undated specimen of ‘Gefigureerde Javaansch’ (detail)
courtesy of Museum Enschedé / photo courtesy of author

‘Gefigureerde Javaansch’ an embellished typeface from the Johannes Enschedé & Zonen typefoundry in Haarlem

This essay explores the historical and practical context of ‘Gefigureerde Javaansch’, the nineteenth century ornamental display fount created for the Javanese script at Johannes Enschedé & Zonen, the renowned Dutch typefoundry and printing house in Haarlem.

Jo De Baerdemaeker
6 min readAug 5, 2019

From the beginning of the nineteenth century Joh. Enschedé & Zonen started to manufacture Javanese printing types that were shipped to the Governmental printing house in Batavia (present-day Jakarta), the capital of the then Dutch East Indies. The earliest printing type for the Javanese script was cut at a body of 24 points in 1824 by Martinus Hübner Jz (1804–1871), under supervision of Paul Van Vlissingen (1797–1876). The punchcutters and typecasters at Enschedé & Zonen continued to create Javanese typefaces for setting large paragraphs of text, varying from 12 point to 20 point body size and enriched the non-Latin typeface collection of the Haarlem typefoundry with no less than seven Javanese founts. Yet, at the end of the nineteenth century, an atypical design style was applied to a new Javanese typeface from the hands of Gotlieb Schlegelmich (1858–?).

Schlegelmilch was introduced to the Enschedé family by Carl Hupp, German metal engraver, to fill in the vacant position of punchcutter, after his son Matthias Hupp had fallen seriously ill and had to return to Germany in the Spring of 1874. Schlegelmilch started to work at the Enschedé company in July 1874, and although he was very young –he was not even sixteen years old at the time of his employment– he showed signs of a skilled hand both in drawing and engraving. Within a short period of time, and after learning the art of punchcutting, he proved to be very valuable to the typefoundry. According to the yearbooks of the Enschedé firm, Schlegelmilch managed to reach a considerable level of quality in the art of (letter)punchcutting [letterstempelsnijden], which he already demonstrated in one of his first assignments in 1883. His task was to engrave a set of ornamental Javanese types for the government of the Dutch East Indies (present day Indonesia).

photograph of Gotlieb Schlegelmilch taken by Jacques Chits in 1879 from “Album den edel-achtbaren heere Mr Jan Justus Enschedé ter gelegenheid van zijn in juli MDCCCLXXIX gevierde gouden drukkersfeest uit” (1879). Haarlem: Joh.Enschedé en Zonen, [unpaginated]
courtesy of Museum Enschedé / photo courtesy of author

Schlegelmilch, however, manufactured this Gefigureerde Javaansch not by following the conventional way of cutting punches in steel, striking the matrices in copper and casting the sorts in typemetal. Since this typeface had to function as a display letter with a large body size of 96 point, it would be rather costly and time-consuming to manufacture the typeface in the usual way of producing type. Schlegelmich, on the other hand, applied the technique of electrotyping and galvanization, which was introduced in the Enschedé typefoundry around 1855, to cast the sorts. He manually engraved the ‘punches’ of the Gefigureerde Javaansch in thin plates of type metal (lead, tin and antimony). From these individual plates, type was electrochemically produced in galvanic copper. At present ten of the original plates that were engraved by Schlegelmilch (see images below) are preserved at the Museum Enschedé. What remains of the other plates is not known.

Schlegelmilch executed each of the Javanese characters and diacritical marks with an extreme refinement in a specific figurative design style (hence the Dutch term ‘gefigureerd’). Each Javanese character is designed extremely detailed as a curling, three-dimensional cluster of organic, intertwined strokes with a botanic reminiscence of leaves and twigs which grow out of the finials of the characters, crawl over the edges and sometimes even penetrate other parts of the characters. This style, however, reflects the fashion of the period in time when exuberant floral decorations and ornamental graphic elements were incorporated in the strokes and finials of the characters of display founts which were used to visually shout the message or content to the reader on title pages of books, posters for performances in theatres and opera’s, or on signboards and shop windows of many a store, supermarket or boutique, particularly in France, England and the Low Countries. From the era of Romanticism and Symbolism leading to the work of the Arts and Crafts movement and Art Nouveau, ornamental and decorated typefaces were very common for European eyes, but the Javanese readers in Batavia would not have been familiar with this particular decorative treatment of the Javanese characters, even though the exquisite and refined appearance of this typeface required a skilful hand.

