Rudo Spemann


Calligrapher and type designer. Born Rudolf Spemann 22 April 1905 in Würzburg; known as Rudo from age 20. From 1924: studied at the Munich Kunstgewerbeschule under F.H. Ehmcke (then head of the graphic arts department) and Emil Preetorius: illustration, lettering and drawing. March 1925: took a daily lettering class under Anna Simons. In the summer he was at the Stuttgart Kunstgewerbeschule (today: Kunstakademie) studying under F. H. Ernst Schneidler. 1926-7: studied at the Munich Kunstakademie where he had further lessons with Ehmcke. Still primarily interested in illustration, he took a class with Emil Preetorius from late 1928, during which year he had his first exhibition. From May 1930: assistant to Schneidler in Stuttgart. Dec. 1934: First article about him and his work in the international journal of advertising art, Gebrauchsgraphik. From October 1935: freelance designer in Munich. During his travels he met Dr Karl Klingspor which eventually led to Spemann’s fine design for the typeface Gavotte (1939, Klingspor). Early 1937: appointed by Walter Tiemann to a position in the Leipzig Akademie für graphische Künste, taking a Meisterklasse für Schreibkunst und Schriftgestaltung (calligraphy and letter design), later professor. September 1939: volunteered for military service and was in the Wehrmacht in which he served in Belgium, France and, from 1941, on the Eastern Front. From 1945: prisoner of war.

‘The destruction of the Academy, the loss of his studio with his beloved clavichord, the tragic fates of some of his friends, the worry about his own artistic production – all these misfortunes and uncertainties must have shaken his delicate constitution and put a strain on his heart.’

Spemann died of a heart attack on 11 June 1947 in Schepetowka (Czechoslovakia), a Soviet prison camp. A letter informed Tiemann( ?) of his death:

‘The whole camp was struck by the loss… After many difficulties had been overcome, we managed to procure a simple coffin, which we decorated with an abundance of flowers. In the common room, which had been specially decorated for the occasion, the camp bade its farewell to this extraordinary person. Then the coffin was carried, by those who were closest to him, through a guard of honour formed by his mourning comrades, to the gates of the camp. The Russian camp commanders had even permitted a large number of comrades to accompany him to his final resting place, in a cemetery about two kilometres from the camp. There was a short prayer at the grave – and then the earth closed over his coffin.’ (From Tiemann, 1950/51; tr. SM)

The city of Offenbach established in 1954 the Spemann Award, a bi-annual scholarship to promising calligraphers.

Shortly before his death, he had written the following: (‘Noch aber schone mich, Tod…’)

‘Yet spare me, Death,

Youth flows in me still: a red bloodstream,

My work is not yet fulfilled,

The future is still mist-shrouded.

Therefore, spare me, Death!

Sometime later, Death,

When my life has been lived,

And testified in work,

When the world no longer answers ;

When my tired heart is so inclined,

Then take me, Death!’

(Quoted in Modern German Book Design (exh. cat.), 1959, p. 12. The original is in the Klingspor Museum, Offenbach a.M.)

Writings about

  • Lettering of To-day, special number of The Studio, 1937, p. 81
  • Johannes Boehland, ‘Grundzüge in der neuen Schrift- und Buchkunst’, Das Buchgewerbe, v. 12, 1947, pp. 310-11, 313
  • Walter Tiemann, Beseelte Kalligraphie, In Memoriam Rudo Spemann, Offenbach a.M.: Gebr. Klingspor, 1950/1951 (typeset in Spemann’s Gavotte)
  • HS, 1952, pp. 33, 72, 74
  • (Emil Preetorius, preface), Rudo Spemann, Ein Meister der Schreibkunst, Stuttgart: Engelhornverlag Adolf Spemann, 1955
  • Vollmer, 1958
  • GKS, 1963, p. 194
  • GKS, 1978
  • (1981-present) Hans Adolf Halbey, Rudo Spemann 1905-1947, Offenbach a.M.: Friends of the Klingspor Museum, 1981 (includes inventory of all Spemann’s work, exhibitions, bibliography)
  • ‘Rudo Spemann im Klingspor-Museum’, Graphik, 1982, 1, p. 14
  • Arne Wolfe, review of Halbey’s Rudo Spemann: 1905-47, in Friends of Calligraphy newsletter, Winter, 1983, and reproduced in Fine Print, Oct. 1983, pp. 146-7
  • HAH, 1991
  • Hans Schmidt, Rudo Spemann. Rede zum neunzigsten Geburtstag, Offenbach, 1995
  • Brita Resch, Wolf Spemann and others, Rudo Spemann – der Klang in der Schrift (exh. cat), Offenbach a.M.: Klingspor Museum, 2005 (on the occasion of Spemann’s 100 th birthday, 22 April 2005)
  • Lexikon des gesamten Buchwesens, Stuttgart: Hiersmann, 2005
  • Josef Aug. Beringer, ‘Rudo Spemann’s Schriften’, Die zeitgemässe Schrift, Berlin/Leipzig: Verlag für Schriftkunde Heintze & Blanckertz., April 1936, pp. 33-42
  • Modern German Book Design , 1959
  • Max Bollwage, ‘Kalligraph aus Leidenschaft. Rudo Spemann und die Stuttgarter Schule unter F.H. Ernst Schneidler’, Gutenberg Jahrbuch, 2006, pp. 342-8 (inc. biblio)
  • Christopher Haanes, ‘Rudo Spemann: visual asceticism’, Forum, Sept. 2007, pp. 12-13.
  • For the Spemann Prize see –
  • .
  • spemann-preis-2009
  • (1934-80) Werner Suhr, ‘Rudolf Spemann’, Gebrauchsgraphik (International Advertising Art), Berlin: Phönix Illustrationsdruck und Verlag GmbH (later: ‘Gebrauchsgraphik’ Druck und Verlag GmbH), 1933-71. Published from Munich from 1950., Dec. 1934, pp. 28-33
  • Fritz Genzmer, ‘Firm symbols’ (logos, based on G. Finsterer-Stuber, Marken und Signete), Archiv für Druck und Papier, 1955-65; then Archiv für Drucktechnik, 1965-7; then Druck, 1968-73. , 1957, v. 3, pp. 312-15 (esp. p. 313)


  • Paris, 1937
  • (A more detailed list is in Halbey 1981.) Freiburg, Kunstverein, 1928
  • PRESSA, Cologne, 1928
  • Munich, 1933
  • Munich, Bücherstube Horst Stobbe, 1935
  • Berlin, 1936
  • London, 1937
  • Leipzig, Akademie, 1940
  • Leipzig, 1947
  • Drupa Fair, Düsseldorf, 1954
  • Klingspor Museum, Offenbach a.M., 1957 (memorial exh.)
  • USA (travelling exh. of Klingspor Museum collection), 1959
  • Augustiner Museum, Freiburg i. Br., 1960 (with Eva Aschoff)
  • Klingspor Museum, Offenbach a.M., 1975, 1982, 1995, 2005.


  • Klingspor Museum, Offenbach a.M.