Walbaum 12-point

A quarter strength jobbing fount of 12-point Walbaum.

Justus Erich Walbaum was born in Steinlah, Brunswick in 1768. A clergyman’s son, he was apprenticed at an early age to a confectioner but later became an engraver and caster of metals. Finally he turned to letter-cutting and learned to make type founders’ matrices and tools. In his thirtieth year he started his own type foundry at Goslar, and five years later he moved to Weimar, where he remained until his death in 1837.

During his lifetime his types were celebrated and admired. But through the change in taste in the mid-nineteenth century away from the ‘classical’, his importance was forgotten almost immediately after his death. It was only with the return of popularity of the ‘modern’ letter that the intrinsic value of his Antiqua was recognised. Its sleight and almost imperceptible irregularities provide an interest and human quality that is often lacking in other nineteenth-century faces.

Walbaum’s types, the original matrices of which are still extant in Germany, were so faithful to those of Firmin Didot that their elegance may be said to be characteristically French. Carefully modelled and cut, they are particularly suitable for certain kinds of bookwork and display. The italic is beautifully legible and reminiscent of both Didot’s and Bodoni’s designs.

Monotype Walbaum (Series 374) was cut in 1934. It is surprisingly versatile for a ‘modern’ face, and it appears best on a smooth-surfaced paper. To do it full justice, it needs to be leaded, especially in the smaller sizes where it is eminently readable. Its related bold face, Walbaum Medium (Series 375), can be used in combination with Series 374 or on occasions as a text face on its own, and it is excellent for display headings.


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