five printed characters of Gefigureerde Javaansch
(top two images on are original size and the bottom image is 200% enlarged)
courtesy of Museum Enschedé / photo courtesy of author
two engraved plates (left) with their corresponding Javanese character in print (right)
courtesy of Museum Enschedé / photo courtesy of author
detail of the refined engraving of ‘Gefigureerde Javaansch’
courtesy of Museum Enschedé / photo courtesy of author

At Enschedé’s, Gefigureerde Javaansch was referred to as a typeface for titles or tickets since the typeface was classified under the ‘Titel- en Biljetletter’ on page twenty-one of the fifth volume of Letterproef, the type specimen book of 1897. The typesize of Gefigureerde Javaansch was very large and it would be very costly to cast an entire fount in type material. Hence, the typeface was sold per individual sort. The Prijs-courant, a leaflet with the price list of the non-Latin typefaces of the Enschedé typefoundry which accompanied the Oostersche Schriften typespecimen book of circa 1913, indicates that the Javanese Aksårå (base consonants) were cast on 36 point bodysize and were sold for 1,30 Dutch guilder per piece. The Passangan (juxtaposed consonants) were cast on 60 point body and cost 2,50 Dutch guilder per piece. The above marks were cast on 32 point, and were offered at 1,20 Dutch guilder per piece. The below marks were cast on 24 point body size, and cost 1,10 Dutch guilder per piece. The Tjokrô and other characters were cast on 96 point body size and were sold for 3,25 Dutch guilder per piece. Given the detailed execution and the body size of the typeface, the Gefigureerde Javaansch did not come cheap. A complete fount of the Dubbel Paragon Arabisch (no 658) was offered at 4,20 Dutch guilder per kilo and a complete fount of Augustijn Javaansch (no 659) cost 9 Dutch guilder per kilo. Today’s equivalent would be 2,2 Dutch guilder for 1 euro.

After completing the Gefigureerde Javaansch type, Gotlieb Schlegelmilch also cut punches for other non-Latin printing types, including an Arabic typeface on 40 point body size and a Balinese fount on 20 point body size. He married a woman from Haarlem and moved to Germany around 1886.

Except for the Enschedé type specimen books of 1897, 1907 and circa 1913, a handful of undated specimen sheets and printed sheet with the fount synopsis, no other printed evidence of Gefigureerde Javaansch in use could be traced thus far. Currently more research is being prepared to investigate material at the (printing) archives and libraries in Indonesia to gain further information about this Javanese typeface.

undated specimen of ‘Gefigureerde Javaansch’
courtesy of Museum Enschedé / photo courtesy of author

Joh. Enschedé & Zonen. 1893. De lettergieterij van Joh. Enschedé en Zonen. Gedenkschrift ter gelegenheid van haar honderdvijftig-jarig bestaan op 9 maart 1893. Haarlem: Joh. Enschedé en Zonen
Mosley, James and Ian Mortimer. 1993. Ornamented Types: twenty-three Alphabets from the Foundry of Louis John Pouchée. London: I.M. Imprint and St Bride Printing Library
Rehak, Theo. 1993. Practical typecasting. New Castle, Delaware: Oak Knoll Books

type specimen books Joh. Enschedé & Zonen
Letterproef van Joh. Enschedé en Zonen Lettergieterij te Haarlem. Deel V. Titel en Biljtetletters (Haarlem, 1897)
Letterproef van Oostersche schriften (Haarlem, 1907)
Oostersche schriften (Haarlem, ca.1913)

originally published in 2012 for *Latent Stare*, a project curated by David Bennewith at Casco — Office for Art, Design and Theory Utrecht (NL), 8 July–30 September 2012

special thanks to
Johan de Zoete, Museum Enschedé
Mathieu Lommen, Bijzondere Collecties UvA