Berthold Wolpe


Lettering, type designs, book- and jacket designs. Jewish. Born Berthold Ludwig Wolpe 29 October 1905 in Offenbach am Main; trained as a metal-chaser before becoming in 1924 a pupil of Rudolf Koch in the famed Offenbach Werkstatt where, like his co-workers, applied letterforms to paper, metal, wood and tapestries. 1927: worked on Dr Siegfried Guggenheim’s Offenbacher Haggadah, a Werkstatt production. 1928: studied goldsmithing under Theodor Wende at Pforzheim Kunstgewerbeschule. 1929-34: Koch’s assistant. 1930-33: taught at the Frankfurt Art School. 1932: visited England1934: assisted Fritz Kredel on the Werkstatt’s Great Map of Germany .

28 February 1935: Wolpe received a letter from the Reichskammer der bildende Kunst, Berlin, ‘…as you are Non-Aryan and as such do not possess the necessary reliability to create an spread German cultural values, I forbid you to further practise your profession as a graphic designer.’ With the help of the designer-publisher Francis Meynell and Prime Minister Stanley Baldwin, Wolpe settled in England where he had a distinguished career as a letterer, teacher, type-designer, book- and book-jacket designer, and historian.

1935-40: worked at the Fanfare Press, London, where he designed book jackets, ornaments and borders. At the start of the war Wolpe , being an ‘enemy alien’ was interned and spent some months in Australia. ‘The Australians were told to prepare an internment camp for Nazis – who by some administrative mistake were interned on the Isle of Man, and the real refugees were plonked in the desert in mid Australia. [ Wolpe ] said the Australians were very disgusted to have to guard such mild prisoners and were [thus] as lenient as could be.’ Upon the return to England, ‘he had to paint the ship’s name, “Themistocles”, on a barrel attached to a long rope, which would mark the spot where the ship sank [as U-boats were very active]’. From 1941: worked at Faber & Faber until his retirement in 1975. At Faber he designed over 1500 book jackets and bindings as well as innumerable books. 1948-52: taught at Camberwell School of Art. 1953-65: taught at School of Graphic Design at the Royal College of Art, then, 1965-75, a visiting lecturer. From 1975: taught lettering at City and Guilds of London School of Art. 1966: designed The Times masthead (in use May 1966-September 1970). Wolpe died 5 July 1989 in London.

Member Double Crown Club (elected 1938, President 1964); Royal Designer for Industry (1959); Society of Scribes and Illuminators; Bund Deutscher Buchkünstler; Printing Historical Society; Society of Designer-Craftsmen. 1959: Edith Burnett Memorial Lecture, British Academy. 1981-2: Lyell Reader in Bibliography, Oxford. 1982: Frederic W. Goudy Award, Rochester Institute of Technology, NY. 1983: OBE (Order of the British Empire). 1983: City of Offenbach Silver Medal. 1985: Ehrenurkunde , Maximilian Gesellschaft, Hamburg. 1988: Leverhulme Emeritus Fellow. Inveterate collector of printed ephemera and odd bits of printing accessories.

Typefaces: Hyperion (originally called Matthias Claudius; designed by 1932; one size cut by Paul Koch; 1936-7, Bauer). Albertus: a commission of 1932 by Stanley Morison for the Monotype Corporation; see Monotype Recorder, Summer 1935 (cover: first showing of Albertus), Monotype broadside of capitals, series 324; see Signature, July 1936; British & Colonial Printer, 13 March 1953, pp. 312, 314, 316, Print in Britain, June 1953, p. 48, and Aug. 1955, between pp. 112-13. Tempest (1935, for Fanfare Press; cut by Monotype 1936; see Typography, Spring 1937, p. 34). Sachsenwald (1936; see Monotype Recorder, Spring 1937, and Signature, March 1938, p. 53 and tip-in). Pegasus (designed 1937, 16pt cut by Monotype 1938, numerals 1939). Decorata (1956; exclusive to Westerham Press, Kent). LTB italic (1973).

