Resources to research typefaces appropriate for WWII Poland

I'm working on a typography animation for a writer whose story is set in WWII-era Poland. I'd like to use typography appropriate to that time and place in history. Any suggestions you guys have regarding that would be great—but also, can you suggest any reference books or resources to refer to for that sort of thing in general? Today I'm hunting for typography appropriate to WWII-era Poland, but tomorrow it might be 1850s Boston, or who knows where. I'd like to have a big fat book, or some kind of resource to refer to next time I need to research this sort of thing. Any thoughts? Your feedback is greatly appreciated!

timjomartin's picture

It may not be easy to access but The Type Archive (formerly known as the Type Museum before it’s closure to the public in 2006) 100 Hackford Road, London SW9 5OQ has all the business records (Lots of Big Fat Books) of the Monotype Corporation UK, along with much of Stephenson Blake, Sheffield and DeLittle of York’s Wood Type - If you trawled through the business records you could find out for example which printers had Monotype casters and what matrices they had ordered - Monotype didn’t really sell their equipment they effectively licenced and maintained it - a bit like Rolls-Royce jet engines today - so they kept very detailed records of who had what and what happened to them - copyright control in metal ... The Polish Type Museum’s name currently escapes me but I believe they were signatories to the petitions and blogs opposing the closure of the London Type Museum - see typemuseumsociety links ... To my knowledge no-one has yet conducted scholarly research into these business records ... this should also suggest other lines of enquiry elsewhere ... good luck Tim Martin

Major Major's picture

I have no specific suggestions, but poking around in Google Books might turn up something useful.

JamesM's picture

One side of my family was from Poland, but I don't have any specific recommendations except to check with the reference department at your local library, they may be able to find examples of Polish publications from that time period.

Stop Motion Haiku's picture

Thanks Tim - Although I suddenly have a vision of that intense library research scene from All the President's Men ... I'm not sure I'm quite up to the challenge!

Birdseeding's picture

Searching Google Books is a bit of a bother sometimes, and books of that area and place usually get low-res scans, but this sort of thing does turn up fairly frequently:

It's hard to tell what exact geometric typeface is used, but I think you could easily get away with using Futura/Erbar/Kabel with the right type of setting.

Of course, there's plently of serif styles as well if you prefer.

marcox's picture

Search the newspapers of the period. A search for "gazeta polska 1930" ("Polish newspaper 1930") yielded images like this:

froo's picture

Search for "Bekanntmachung". Every image with Bekanntmachung/obwieszczenie will give you a good overview on types used in that period. Look at the polish side of the posters.

froo's picture

That was the most significant thing. The other would be the german-controlled tabloid "nowy kurier warszawski".

JamesM's picture

> the german-controlled tabloid

I'm not familiar with that tabloid so perhaps its appropriate, but Poland was invaded by Germany during WWII and I think some German fonts fell out of favor in Poland.

froo's picture

Fraktur and other Middle Ages derivatives - if there were any in use - have extincted and do not exist nowadays. I have no information on what other genre was seen as "German" then, and I guess, that there were no people to care about fonts, as skilled printers, typographers etc were rather elites, what meant they were natural obstacles in the Grand Opus of German Reconstruction (What happened en masse to Jewish owners and labourers, everyone knows). And - also - Germans used everything found in the cases of printing houses, no matter what was that, "Polish" or "German"...

JamesM's picture

> there were no people to care about fonts...
> what happened en masse to Jewish owners and laborers

Indeed there was persecution of Jewish people, but around 90% of the Polish population during WWII were not Jewish.

> Germans used everything found in the cases of printing houses

I doubt that German typesetters were relocated to Poland. Invading forces are normally concerned with military and political matters, not taking over everyday jobs.

And even if publishers were pressured into using German fonts, that doesn't mean that the public liked it. The Polish people hated Germany during the war and for many years afterwards.

froo's picture

In my opinion Germans worked in brutal and illogical way. It is a myth that they were organised like clockwork (to certain degree, yes). It is sure that the print was controlled, and some issues demanded German hands. As Polish intelligence class was exterminated from the first moment and I think some of printers were at least suspected, from various reasons (possible sabotage, underground work etc). I do not think Germans introduced any typefaces known today as German (eg. Futura). I guess they used gothic typefaces already used by Polish German newspapers and for the occupied audiencies (Poles, Jews, Ruthenians) - everything found in the cases. So the only really "hatred" genre would be the blackletter as it signified apartheid.

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