensed Grotesks were just as systematized as the condensed neoGrotesques -- only with an evenness of stroke thickness, not overall tone.

I certainly agree that the Neogrotesques are direct revivals of 19th century faces -- compare the type in the ad I showed earlier with Helvetica:

What I really want to see (and discover when) is the first Regular weight lower case sans faces.

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the evolution has not been from ugly to beautiful
I fully agree with you (the slight misunderstanding was perhaps here). Explaining it with other words: the only thing neogrotesques added was even tone, but apart from that particular new feature (which is a logical evolution, but as you said can be praised for its cleanness or disliked for its homogenization) they are just as beatiful as the grotesques from a century ago.

The formal findings (the effective originalities in form, compared to other genres, that give character and appeal to a typology) are all in the beginning, in vernacular grotesques.

Your more than adequate sample tells all this at just a glance.

The condensed Grotesks were just as systematized as the condensed neoGrotesques
For systematization I was rather referring to the fact that a typical neogrotesque is designed from the outset as an array of coordinated weights –it's conceived as a program or system (being this another new feature).

What I really want to see (and discover when) is the first Regular weight lower case sans faces.
We open this request to anyone at the forum, as done in previous posts. What's the earliest example of a lowercase Grotesk anyone knows of?


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  • 2 weeks later...

On the use of Grotesks as text faces in nineteenth-century scientific publications.

Theinhardt’s Royal Grotesk was designed [around 1880] for the publications of the Royal Prussian Academy of Sciences.

At least the main publication of the RPAS, the Abhandlungen ("Papers"), doesn't seem to make use at all of the Royal Grotesk or any other sanserif. I post a couple of typical pages, from 1882 (the layout remained almost unchanged until XXth century)

The Abhandlungen are available in digital form at http://bibliothek.bbaw.de/bibliothek-digital/digitalequellen/schriften

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