Writings by

  • 1934-59: Das ABC-Büchlein (with Rudolf Koch), Insel, 1934 ( repr . 1949, see also 2005)
  • Schriftvorlagen für Schreiber…, Kassel: Bärenreiter, 1934
  • Handwerkerzeichen, Frankfurt a.M. : Bauer Typefoundry, 1936, signs of crafts and trades designed for Bauer (first use of Wolpe’s Hyperion typeface, at this time called Matthias Claudius) (see also 2005)
  • maps in The History of Saint Louis, Gregynog, 1937
  • Schmuckstücke und Marken, Frankfurt a.M. : Bauer, 1938, Wolpe -designed devices of 1925-37 (see also 2005)
  • A Book of Fanfare Ornaments, London: Fanfare, 1939
  • ‘In memoriam Johannes Gutenberg’ (illustration to article, ‘Gutenberg’s Germany’), Signature, May 1940 (facing p. 1)
  • review of Tschichold’s Meisterbuch der Schrift, Signature 18, 1953, pp. 62-3
  • ‘A note on simple binding’, in The Calligrapher’s Handbook (C.M. Lamb, ed.), London: Faber & Faber, 1956
  • ‘German Historical Calligraphy’ (book reviews), Motif 2, Feb. 1959, pp. 88-9
  • ‘Rudolf Koch, der Meister’, Philobiblon, Aug. 1959, pp. 201-3
  • (ed.) A Newe Booke of Copies 1574, London: Lion and Unicorn Press, 1959 (London: Oxford University Press, 1962)
  • 1960-89: Renaissance Handwriting (with Alfred Fairbank), London: Faber and Faber, 1960
  • (ed.) A Newe Booke of Copies 1574 (London: Lion and Unicorn Press, 1959), London: Oxford University Press, 1962
  • ‘Florilegium Alphabeticum. Alphabets in medieval manuscripts’, contribution in Calligraphy and Palaeography, A.S. Osley (ed.), London: Faber & Faber, 1965, pp. 69-74 plus 12pp. halftone section
  • ‘Florilegium Alphabeticum. Alphabete in mittelalterlichen Handschriften’, Philobiblon, Dec. 1965, pp. 245-9 plus 12pp. halftone section
  • (ed.) Vincent Figgins Type Specimens, London: Printing Historical Society, 1967
  • Freedom of the Press (4 broadsides, notes by BW
  • printed for the Printing Historical Society), 1969
  • ‘The Printing Historical Society’, Penrose Annual, 1969, pp. 235-44
  • (Introduction and notes), Johann David Steingruber, Architectural Alphabet 1773, London: The Merrion Press, 1972
  • review of Nicholas Copernicus, in Journal of the Society for Italic Handwriting 75, Summer 1973, pp. 19-22 ‘Fairbank at 80’, Journal of the Society for Italic Handwriting 83, Summer 1975, pp. 6-8
  • Preliminary notes from a study of the life & work of John de Beauchesne (limited edition, privately printed?
  • reprinted from The Journal of the Society for Italic Handwriting, 1975)
  • ‘A tribute to Jan Tschichold from London’, in Jan Tschichold ( exh . cat.), Zurich: Kunstgewerbemuseum, 1976, pp. 16-18 (see also 1982)
  • The little ABC book of Rudolf Koch, a facsimile of Das ABC-Büchlein of 1934, with Memoir by Fritz Kredel and Preface by Warren Chappell, Boston: Godine, London: Merrion, Offenbach: Friends of Klingspor Museum, New York: Typophiles (see also 2005)
  • introduction, Characters well marshalled, Wormley: Glade, 1977 (A.S. Otley, tr.)
  • ‘John de Beauchesne…’, in A.S. Osley, Scribes and Sources, London/Boston: Faber and Faber, 1980
  • ‘A tribute to Jan Tschichold from London’, in Jan Tschichold ( exh . cat.), Edinburgh: National Library of Scotland, 1982, pp. 16-18 (see also 1976)
  • ‘Rudolf Koch und Edward Johnston’, Philobiblon, Sept. 1989, pp. 208-17 (written 1984)
  • The little ABC book of Rudolf Koch, a 1976 facsimile of Das ABC-Büchlein of 1934, with Memoir by Fritz Kredel and Preface by Warren Chappell (reissued, London: Merrion, 2005).

