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Edited and designed by Ruben Baart, Gerrit Rietveld Academie, 2013.

Webpage is set in JansonText Linotype (1985).

To the tragic aspect of Nicholas Kis career belongs also the peculiar fate of his types. They do not bear his name even two and three quarter centuries after his death, even after fifty years have passed since the best of experts set pen to paper for the first time in order to have him acknowledged. Although not even Stanley Morisons prestige was able to settle this dispute concerning the affair of the engraver whose endowment nearly ranks him with Garamond or Granjon us we think that we are nevertheless closer to its resolution, in fact, quite differently from the period of the apology and the retractation of the apology. We believe that, even though this was not done by his contemporaries, posterity will fully recognize Kis work and elevate the memory of the creator to its rightful place.

“Digitizing Janson is like playing Bach on a synthesizer.”

Paul Hayden Duensing in 1987

Prof. Horst Heiderhoff led the Linotype Design Studio in the most recent expansion of Janson in 1985. Now a versatile family of eight weights, this version of Janson Text is the most authentic digital version of the Kis types. With its legible, sturdy forms and strong stroke contrast, Janson Text™ has proved very successful for book and magazine text, and it continues to appear in the ranks of bestselling types. Some of the Kis punches and matrices made their way to Linotype Design Studio in Frankfurt in 1919. Linotype Janson was cut in 1954 under the supervision of Hermann Zapf, and was based on the original Kis punches. Prof. Horst Heiderhoff led the Linotype Design Studio in the most recent expansion of Janson in 1985. Now a versatile family of eight weights, this version of Janson® Text is the most authentic digital version of the Kis types. With its legible, sturdy forms and strong stroke contrast, Janson Text has proved very successful for book and magazine text, and it continues to appear in the ranks of bestselling types.


In 1964, in one of Georg Kurt Schauers articles, we find thoughts resembling those of Presser. While acknowledging the research results of Stanley Morison, Harry Carter and Gyorgy Buday, he also asserts that Anton Janson was the mastermind behind Nicholas Kis types, and that the latter, in his capacity as punch-cutter, carried out Jansons commissions. These statements, published without any proof, would tempt us into debate if the author would let us know the sources of his suppositions and thus make it possible for us to join in a discussion of the merits of the case. An article from Gutenberg Jahrbuch reports that he compared the Janson types with those of the original specimen preserved in the Hungarian-Nationalite Archives and found them identical. This article raises a new element in the debate by saying that Nicholas Kis matrices, procured in an adventurous way from the typefoundry of Anton Janson, had passed after centuries to the House-museum of the D. Stempels in Frankfurt. Anton Janson published his last specimen in 1687, the year of his death. Not a single researcher has found Nicholas Kis types either on this specimen or on any previous. Therefore, until the opposite has been proved, we must maintain that the matrices of Niclrolas Kis had never been in the possession of the type-foundry of Anton Janson.


In 1957, Carter and Buday published a few valuable additions in the Gutenberg Jahrbuch. It is here that they call attention, among others, to Kis Amsterdam contracts on producing matrices and though they had appeared in printed form even in 1914-1916, they became interesting now that much more was known about the fate of these founts. It is to the credit of Carter and Buday that the first accurate translation of the Dutch text of the specimen came into existence: If any man desire strikes or matrices... since, unfortunately, the Hungarian translations of this important text had a number of mistakes. Its correct Hungarian translation was published by Gyula Bane. San Francisco published Jack Werner Stauffachers book tided Janson: A Definitive Collection. Starting from Carter and Budays discovery, he provides a short survey of the Janson mystery and its solution then an excellent compilation-the synopses and specimen-compositions- of the sizes in the possession of Stempel. The fullness of his synopses, and their accurate and beautiful printing render this work a source book of type research. Stauffacher discusses Kis, cites from his apology and includes the reproduction of his Amsterdam specimen. In certain cases, the Didot points of the type sizes given by him deviate from the present-day Stempel nomenclature, which may give rise to a misunderstanding. Helmut Pressers article Die Janson-Antiqua Ritsel um eine Druckscbrift indicates knowledge of the previous debate, but it exposes a somewhat different viewpoint. He writes about Anton Jansons 1678 broadside specimen: These types possess all the properties that have led to the triumphal procession of the Janson roman types; nevertheless, on closer scrutiny it turns out that this type does not correspond to the Hollandische Schriften which have become known under the name Janson roman. The types of the 1678 specimen can undoubtedly by considered as the germs of the later Janson. Their great similarity to Jansons 1678 specimen suggests that he supplied the creative intelligence for their production. Perhaps he commissioned the punchcutter living in Amsterdam, that is, Kis, with the cutting of these types of Dutch character. Gyula BOne writes in the periodical Korunk in Kolozsvlir by referring also to Presser: Concerning Pressers supposition, no proof has yet been offered. Over two decades have passed since Pressers article. Today it is evident that the original 1678 Janson specimen cannot be considered a uniform piece of work, and when analysing its types, the work of various punch-cutters can be seen as their origins. (This analysis was, incidentally, published by A. F. Johnson in 1939) Hardly any types remain on the specimen of which we may suspect Anton Janson to be the author. Thus the 1678 specimen is not suitable for a comparison with Nicholas Kis types, that is, for comparing a consistent work with a compilation. What we can investigate are the few sizes truly attributable to Anton Janson. In comparing these, however, we cannot speak of their great similarity with the types of Nicholas Kis, and, therefore, we cannot draw the conclusion that in the production of the series of Kis types, Anton Janson could have had any, even an intellectual, share. In upholding our conclusions, we have no desire to lessen the appreciation due to Janson for his own activities, and we ourselves joined in the expression of that appreciation when we acknowledged his contribution to the development of Baroque type.

