July 9

E.W.G. Kircher, a printer of Goslar, a city located just a few miles inside the eastern border of West Germany, petitioned the City Council on this day in 1796 as follows:

“I, the undersigned, transfer to the engraver, Herr Walbaum of this town, and his wife the privilege graciously granted me by the Most Honourable Council of the Free and Imperial City of Goslar for the establishment of a typefoundry in that city; in such a manner that I completely renounce any claim to it and leave it to Herr Walbaum, if he should wish to petition the Most Honorable Council to have it transferred to himself, to make this supplication without further reference to myself. However, I make the proviso that Herr Walbaum, if he do not remain in Goslar all his life, shall not pass this privilege to a third person but shall return it to myself. Moreover, he shall fulfill exactly the promise, given by me to the Most Honorable Council, namely to establish the typefoundry this year. Everything else I forego of my own free will and waive any further claim.”

This is the first record of Justin Erich Walbaum as a typefounder. He was then twenty-eight years of age and ready to begin his career in a field far removed from that to which he had been apprenticed—that of baker. However, when Walbaum received his journeyman’s certificate as a baker, he did not have sufficient funds with which to acquire the necessary moulds needed by a confectioner. This lack evidently gave the young man sufficient incentive to supply what was needed by his own efforts. He used old swordblades which he fashioned into chisels and began to learn how to engrave wooden moulds. He acquired such proficiency that he was soon engraving in steel. His reputation in this art grew until he found that he was earning more money in engraving than he possibly could as an assistant baker, and thus he became a professional engraver. He next applied for a position with a music printer as an engraver of music sheets. From this point it was a simple step for Walbaum to become interested in the cutting of punches for printer’s types and consequently to establish himself as a typefounder. As Goslar was at that period in economic straits, the Town Council was pleased to have an attractive new business located there and it extended tax-free privileges to Walbaum. However, he soon found that his location was too restricting to his rising talents, and therefore petitioned the Duke of Saxe-Weimar for similar privileges. As Weimar was then the literary and intellectual center of Germany, Walbaum found himself immersed in an atmosphere which was most conducive to his work.

The Walbaum types which have been revived in our own time follow the pattern of the letters of Didot in France and Bodoni in Italy, contemporaries of the Weimar founder. They have however a warmth the latter types lack, and it is this feature which has resulted in their present revival and popularity.

One Comment

  1. Michael Message says:


    Kircher was, I believe, the printer who was responsible for the ***printing***
    (not publishing) of Gauss’ Disquisitiones Arithmeticae – 1801.

    I am trying to construct a timeline for the publication of that work and I would be most grateful for any information about this man and his work you might either have or know the whereabouts of.

    many thanks

Leave a Reply