Rudolf Koch, Calligrapher,Type Designer, Punch-cutter, Teacher by Nicholas Fabian.
Calligrapher,Type Designer, Punch-cutter, Teacher
Rudolf Koch,  Calligrapher,Type Designer, Punch-cutter, Teacher

by Nicholas Fabian

Rudolf Koch was born on November 20, 1876 in Nuremberg, Germany. His father died when he was 10 years old which forced him to become an apprentice in a metalworking shop. In spite of his difficulties, he attended art classes during his spare time to satisfy his strong artistic ambitions. The young Koch moved around from Hanau, to Frankfurt, to Munich and Leipzig trying to improve his situation, and finally, in 1906 he was hired by the Rudhart foundry (later to be renamed Klingspor foundry) where he remained a loyal employee and friend to the Klingspor family to the very end.

Koch type sample 1
Sample characters from "NEULAND", a typeface that was punched directly into metal without any sketches for the outlines.

He spent most of his working life designing type for the Klingspor Foundry in Offenbach, on the River Main. All but one of his designs were made for Klingspor, the one exception being "Deutsche Anzeigenscrift," which was produced for Stempel, their competitor, who became the major stockholder of Klingspor in 1918. Although more than half of his type designs were variations of German black letters, Koch created a wide range of stunning letter forms during his explorations of type design and calligraphy. Koch had an inner drive, an artistic vision that was bursting with creative energy and it is this rare spontaneity that sparkles in all his work.

Koch type sample 2
Sample characters from "Koch Antiqua", an elegant free spirited typeface treasured by many designers.

Koch was a multi-talented artist; he was an exceptional illustrator, book designer, type designer, punch cutter and calligrapher. Koch designed over twenty typefaces including Kabel, Neuland, Koch Antiqua, Prisma, Jessen Schrift, and Wilhelm Klingspor Schrift. Koch was also deeply involved in iconic design, containing both religious (Christian Symbols) and secular images (Book of Signs).

Through his design studio, "Offenbacher Werkstatt" (Offenbach Workshop), his lectures, and later his Nuremberg exhibit, Rudolf Koch became one of the most influential graphic artist of his generation. Koch followed the William Morris model of applied Arts-and-Crafts. In addition to calligraphy and type design, the students in his workshop also learned to apply the design concepts to handmade consumer products in wood, fabrics, and metalwork in brass and silver.

Koch type sample 3
Sample characters from "Wilhelm Klingspor Schrift" (Klingspor Text), an elegant but powerful Germanic typeface that is certain to command attention in the right setting. (Caps with lower case, punctuations and numerals.)

As a creative catalyst, teacher, colleague and friend he reached and deeply touched such talented people as Warren Chappel, Fritz Kredel, Berthold Wolpe, Victor Hammer, Hermann Zapf, and many others. Rudolf Koch published several typographic jewels, including "Who Is Victor Hammer?", "The Little ABC Book," "The Book of Flowers," and the most famous one of them all, "The Typefoundry in Silhouette," which depicts the history of type founding and was written and illustrated by Koch. His last typeface design was Claudius, a sparkling German black letter which had to be cut by his son, Paul, because Rudolf Koch died on April 4, 1934. Koch, because of his innate ability to teach and communicate, influenced not only his own generation but all type designers, present and future, who are still searching for the typographic Holy Grail.

Some of Rudolf Koch's typefaces are:

Deutsche Schrift [various weights] (1906-1910-), Maximilan (1914), Fruhling (1914), Koch Antiqua [or Locarno] (1924) [with an italic named Cursive], Neuland (1923), Peter Jessen Schrift (1924-1930), and Wilhelm Klingspor Schrift (1924-26), Kabel (1926-27), Zeppelin (1929), Wallau (1930), Offenbach [caps only] (1930), Kurrent (1930), Prisma (1931), Holla (1932), Claudius (1931-1937), Marathon (1930-1938), Steel [caps only] , lower case by Hans Kuehne, the complete font was produced by the Klingspor Foundry in 1939 from pre-1934 designs.

Title Page by Koch
A striking and powerful Title-page by Rudolf Koch,
with the design cut directly into wood.

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