He made this typeface (among others) during his stay in Amsterdam (1680–88) where he had been sent to publish a new Hungarian edition of the Bible. The title page of this second, modernized, corrected Hungarian translation of the Bible can be seen in the figure above. After some months of study he began to cut complex fonts and fix defective matrices. The resulting Janson is quite a famous typeface.


In 1942, two unnoticed but important Hungarian participants entered the debate, but their activities were little known to the public. One of them was Lajos Kelemen, a historian, and the keeper of the Archives in the Transylvanian Museum. He was certainly the first to notice Kis type-specimen in the course of his work. It is likely that he had a part to play in the first publication of the Amsterdam Specimen. In 1940, the Grafika Bvkony (Graphical yearbook), published in Kolozsvir, contained the reduced reproduction of the specimen in the form of a supplement, without any comment. The caption read: The specimensheet of Nicholas Kis types cut in Amsterdam... Nobody took any notice of this publication. However, two years later, Imre Kner, the distinguished master and theoretician of books and printing, went to Kolozsvir.


In 1939, in the March copy of Signature, Morisons most important study concerning the Janson affair was published, under the title Leipzig as a centre of typefounding. Morison could not discover the origin of the Janson types, but by comparing the types of the Ehrhardt Specimen from around 1720 with Anton Jansons 1674 specimens, he was able to say that there were definite doubts that the latter had cut them: ...the specimen sheets dated and signed by Anton Janson in 1672, 1674 and 1678 prove ... that his level of craftmanship was decidedly lower than that of the cutter of the ëDutch founts recently attributed to him.... Morison could not form an opinion with regard to the specimen types issued by Jansons heir, Edling, two years after the formers death, because-as he writes-he had no opportunity to examine them. Morisons article includes several other fundamentally important data and considerations which were of great help in further research. In December 1940, Morison published further data on the Janson topic. In his article Anton Janson identified, he made available to the public the biographical data contained in the address delivered at Jansons funeral on November 22. In this article, he declares even more emphatically that the types on the Janson specimen sheets were technically and calligraphically very inferior to the Drugulin Stempel type, and cannot by any means have come from the same foundry or from the same hands. According to him, Jansons roman types are of even lower standards than those of the second-rate masters of their craft like Bartholomeus Voskens or Johann Adolf Schmidt. Morison believes that Anton Janson might have made a name for himself with his exotics instead.

The Ehrhardt name indicates that this typeface is derived from the roman and italic typefaces of stout Dutch character that the Ehrhardt foundry in Leipzig showed in a late-seventeenth-century specimen book. The designer is unknown, although some historians believe it was the Hungarian Nicholas Kis. Monotype recut the typeface in 1937 to 1938 for modern publishers. Ehrhardt has a clean regularity and smooth finish that promote readability, as well as a slight degree of condensation, especially in the italic, that conserves space. Usage includes the Penguin 60s series of books that were published to commemorate that company’s 60th anniversary. An extremely rare infant variant of the typeface also exists, which can be seen in the American edition of the book Hey! Get off Our Train by John Burningham.


In 1935, Morison negotiated with Jan van Krimpen on the recutting of the Janson type for the Monotype Corporation, the German clients of which wanted the type. We have agreed to cut them, if we can get hold of the original material. I said this because I was under the impression that some of the sizes in Stempels list are modern recuttings, and by no means facsimiles ... . He believed that the original punches or matrices and had difficulties in getting them back. Morison asks whether there are any grounds for the allegation that the heirs of Janson bought the matrices in Amsterdam around 1700, and whether there are any traces of the remnants of the matrices (It is likely that he thought of the remnants of the original matrices without the distortions caused by the later amendments and the alien sizes). Such were Morisons misgivings, to which Barker adds that Morison had found the Stempel type too heavy. He was not satisfied with the first attempts, and so the punches which had been produced in the course of the recutting of the type were destroyed. However, in 1937 Morison was able to avail himself with the assistance of Gustav Mori-of the Ehrhardt specimen from around 1720. On the basis of photographs of this specimen, he produced his instructions for the Monotype Type Drawing Office. The Ehrhardt Tertia roman and Tertia italic served as a basis for the cutting. (N. B.: not the 16-point Janson italic of Stempel, which was alien to the type family) Morison determined the weight of the type to be between the Monotype Series Imprint and the Series no Plantin. The new type was marketed in November 1937.


In 1928, Morison and Mardersteig jointly worked on a book on Andres Brun, a Spanish calligrapher, set in Janson type.


