The Typefoundry in Silhouette, by Rudolf Koch, Arion Press & Fairy Tales by the Brothers Grimm, Designed by Koch, Limited Editions Club

Rudolf Koch (1876-1934) was one of the greatest calligraphers and typographic artists of the twentieth century.  He was affiliated with the Klingspor Foundry in Offenbach, Germany and was a professor at the Offenbach School of Art. Besides being a lettering artist (having created many families of original alphabets), he was also a illustrative artist, especially woodcuts, from which German Expressionism benefited.  His work shows restraint and mastery of classical forms, yet tremendous originality.

The Typefoundry in Silhouette, Arion Press

In The Typefoundry in Silhouette (first published in Germany in 1918), Koch displays absolute mastery of his craft, as does Arion Press, the publisher of an astonishingly beautiful first American edition of this work (from 1982). All 25 plates from the first edition are included as well as Koch’s explanatory text (which he wrote in verse), translated by Alexander Nesbitt.

As stated in the prospectus from Arion Press, The Typefoundry in Silhouette

provides a visual record of a vanishing trade that began with the invention of printing from movable types and has continued for 500 years…Even in 1918, Koch was aware that the crafts of the hand punch-cutter and the caster of individual pieces of type were soon to be obsoleted.  But these antiquated methods achieved such beautiful letterforms that modern technology still struggles  to equal them.

About the The Typefoundry in Silhouette Edition (Arion Press edition):

This edition from Arion Press is stunning. The storyboarding of this old and important process is fascinating.  The quality of the paper and of the printing is second to none. Pictures will follow at the bottom of this posting.

  • The set (28 sheets) is provided as individual sheets so they can be displayed
  • Silhouettes were printed from photo-engravings in black ink, with verses in handset Jessenschrift (created by Koch) printed in red
  • The paper is heavy weight British mouldmade sheet (T. H. Saunders Drawing) of 100% cotton fibre
  • Enclosed in a portfolio of red cloth imported from Germany
  • Edition limited to 500 copies
  • 9″x12″ oblong
  • Introduction by Andrew Hoyem

Fairy Tales by the Brothers Grimm, Limited Editions Club

It turns out that I have a Limited Editions Club edition of Fairy Tales by the Brothers Grimm from 1931, that was designed by Rudolf Koch.  Koch designed everything about the book, as well as created the typeface used, called Koch Antigua.  For the illustrations, he turned to one of his pupils, that being Fritz Kredel (1900-1973), very well known to collectors of Limited Editions Club books. Kredel created woodcuts which were printed in black, which were then augmented with brilliant, light colors applied to the printed sheet by hand. Koch had the printing done by Wilhelm Gerstung, a printer in Offenbach whom Koch collaborated with.

In short, the book reflects Koch the artist.  It is classic, simple, original and hugely successful in attaining the primary objective of typography; such objective defined nicely by Crispin Elsted of Barbarian Press when he wrote that “nothing should come between the text and the reader, and it is our view that typography should have, in Robert Bringhurst’s phrase, ‘a statuesque transparency’: like good film music, the best typography is effective to the degree that it is unobtrusive, supporting, not supplanting, the principal experience of the reader.”  Pictures of Koch’s Brothers Grimm below show what it means to accomplish that.

About the Fairy Tales by the Brothers Grimm (Limited Editions Club edition):

  • Bound in deep brown morocco leather, with a design stamped in gold on the front cover, as well as the title stamped in gold on the spine…both drawn by Koch
  • Paper is toned deep ivory, a simple wove sheet made of rags in Germany
  • Koch Antiqua type
  • Illustrated with 35 pictures from Fritz Kredel
  • 6 3/4″ x 9″, 120 pages
  • Limited to 1,500 copies, of which mine is #62
  • Signed by Koch and Kredel

Pictures, The Typefoundry in Silhouette, Arion Press

(All pictures on Books and Vines are exclusively provided to highlight and visualize the work being reviewed.  A side benefit, hopefully, is encouraging healthy sales of fine press books for the publishers and fine retailers that specialize in these types of books (of which Books and Vines has no stake or financial interest). Please note that works photographed are copyrighted by the publisher, author and/or illustrator as indicated in the articles. Permission to use contents from these works for anything outside of fair use purposes must come directly from the copyright owner and no permission is granted or implied to use photo’s found on Books and Vines for any purpose that would infringe on the rights of the copyright owner.)

