Article on typography gaffes

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Nothing, in my estimation, holds a candle to the reported error in the Milwaukee Journal in which an “I” had been substituted for the “J” in the main flag of the newspaper. For years, evidently, no one noticed, but a diligent typographer brought it to their attention. Since it was a Blackletter face, the mistake was somewhat difficult to discern, so they left it.

How would you like to work for the Milwaukee Iournal?

There was also the discovery of Adolf Hitler’s alleged diary. None of the handwriting or book experts investigating whether it was fraudulent picked up on the fact that one of the blackletter initials on the book’s cover, A or H, wasn’t an A or an H, and none seemed to be aware that Nazi Germany had banned blackletter as Jewish in origin.

Why this Anglo-American association of blackletter with the Nazis continues to this day is bewildering. Even the National Socialist swastika was a modernist symbol, not blackletter nor traditionalist.


Gerald….. you are right about the Nazis banning blackletter types, but they did not totally embrace modernism either. Jan Tschichold (or however you spell his last name) was an early proponent of modern type design in Germany during the early Nazi era….. but was later criticized by the Nazis for being TOO modern in his graphic design. He ultimately had to leave Germany because of it.

You can read more about Jan Tschichold and Paul Renner (the designer of Futura and Ballade, a gothic typeface from 1937) as well as the decree that outlawed gothic type in 1941 in the excellent book ‘Paul Renner, The Art of Typography’, written by Christopher Burke and published by the Hyphen Press in London. The Swastika is actually an ancient Indian symbol, but is horizontally positioned. One can find it in the Monotype catalogues as well. It was (and still is) used all over the Indian subcontinent. Right new, an interesting discussion about this subject is going on the blog of Georg Kraus:

And a page from a 1960s Monotype catalogue.

image: monotype_swastika.JPG


Hi winking cat, been a while.

No, they did not. But that was often motivated by how troublesome any individual seemed to be, rather than an attack against modernism. And lots of folks seemed to be troublesome. Especially philosophers. Can’t image why. Beginning of what we now term the brain drain.

Glad that doesn’t happen anymore.



Jan Tschichold went by the the name Ivan for a bit. A youthful fantasy. The Nazis didn’t much cater to Communist leanings, or pretty much any leanings that were counter to their own. This particular case, and others as well, really had nothing to do with modernism, the Fascists embraced modernism (especially the Italian branch) as it was basically dehumanizing. Sort of their thing.

Yeah, the symbol has been around a very long time, in various cultures. I once ordered some Monotype sorts and by mistake wrote down the wrong code and got a bunch of swastikas. Wrote back that I didn’t think I could use them in the 20th century. Nevertheless, paid for them and sent in a corrected order.


The swastika goes way back as a symbol in many cultures and on many continents. The early 20th century ATF catalogs even feature some full-page displays of it and proudly announce that it is “the sign of good luck”.

The Nazis have put a stain on that which may last for centuries.

Gerald… yes it has been.

One of the things I find interesting is that Tschichold made an almost total about-face later in his career. In his early works such as “The New Typography” he adocated san-serif types similar to Univers since they were a total departure from the heavy blackletter then in common use. In his last book “The Form of the Book” he recants his earlier position, and strongly recommends the use of type with noticable serifs, for reasons of legibility.

He also had a change of heart on topics of book layout, and proportions. As a young man he decried the traditional layouts and forms. Then late in his career he advocated a very strict adherence to traditional layouts and proportions…. to the point where he believed that 8.5 x 5.5 was proportionally incorrect (termed an “irrational” proportion) , but 9 x 6 (1.5 to 1) was close to perfection.

I just had to run upstairs and take a couple of pictures to share with you. These are from a Germanic Bible published in 1905. My grandmother had a book and fine art store and suffered under the Nazis, shutting it down before things got too hot. She disdained their use of what she described as the germanic sunwheel (note it turns the other way), and by the way she accurately saw through their posturing quite early. The Germanic Bible by the way is a summary of significant german poets, thinkers philosophers and statesmen - a somewhat other than religious book.


image: GermanenBibPub.jpg


image: GermanenBibRear.jpg


image: GermanenBibFrt.jpg


Hello folks. The image is from the Linotype One-Line Specimen published in the US in 1950. My 3 minutes.

If I remember correctly it is symbol to perfection. It looks the same no matter the angle you observe it.

I heard the swastika used to be a symbol for something good, disvirstuated by being adopted as avatar by the III Reich. It looks different depending its rotation. The Nazi flag has it rotated at 45 degrees, maybe to tweak it a little.

image: Linotype 1950_swastika.jpg

Linotype 1950_swastika.jpg