In 1926, at the request of Updike, Morison wanted to acquire (again) Janson fonts for the Merrymount Press. He was not successful in this on account of conditions in Germany at the time. In the same year, we also hear about a similar intention on the part of Giovanni Mardersteig.


In 1925, Morison spent Christmas with Giovanni Mardersteig in Verona and they discussed the matter of the mysterious Dutch Janson typo.


In 1922, in No. 7/8 of the same periodical, a D. Stempel advertisement refers to a classical, fine, old type without naming it; the composition of the advertisement was partly set from the Janson type. Finally, we can read the name Janson type for the first time in 1922, in No. 9/10 of this periodical, in the article Rundscbau/Scbriftgiessereigewerbe, where it is mentioned that the matrices of the type belong to the D. Stempel type-foundry. Accordingly, the date of the birth of the Janson denomination may be put at September 1922. The type has already been in the possession of the Stempel AG earlier-according to Gustav Mori, they purchased the matrices in 1919. This date is also verified-after several differing data-by the publication of the D. Stempel AG in 1955. According to the 1924 Stempel AG catalogue mentioned above-the historical part of which may originate from Gustav Mori - Anton Jansons specimen, issued in Leipzig in 1674, contains the type in the form published in the catalogue. The specimen issued after Jansons death by his heir, Johann Karl Edling, in 1689 contains our roman and italic types. The latter heirs moved to Amsterdam and settled there around 1700. Wolfgang Dietrich Ehrhardt, type-founder in Leipzig, acquired and brought back the Janson matrices from them around 1710 -as the introduction to the catalogue informs us. The type was soon noticed by experts. We know from Nicolas Barkers book that in the correspondence between Stanley Morison and D. B. Updike the mystery of the Janson types was an issue as early as 1923. Morisons book, On Type Faces, was published in 1923. In the Introduction he mentions with appreciation the qualities of the Janson type though he still attributes it to Anton Janson, in accordance with the information from Frankfurt.


In 1921, the type was advertised in No. 2/12 of the Archiv für Buchgewerbe und Gebrauchsgraphikuo still under the name Bibliophilen- Antiqua und Bibliophilen-Kursiv. A great part of the advertisement was set from Janson.

Elzevir was inspired from the set of font faces used in Amsterdam by Daniel Elzevir to print the famous “Tractatus de corde...” the study on earth anatomy by Richard Lower, in 1669. The punch cutter was the famous Dutch Kristoffel Van Dijk. In our two styles (Normal & Italic), font faces, kernings and spaces are scrupulously the same as in the original. This Pro font covers Western, Eastern and Central European languages (including Celtic), Baltic and Turkish, with standard and “long s” ligatures in each of the two styles. The Roman (Normal) style contains a U stylistic alternate, and the italic style A. In reaction to the systematic use of the Didones and the invasion of cheap typography in popular novels and advertising, printers, type founders and publishers sought to revive certain high-quality typefaces. In their eyes, the French and Dutch Renaissance had produced the best examples of these. In Lyon, around 1845, the printer Louis Perrin, drawing inspiration from Romany inscriptions discovered during archaeological excavations, commissioned Francisque Rey fils, a type founder, to create alphabet of capital letters in several sizes, entitled “Augustaux”. Later he searched through archives and the stocks of founders and printers to add lowercase, letters to his font, which led to the publication of the first “Elzevirean typefaces” around 1854. This initiative was the start of a French typography revival in the 2nd half of the 19th century. As Perrin himself stated, “ while we are waiting for the 19th century to develop a taste of its own, I think that we should return to the tastes of the 16th century, whose masterpieces seem to me to be unsurpassed. In Paris, publishers turned their attention to the small-format books (in-12) published by the Elzevier family in the 17th century, and to the type they were composed with. In 1853, to meet the needs of the “Elzevierian Library” that he founded for this purpose, the bookseller Pierre Jannet designed the ancient Roman characters himself around 1856. Théophile Beaudoire, the head of the Fonderie Générale, also put an “Elzevir” roman typeface on the market in 1858. All of these creations, which were fairly similar, form the bases of many interpretations up through the early 20th century. It represented a return to typography’s roots, which nevertheless erased the name of Garamond for decades, as the Elzevirean faces had much more in common with their Dutch predecessors then with those of Robert Estienne.

The stages of debate

The D. Stempel type-foundry in Frankfurt am Main denominated Nicholas Kis’ types as Janson Antiqua und Kursiv because by naming the types after their maker, they wanted to revive his memory (“…durch die Benennung der Garnitur nach dem Namen des Verfertigers diesen der Vergessenheit entrissen…”). This is taken from the 1924 catalogue cited above in which the foundry informed the public about the founts cast from the matrices of the historical types they acquired from the Drugulin officina in Leipzig. It took fully thirty years for this error to come to light. Harry Carter and Gyfugy Buday published the result of their research in Lino type Matrix in 1954, according to which there is not much doubt that the (Nicholas Kis) types are the Janson series. The mystery of the Janson types has engaged the researchers even longer.

Janson, not by Anton Janson, but Nicholas Kis.