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Experimental Typography and Orthography – Proto-Bauhaus

Sprache und Schrift [Language and Writing]. Fundamente der Organisation, ed. Richard K. Hinz [Fundamentals of organization; series title]. With: folded New Year's card by Porstmann's company "fabriknorm" (1936).

Berlin: Verlag des Vereins Deutscher Ingenieure, 1920. Quarto (29.5 × 23.5 cm). Original printed wrappers; 108 pp. Laid in is a folded greeting card of Porstmann's firm, measuring 10.5 × 7.5 cm. About very good; light wear to title; a few pages with light spots.

First and only edition of this avantgardistic treatise on the future of language and graphic writing systems, and a curious parallel to the concern with functionalist simplification by members of the Bauhaus. Porstmann’s work explains his proposal to abolish capital letters in German, primarily for economic reasons, as well as his attempt at a purely phonetic orthography with a phonetic alphabet. Curiously, the second half of the book is set in lowercase only, and also features a liberal sprinkling of phonetically spelled (and thus visually jarring) German words. Porstmann (1886–1956) was a German engineer, mathematician, and a pioneer in the field of standardization who is best known for establishing the German DIN 476 paper size standard.

There is evidence that Porstmann’s work was read and appreciated by members of the Dessau Bauhaus, such as a 1925 article by Laszlo Moholy-Nagy which refers to the present work. A recent work also argues for the significance of Porstmann’s work to Bauhaus painter Joost Schmidt (Fabian Grütter, Unter der Hand. Zur Materialität der Neuen Typografie, Frankfurt a. M. 2019). In 1933, Porstmann was called to visit the short-lived Berlin Bauhaus. On Porstmann’s reception by the Bauhaus, see: Niklas Naehrig, “Din 476”, in: trans 24 (2014), pp. 34–39.

As of June 2021, KVK and OCLC only show a single copy in North America.

Book ID: 51333

Price: $1,250.00