When Gudrun Zapf von Hesse (*1918) introduced herself at the Bauer type foundry with a portfolio of book arts and lettering work in early 1946, foundry director Georg Hartmann (1870–1954) offered her to maintain an in-house bookbindery at the Frankfurt-based factory. The previous year, Hartmann had turned 75 and the foundry’s private press began printing an anniversary book in his honor: Georg Hartmann. Festschrift zum 75. Geburtstag. It was set in a variety of different typefaces, printed and numbered at a limited edition of 100, and issued by the in-house publisher Der Goldene Brunnen.
At Bauer, Gudrun Zapf von Hesse watched the punch cutters as they carved out the faces of letters from metal blocks using gravers and files. She soon cut her own alphabet from brass and mounted the punches on wooden handles so she could use them to letter-stamp titles on leather book covers and spines. By 1947 she finished the alphabet that was later known as Hesse Antiqua (a name given by her husband). Its very first use was on the cover and spine of the Georg Hartmann monograph no. 1/100 as a unique specimen presented to Hartmann himself. Zapf von Hesse produced a second specially-bound version that features her lettering on the spine, different from the first: the name in gold with blind-stamped years. This copy remains in the designer’s possession.
Technically this isn’t a “font in use”—rather lettering in action—, but these are the original letterforms that were eventually translated into a digital typeface in early 2018, at the occasion of Gudrun Zapf von Hesse’s 100th birthday.