Writings about

  • Hugh Pearman, ‘Prince Albertus’, Creative Review, Feb. 1986, pp. 42-3
  • Kunst im Exil in Grossbritannien 1933-1945 (exh. cat.), Berlin: Neue Gesellschaft für Bildende Kunst and Verlag Frölich & Kaufmann, 1986. , 1986
  • 1928-79: Rudolf Koch, ‘Die Offenbacher Haggadah’, Philobiblon, Oct. 1928, pp. 193-4
  • ‘A New Titling’ (Albertus), Signature, July 1936 (between pp. 14/15)
  • ‘Monotype Albertus’, Monotype Recorder, Winter 1936, pp. 12-13
  • Percy J. Smith, ‘Lettering in association with architecture’ (inscriptions, tablets, wall hanging), Lettering of Today (special number of The Studio), 1937, pp. 43, 69, 97, 104, 107, 108
  • (Sachsenwald Gothic), Signature, March 1938 (between pp. 52/53)
  • ‘Aus dem Schriftschaffen’, Philobiblon 3, 1939, pp. 86-7
  • review of A Book of Fanfare Ornaments, Signature, Jan. 1940
  • Oskar Beyer, ‘Schriftteppiche’, Die zeitgemässe Schrift, Berlin/Leipzig: Verlag für Schriftkunde Heintze & Blanckertz., Jan./April 1934, pp. 28-36
  • Walter Hofmann, review of ABC-Buchlein (Rudolf Koch, Berthold Wolpe ), Archiv für Buchgewerbe und Gebrauchsgraphik, Leipzig: Deutsche Buchgewerbeverein., 1936, pp. 49-50
  • numerous Kredel/Wolpe vignettes (Bauer) in Archiv für Buchgewerbe und Gebrauchsgraphik, Leipzig: Deutsche Buchgewerbeverein., 1936, from p. 254
  • Carl Wagner, ‘Bauer’s Type-foundry 1837-1937’ (centenary), Archiv für Buchgewerbe und Gebrauchsgraphik, Leipzig: Deutsche Buchgewerbeverein., 1937, pp. 439-43 plus 20-page supplement (in German and English)
  • Nicholas Drew, ‘The work of Berthold Wolpe’, Art and Industry, 1940, v. 28, pp. 128-33
  • Nicolette Gray, ‘Berthold Wolpe’, Signature, Dec. 1940, pp. 20-27
  • Albertus showing, Monotype Recorder, No. 2, 1950, pp. 17, 18 ‘Albertus Bold for Bentalls standardised publicity’, Art and Industry, 1954, v. 57, pp. 130-33
  • Philip Hofer, ‘A Series of Modern German Calligraphic Manuscripts for Children’, Printing & Graphic Arts, Feb. 1956, pp. 99-106
  • Charles Mozley, Wolperiana, London: Merrion Press, 1960
  • Richard Guyatt, ‘Berthold Wolpe’ (interview, drawing), Motif 5, Autumn 1960, pp. 12-13
  • Hermann Zapf, ‘Zur Pflege der Schreibkunst’, Imprimatur, 1958/60, pp. 220-21 (reviews of Renaissance Handwriting and Wolperiana)
  • note on BW’s Renaissance Handwriting, in Graphis 89, 1960, p. 271
  • John Curtis, ‘The lettering is the message’, Penrose Annual, 1971, pp. 25-37, esp. pp. 25, 26
  • ‘Wolpe[,] book designer’, Printing World, 29 Aug. 1974 (supplement), pp. 30-31
  • 1980-89: Berthold Wolpe, A Retrospective Survey, London: Victoria and Albert Museum and Faber & Faber Ltd, 1980 (reissued
  • see 2005)
  • A.S. Osley, review of The Work of Berthold Wolpe (V&A exh .), in Fine Print, Jan. 1981, pp. 14-15
  • Sue Fowler, ‘Berthold Wolpe und sein Werk. Zu einer Ausstellung in London’, Aus dem Antiquariat, 1981, 1, pp. A17-21
  • Hans Schmoller, ‘Der Schrift verschrieben. Berthold Wolpe und sein Werk’, Philobiblon, Feb. 1981, pp. 9-27
