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Tafelwerk Mathematik Physik Chemie, Volk und Wissen

Contributed by Florian Hardwig on Jun 10th, 2018. Artwork published in
circa 1980
Tafelwerk Mathematik Physik Chemie, Volk und Wissen 1
Source: License: All Rights Reserved.

This East German schoolbook series is more proof that typefaces from Western manufacturers like Letraset (UK), Mecanorma (France) or Berthold Fototypes (West Germany) somehow crossed the Iron Curtain and were very well put to use in the GDR, too. You couldn’t buy Letraset sheets in a shop (only the local equivalents like Typofix), but inventive designers found ways to get their hands on the latest developments in display type from the capitalist world.

The covers of these scientific reference books combine two faces that were available from Letraset. The neon-like Oxford with linked lowercase letters was designed by Christine Lord in 1969 and originally released as film type by Face Photosetting. Shortly after (and definitely before 1973), Letraset had added it to their range of faces for dry-transfer lettering. The second one, Gill Kayo Condensed, is a Letraset “exclusive”. It was devised at their London Studio in 1980, based on Eric Gill’s original design from the 1930s.

Wolfgang Lorenz designed the covers and the typography at Atelier vwv (Volk und Wissen Verlag). The books were typeset and printed at Grafischer Großbetrieb Völkerfreundschaft Dresden. Based on the information provided by book sellers, there were several editions, in 1982 (2nd), 1986 (4th), 1988, and – after the reunification – in 1991. The interior (not pictured) of the earlier editions is set in Monotype Gill 8pt, namely the variant with Futura-like shapes for many letters that was popular especially in Germany. It was later replaced by Univers. Oxford also appears rotated on the contents pages.

Spurred by a font ID request posted on the German, forum member Peter Wiegel started another digital interpretation of Oxford, currently in progress and dubbed Tafelwerk. It’s distinguished from previous attempts by the addition of Cyrillic characters.

Tafelwerk Mathematik Physik Chemie, Volk und Wissen 2
Source: buecher_hbg2007 (edited). License: All Rights Reserved.
Tafelwerk Mathematik Physik Chemie, Volk und Wissen 3
Source: buecherwurm-sanny (edited). License: All Rights Reserved.


  • Oxford
  • Gill Kayo




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