3.1.2: 1725 - 1830 - Letters (including letter design, typecasting and type foundries)

There were rarely more than four independent type foundries in the entire Netherlands (and usually even fewer punchcutters) at any one time, but several new ones joined three older ones early in the eighteenth century. Type styles were changing under the influence of engraving and pointed-pen lettering, and of new attitudes introduced with the Enlightenment. Dutch types show little direct influence from those produced under the auspices of the Royal Academy of Sciences in Paris in the 1690s, and exercised little or no influence on those that Baskerville in England had cut for his famous 1754 Virgil, but they can be seen as a Dutch variation on an international trend.

A few very mannered romans in the Cupy foundry in the first decade of the century seem to be the first to break with tradition, but those cut by Joan Fleischman and Jacques François Rosart proved far more important and influential. The technical skill of Fleischman has seldom been equalled. He produced text-sized romans and italics, a whole range of texturas (in printed sermons, one of the last bastions of the textura, roman type became the norm only around the 1760s), scripts, music notation and non-Latins. Rosart's most successful types were his larger romans and italics, decorated types and hundreds of piece ornaments.

Thanks largely to the work of these two punch cutters, Enschedé in Haarlem gradually rose to become the leading typefoundry in the Netherlands and one of the most famous in the world. In 1759 their success even drove Rosart himself to Brussels, where they offered less competition. In the 1760s, they began to acquire both current and historical materials as other foundries went out of business, leaving little viable competition after the closure of the Ploos van Amstel typefoundry in 1784, and none after the death of Gerrit Harmsen in 1817. The successors to the Voskens typefoundry had moved to the United States in 1789 and all other major type foundries were taken over by Enschedé.

These were lean years for the foundries and for the Netherlands in general. Fleischman died in 1768 and Rosart in 1777, Enschedé issued no new specimens between 1773 and 1806, and even the 1806 specimen showed few new types. Two typefounders and a punch cutter left the country in the aftermath of the failed democratic revolution of 1787, and the Dutch economy suffered greatly in the years 1795-1813, under first the French-supported Batavian Republic and then direct French control. Typographic fashions were changing again, this time under the influence of Didot in Paris and Bodoni in Parma. Enschedé had one size of roman and italic cut in the new style in Paris in 1795, but further modernisation required major capital investment. In 1808, the company sold much of its historical collection as scrap metal. The hundreds of kilos of copper matrices brought in ƒ 520.50 (circa € 237.-) to finance the purchase of many series of new matrices from N.P. Gando in Paris in the years 1807 to 1814.

Enschedé could once again offer a wide range of types in the latest styles and held a virtual monopoly on the domestic market until 1836. From 1819 the company again had a punchcutter in house and it continued to expand their holdings as the dawn of modern advertising led to an explosion of display types. Enschedé produced impressive folio specimens to show them, but they largely followed developments abroad.

author: John A. Lane

Letters (including letter design, typecasting and type foundries)