Friedrich Poppl


Calligraphy, type design, books, jackets. Born 1 March 1923 in Soborten, Germany. 1938-41: studied at Teplitz-Schönau Staatsfachschule: teachers included Alfred Böhm and Fritz Baum.

‘In 1941 the eighteen-year-old youth was called into war service at the Russian front. Five years later he was transported from a Russian prison farm in Penza…to Frankfurt-an-der-Oder near Berlin and released….When Poppl finally entered the Offenbach Werkkunstschule (now the Hochschule für Gestaltung) in 1950, after having lost his right leg and nine years of his life to the war and its aftermath, he worked intensely and with a sense of urgency to make up for lost time.’ (Greenwood, 1986)

‘After the second World War, still a prisoner of the Russians in 1946, his artistic gifts came to the attention of a German doctor who was responsible for the seriously wounded soldiers. On examining Poppl’s shattered thigh, the doctor recommended an amputation, leaving a stump for the attachment of an artificial leg: a risky operation but the only alternative to a solution which would leave his patient on crutches for the rest of his life. Poppl at once chose the life-and-death operation. He wanted to have sensitive hands to practice his future profession, or die. He survived and in October 1946 was released from the prisoner-of-war camp.

‘At the age of twenty-three he stood on his artificial limb in Frankfurt-on-Oder, facing an uncertain future but with unquenchable optimism. He was alive, back on German soil and able to use his hands without impediment!

‘He could not return to his homeland because all Germans including his mother had been driven out of northern Bohemia, also known as the Sudetenland. He wanted to find her, and did so, but not until 1947. She was not able to rescue his college leaving diploma, a necessary document for further studies. At once the young war veteran began the search for his former teachers, but only after another two years could he present himself with duplicate documents at the commercial art college [Werkkunstschule] in Offenbach on Main, where Rudolf Koch once taught. No places being available for 1949 he had to wait another year until the beginning of the winter term in October 1950. And so Poppl sacrificed nine years of his young life to World War II.’ (Gertraude Poppl, 2000, p. 38; write for permission to quote )

1950-53: studied calligraphy at the Offenbach Werkkunstschule where his teachers included Hans Bohn, Erich Fornoff, Karlgeorg Hoefer and Herbert Post. 1953: freelance. 1955-82: taught at the Wiesbaden Werkkunstschule (now the Fachhochschule) where, in 1971, he became Director of Studies. Designed packaging and logos as well as books and jackets for numerous publishers. His designs for over 40 typefaces (all issued by H. Berthold AG from 1967) include Poppl-Antiqua (1967-71), Poppl Exquisit (1970), Poppl-Pontifex (1976-81), Poppl-Laudatio (1982). 1982: awarded Berthold’s Golden Grid in recognition of his type designs. Died 5 September 1982 in Wiesbaden. ‘Poppl’s death, so soon after his rise to international typographic recognition, was tragic. But his designs live on, as does the spirit of the man, in his pure calligraphic pieces and his exceptional range of printing types.’ (Cleary, 1984)

Writings by

  • Entwurf für den Schriftunterricht an der Werkkunstschule Wiesbaden, 1955.

Writings about

  • Theo Dornfuss, ‘Friedrich Poppl’, Graphik, March 1964, pp. 16-20
  • ‘Friedrich Poppl ein Meister der Schrift’, Graphik, 1969, 4, pp. 6-9
  • ‘Poppl-Exquisit’ (typeface), Form und Technik, 1970, p. 647
  • Theo Verbeij, ‘Berthold letters’, Graficus, 10 Sept. 1981, p. 31
  • T. Verbeij, ‘Nieuwe letterproeven van Berthold’, Graficus, 11 March 1982, p. 29
  • ‘Goldene Schriftscheibe für Prof. Friedrich Poppl’, Der Druckspiegel, March 1982, p. 19
  • druckwelt (obituary), 1 October 1982, p. 1248
  • Günter Gerhard Lange, ‘Zum Tode von Prof. Friedrich Poppl’ (obituary), Der Polygraph, 5 Oct. 1982, p. 1717
  • G.G. Lange, ‘Zum Tode von Friedrich Poppl’, Graphik, 1982, 11, pp. 40-41
  • Gabriele Butzke, ‘Hommage auf Friedrich Poppl’ (obituary), Der Polygraph 20-83, 20 October 1983, p. 1367
  • Ed Cleary, ‘Prof. Friedrich Poppl: a fine sense of curve’, Baseline 5, 1984, pp. 19-21 Paul Shaw, ‘Friedrich Poppl exhibition review’, Calligraphy Idea Exchange, vol. 3, no. 1, Fall 1985, pp. 5-7
  • Arne Wolf, ‘Friedrich Poppl’, Alphabet (journal for the Friends of Calligraphy, San Francisco), summer 1985
  • Georgianna Greenwood, ‘The Life and Work of Friedrich Poppl’, Calligraphy Idea Exchange, Autumn 1986, pp. 30-36
  • Gertraude Poppl, ‘The work of Friedrich Poppl’, baseline, no. 31, 2000, pp. 37-44
  • Gottfried Pott, ‘Schriftkunst’ (calligraphy/type design), Gutenberg Jahrbuch, 2000, pp. 231-56, esp. pp. 244, 245.
  • Ludwig Ebenhöh, ‘The letter-designer Friedrich Poppl’, Gebrauchsgraphik (International Advertising Art), Berlin: Phönix Illustrationsdruck und Verlag GmbH (later: ‘Gebrauchsgraphik’ Druck und Verlag GmbH), 1933-71. Published from Munich from 1950., May 1962, pp. 36-41


  • Klingspor Museum, Offenbach a.M., 1961, 1965
  • V&A, London, 1965
  • Gutenberg Museum, Mainz, 1966 (toured to Hamburg, Frankfurt, Stuttgart, Düsseldorf, Barcelona)
  • Brno, 1966
  • Paris, 1966
  • Photosetting Centre, Essen, 1968
  • Prague, 1968
  • Munich, 1969
  • ITC Centre, New York, 1980
  • H. Berthold, Berlin, 1983 (travelling exh.), 2001
  • Photosetting Centre, Vienna, 1984
  • ITC, New York, 1985.


  • National Art Library, V&A, London
  • Stiftung Archiv der Akademie der Künste, Berlin.