Arabic printing in 1920s Germany: unique type specimen catalogue, signed by the editor

(Tscherkassky, Joseph [ed.]). Barthuld masani li-sabb al-huruf wa umud al-itarat min an-nuhas al-asfar. Shirka musahama. Barlin - Laybsigh - Ushtutghart - Vina - Righa [Berthold Type Foundry and Brass Frame Rules Corporation. Berlin - Leipzig - Stuttgart - Vienna - Riga].

Berlin, H. Berthold Schriftgiessereien u. Messinglinien-Fabriken AG, 1925.

Small folio (230 x 298 mm). 2 leaves, 26 pp. (all unnumbered), printed in red and black, gilt, and full colours. Arabic title printed in a very elegant, slanted naskh typeface, albeit leaning to the thuluth style. Original full green morocco, elaborately gilt, with inset ornamental metal plaque with the name "Berthold" in stylised floriated Kufic script to upper cover, outlined in red lacquer. Marbled endpapers. All edges gilt.


Extremely rare specimen catalogue of Arabic typefaces produced by the Berthold AG, a major German type foundry based in Berlin, which under the direction of Erwin Graumann and Oskar Jolles expanded the company's range into Hebrew and Arabic founts in the 1920s.

The catalogue was edited by the typefounder Joseph Tscherkassky (1879-1958), a native of Kiev who had established himself in Berlin about the time of the First World War and became the manager of Berthold's Oriental Section. Elaborately printed in several colours in Arabic throughout (save for a French translation of the preface) and sumptuously bound, the catalogue showcases the remarkable capabilities of the Berthold corporation. "There are full-page half-tone photographs of Jolles and Graumann interspersed amongst the introductions. The specimens are very much in an oriental vein, with texts from the Koran, stories, advertisements, all in quite acceptable Arabic [...], including what appears to be a complete 'fount' of Berthold's Hieroglyphics: over 400 different signs in total! [...] As a whole the catalogue is produced to a very high standard, both in terms of presswork and binding [...] and it is clear that it was intended as a kind of advertisement for Berthold as a whole" (Lubell).

Extremeties very slightly rubbed, lower cover lightly sunned, otherwise very impressively preserved with Tscherkassky's autograph inscription to the Trieste publisher Marco Bolaffi on the half-title, signed and dated 27 June 1925. Not a single copy could be traced in library catalogues internationally.

Stephen Lubell, "Joseph Tscherkassky - Orientalist and Typefounder", in: Gutenberg-Jahrbuch 71 (1996), pp. 222-239, at p. 233. For Berthold AG see Rodenberg, Deutsche Pressen (1925), pp. 198 ff.