Name: Sachsenwald
Type: Retail typeface
Publisher: Monotype
Release year: 2017
Purchase links: MyFonts

Sachsenwald is a revival typeface that was released as a part of Berthold Wolpe Collection in 2017. It’s a fraktur typeface, or blackletter if you will, that was originally designed by Berthold Wolpe in 1936.

The original Sachsenwald started as a custom typeface for a German publisher Ulstein in 1936 under the name Bismarck Schrift. British company being commissioned a blackletter typeface from a German company in the late 1930s was an unfortunate circumstance, and Ulstein did withdraw from the project later on. The typeface was renamed to Sachsenwald, ‘the forest of Sachsens’, which Biscmark was granted in 1871, possibly because the original name sounded too German. Monotype eventually released the typeface for retail, but the demand for such a German typeface did not exist before the war. I was told that only three units of the family were ever sold until 1967 when it was taken out of offering (’67 was the year that massive purge of library happened and least popular typefaces had to give away space for the newer and larger typefaces, especially Monotype Univers).

This kind of modern fraktur faces with straighter lines and without decorative lines are called Gebrochene Grotesk or Schaftstiefelgrotesk (army boot grotesk) since their time of popularity overlapped with that of Nazi regime. Sachsenwalt’s design is on the warm side in the category, featuring curved arcs and diamond tips that are all independently drawn rather than copy-pasted. That makes it not so evocative of the wartime context.* Monotype back in the day also drew more English-friendly alternatives to H I X x. All-cap text is traditionally not recommended in fraktur, but Sachsenwald caps are not as decorative and works rather well in call caps.

Sachsenwald had never been digitised until the Collection project partly because there hasn’t been a strong commercial interest to the genre. Revival of Sachsenwald met with a few cautionary remarks within the company, but it was released in the end. In the revival, I made sure to keep the warm hand-drawn quality and drew every glyph from scratch each time. There were minor changes to the design such as letter proportion and diacritics design, but the family largely remains unchanged.

* Germany had been using fraktur dominantly as text faces while other neighbouring countries were used to reading roman. Nazi Germany was no exception, but one day deemed it “Jewish” and switched its communication to roman. The real reason is not documented, but the most convincing one is that the countries Nazi occupied could hardly read fraktur, making communication difficult. It then made up a patriotic reason to explain the transition.