  • Bernard Orna, ‘Berthold Wolpe’, Printing Today, Feb. 1981, p. 22
  • ‘Goudy Award…’, Graphic Arts Monthly, Dec. 1982, p. 120
  • Montague Shaw, ‘Wolpe’s winged horse’ (on Pegasus), Linotype express, Spring 1985, p. 3
  • Honorary Certificate from Maximilian-Gesellschaft to Dr Berthold Wolpe, Philobiblon, March 1986, p. 3
  • SC, 1987
  • Ruari McLean and Nicolas Barker, ‘Berthold Wolpe’ (obituaries), The Independent, 6 July 1989
  • Victor Clark, ‘Calligrapher royal and reticent’ (obituary), The Guardian, 8 July 1989
  • R.S. Atterbury, ‘Berthold Wolpe’ (obituary), The Bookseller, 21 July 1989, p. 204
  • M.S., ‘Berthold Wolpe 1905-89’ (obituary), Printing Historical Society Bulletin, Summer 1989, p. 9
  • N. Barker, ‘Berthold Wolpe, 1905-89’ (obituary), Fine Print, Oct. 1989, p. 211
  • 1990-present: Montague Shaw, ‘Berthold Wolpe, 1905-89’ (obituary), Matrix 10, 1990, pp. 1-2
  • Sofie-Charlotte Bauer, ‘In memoriam Berthold Wolpe’, Gutenberg-Jahrbuch, 1990, pp. 382-5
  • ‘Caledonian Miscellany’, Edinburgh Bibliographical Society Transactions, vol. VI, part 2, 1993 Bryan Platt and others, ‘Classic design. The Penguin Classics’, Henley-on-Thames: Penguin Collectors’ Society (Miscellany 9), 1994, pp. 22-3, 34 (roundels) Tanya Schmoller, ‘Roundel trouble’ (Penguin Classics), Matrix 14, Winter 1994, Risbury, Herefordshire: Whittington, pp. 167-77, plus insets P. Fox, ‘Patterned papers in the Insel-Bücherei’, Matrix 14, Risbury, Herefordshire: Whittington, Winter 1994, pp. 178-87 plus tip-in David McKitterick, ‘The Fanfare Press’, Matrix 18, Winter 1998, pp. 24-43
  • Brenda Berman, ‘Berthold Wolpe – a reminiscence’, Forum (journal of Letter Exchange, London), Spring 2001. See also Journal of the Society for Italic Handwriting, Summer 1976, pp. 6-15, Summer 1990, pp. 12-16, and the Society’s Bulletin, Spring 1987, pp. 7-10
  • M. Wolpe, internment details in a letter to the author, Aug. 2001
  • Ronald Salter, Fritz Kredel. Das buchkünstlerisch Werk in Deutschland und Amerika, Rudolstadt: burgart, 2003
  • Berthold Wolpe. A retrospective survey, London: Merrion, 2005 (essentially a reissue of the V&A catalogue of 1980, with an introduction by John Bodley)
  • Owen Williams, ‘Berthold Wolpe and his typeface Albertus’, Letter Arts Review, v. 20, no. 1, 2005, pp. 16-23
  • Joseph Connolly, Eighty Years of Book Cover Design (Faber and Faber), London: Faber and Faber, 2009, esp. pp.xiii -xviii.
  • Ernst Fischer and others, Buchgestaltung im Exil 1933-1950. Eine Ausstellung des Deutschen Exilarchivs 1933-1945 Der Deutschen Bibliothek. Wiesbaden: Harrassowitz Verlag, 2003. Very comprehensive. , 2003, p. 92, and biog . pp. 214-15


  • Victoria & Albert Museum, London, Nov. 1980-Feb. 1981
  • National Library of Scotland, Edinburgh, 1982
  • Klingspor Museum, Offenbach a.M. , 1983 (with Georg Trump)
  • Department of Typography, Reading University, 2001
  • Gutenberg Museum, Mainz, 2006.


  • Klingspor Museum, Offenbach a.M.