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

  • ‘Florilegium Alphabeticum. Alphabete in mittelalterlichen Handschriften’, Philobiblon, Dec. 1965, pp. 245-9 plus 12pp. halftone section
  • 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
  • (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

  • 1928-79: Rudolf Koch, ‘Die Offenbacher Haggadah’, Philobiblon, Oct. 1928, pp. 193-4
  • Oskar Beyer, ‘Schriftteppiche’, Die zeitgemässe Schrift, Berlin/Leipzig: Verlag für Schriftkunde Heintze & Blanckertz., Jan./April 1934, pp. 28-36
  • ‘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
  • 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
  • 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)
  • 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
  • Hugh Pearman, ‘Prince Albertus’, Creative Review, Feb. 1986, pp. 42-3
  • 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.
  • 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
  • Kunst im Exil in Grossbritannien 1933-1945 (exh. cat.), Berlin: Neue Gesellschaft für Bildende Kunst and Verlag Frölich & Kaufmann, 1986. , 1986
  • 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.