The Typefoundry in Silhouette, Arion Press, Portfolio Cover
The Typefoundry in Silhouette, Arion Press, Prospectus
The Typefoundry in Silhouette, Arion Press, Prospectus Content
The Typefoundry in Silhouette, Arion Press, Title Sheet
The Typefoundry in Silhouette, Arion Press, Mr. Hoyem’s Introduction
The Typefoundry in Silhouette, Arion Press, Sample Portfolio Page
The Typefoundry in Silhouette, Arion Press, Second Sample Portfolio Page
The Typefoundry in Silhouette, Arion Press, Third Sample Portfolio Page
The Typefoundry in Silhouette, Arion Press, Fourth Sample Portfolio Page
The Typefoundry in Silhouette, Arion Press, Fifth Sample Portfolio Page
The Typefoundry in Silhouette, Arion Press, Sixth Sample Portfolio Page
The Typefoundry in Silhouette, Arion Press, Seventh Sample Portfolio Page
The Typefoundry in Silhouette, Arion Press, Eighth Sample Portfolio Page

Pictures, Fairy Tales by the Brothers Grimm, Limited Editions Club

(All pictures on Books and Vines are exclusively provided to highlight and visualize the work being reviewed.  A side benefit, hopefully, is encouraging healthy sales of fine press books for the publishers and fine retailers that specialize in these types of books (of which Books and Vines has no stake or financial interest). Please note that works photographed are copyrighted by the publisher, author and/or illustrator as indicated in the articles. Permission to use contents from these works for anything outside of fair use purposes must come directly from the copyright owner and no permission is granted or implied to use photo’s found on Books and Vines for any purpose that would infringe on the rights of the copyright owner.)

Fairy Tales by the Brothers Grimm, LEC, Book in Slipcase
Fairy Tales by the Brothers Grimm, LEC, Front Cover
Fairy Tales by the Brothers Grimm, LEC, Monthly Letter
Fairy Tales by the Brothers Grimm, LEC, Title Page
Fairy Tales by the Brothers Grimm, LEC, Sample Pages with Text and Illustrations
Fairy Tales by the Brothers Grimm, LEC, Second Sample Pages with Text and Illustrations
Fairy Tales by the Brothers Grimm, LEC, Third Sample Pages with Text and Illustration
Fairy Tales by the Brothers Grimm, LEC, Fourth Sample Pages with Text and Illustration
Fairy Tales by the Brothers Grimm, LEC, Colophon

7 thoughts on “The Typefoundry in Silhouette, by Rudolf Koch, Arion Press & Fairy Tales by the Brothers Grimm, Designed by Koch, Limited Editions Club

  1. Hello Chris – I have long had a copy of the LEC Fairy
    Tales of the Brothers Grimm, but I’ve wondered what the illustration on the front cover was all about. I don’t have the Monthly Letter, but could you enlighten me what the graphic between the B and the G is supposedd to represent? I’m not the only one in the dark on this. I have queried other collectors who also don’t know what the graphic is supposed yo represent. Most have agreed it looks like a coat rack with an unfurled flag. But what is it really?

    1. Hi Don, according to the monthly letter, “Upon the front of the book a distaff design is stamped in gold.” Not knowing what a distaff was, the dictionary essentially says a distaff is a tool used in spinning. It is designed to hold the unspun fibers, keeping them untangled and thus easing the spinning process….so clearly a link to Rapunzel, one of the stories in the book.

      1. Hi all,
        I realize I’m quite late to the party, but I thought I’d comment anyway.

        Chris, you’re right about the image. It is a distaff, more commonly referred to as a spindle. However, this is not a link to Rapunzel. It’s a clear, and dare I say iconic, link to Sleeping Beauty.

        [spoiler ahead]

        The story begins with fairies attending a banquet celebrating birth of a princess. The evil fairy, angry as she was not invited, shows up anyway at the end, when other fairies already finished giving their gifts and blessings, and lays a curse, saying that a princess will get pricked by a spindle a die. Fortunately, one of the good fairies had not given her gift yet, so while unable to reverse the curse completely she manages to soften it, saying that after getting pricked the princess will not die but rather fall asleep for a hundred years. The king immediately bans all spindles and yarn spinning in his kingdom. All interested in the rest of the story can read the Little Briar Rose by the Grimms, or the Sleeping Beauty – an earlier and longer version by Charles Perrault.

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