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Sabon

Sabon

In the early 1960s, German printing firms were in need of a text font that would run on both Linotype and Monotype equipment, as well as being suitable for manual typesetting. Walter Cunz from the Stempel foundry commissioned the typographer Jan Tschichold to design a Roman typeface in the tradition of Claude Garamond that would meet the requirements of modern letterpress printing.

Tschichold was able to refer to original print samples from 1592 (see Garamond, #2 on this list), which were made available to him by the Konrad Berner foundry, Jacques Sabon’s successor. He not only ironed out typical blemishes such as colliding descenders and blotting, but reinterpreted Garamond’s models in a contemporary way.

Like many Garamond cutters, he chose a typeface by Garamond’s contemporary Robert Granjon as a template for the italic font. This he also found at the Berner foundry. The typeface’s name, Sabon, commemorates the man who bought up Claude Garamond’s estate after his death, and took the tools with him when he moved to Frankfurt, thus introducing the elegant, French Renaissance serif typeface to Germany’s printers.


Draft for Jan Tschichold’s Sabon Roman, 1965 (Photo: Ronald Schmets, D. Stempel AG, Frankfurt am Main)
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