Name: Albertus Nova
Type: Retail typeface
Release year: 2017
Purchase links: MyFonts
Albertus Nova is a revival typeface that was released as a part of Berthold Wolpe Collection in 2017. It’s a flare serif typeface that was originally designed by Berthold Wolpe in 1935.
Born in 1905, Berthold Wolpe was an accomplished lettering artist and teacher in Offenbach, Germany. Being a Jewish German and after being chased away of his teaching job by the Nazy Germany, he fled to the United Kingdom where he met Stanley Morison. He commissioned Wolpe to design a new typeface based on his inscription works.
The typeface that started as an all-cap display face became an immediate success. Paul Wolpe, one of Berthold’s four offsprings, shared a more personal story about Albertus’s legacy. He had to come alone back when he fled to UK, but Albertus’s financial success earned him enough funds to bring over the rest of the family.
It was soon followed by lowercase extension, small sizes, bold and light weights (bold was cap-only). It was used on book covers, posters, corporate designs, and street signs, especially in Britain. It was also popular on screen too; British TV show The Prisoner was famous for the use of customised Albertus with the iconic trident e. John Carpenter is known for many signatures such as horror, music, Kurt Russell, and the use of Albertus in the credits. Perhaps the low stroke contrast helped in the earlier days of screen media when thin typefaces like Trajan would be less legible.
Albertus was always a limited typeface despite its constant popularity to this day, and what was there wasn’t drawn particularly well in my eyes. What seemed like a technical compromise might have actually been Wolpe’s quirky decision, and I wanted to learn the whole story through my research at the Monotype Archive and The Type Archive with the generous help of Sue Shaw and Paul Wolpe. This led to interesting discoveries indeed; I always thought Albertus was a strange mix of roman capitals and blackletter lowercase, which was revealed to be the initial intention in his early sketch of more Rotunda-like design. And the lowercase g was a result of many compromises.
With all the knowledge of the original and unofficial variations, I strove for the best version that meets the modern demand of design, with changes that are still true to the original intention, if not truer. The weight and spacing discrepancy between uppercase and lowercase resulting due to them being designed at different times was toned down, each letter’s proportion was slightly revised, all the alternates restored, small cap for titling was added, new Greek and Cyrillic were designed, as well as more weights.
Since the release, I’ve been excited to see it used a lot in the same ways it was used, including films. Someone needs to tell John Carpenter there’s new Albertus so he can use it in his new films!