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Rich. Filsinger invoice, 1944

Contributed by Florian Hardwig on Oct 26th, 2016. Artwork published in
circa 1940
.
    Rich. Filsinger invoice, 1944
    Photo: Florian Hardwig. License: All Rights Reserved.

    Here’s another invoice from the 1940s featuring Erbar-Grotesk. In her article about Erbar and Early Geometric Sans Serifs, Indra Kupferschmid quotes Swiss archivist Philipp Messner, who notes that

    Erbar-Grotesk was quite popular in Switzerland in the 1940s and 1950s, e.g. used on many forms and documents, but fell out of favor in the 1960s and was replaced by Helvetica.

    This invoice by Rich(ard) Filsinger, Ingenieur & C(ompagn)ie, Aarau, Switzerland, is particularly interesting when compared to the one from my previous post that was used around the same time less than 100 km to the north, across the German border. Both letterheads depict the company’s building as the only means of decoration, and can be described as modern insofar as they are typographic, not lettered. And yet the Swiss one looks so much more recent. It uses the DIN A4 paper size (adopted by Switzerland in 1929), as opposed to a non-standard 19.5×19.5 cm format. There’s no blackletter. The typography relies solely on a few weights of Erbar-Grotesk. Overall it is cleaner, with a clear hierarchy, fewer type sizes, fewer alignment axes, lighter borders, no rotated type, less forced justification, … This tidiness is all the more remarkable given that the information is provided in two languages, German and French.

    In all-caps, Erbar-Grotesk can look a lot like Futura, or any geometric sans, for that matter. Among the details that help telling it apart are the ‘S’ with the steep straight segment, and the ‘C’ with terminals perpendicular to the stroke. In the fett, the ampersand is more squat than in other weights. Another peculiarity that can be observed here is the use of ‘ch’ and ‘ck’ ligatures, a German convention at that time, with roots in blackletter typesetting. In this bilingual document, these digraphs were applied to the French text, too.

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