Last man casting
Rainer Gerstenberg is one of the few people in the world to cast foundry type, keeping alive a craft that was developed more than half a millennium ago
A visit to the top floor of an old factory building in Darmstadt, half an hour south of Frankfurt am Main, Germany, is like time-travelling to an era not so long ago. Since 1997, Rainer Gerstenberg has been casting metal type there, surrounded by heavy machinery, hundreds of type cases, even more matrices, all covered in a fine layer of grease and molten lead. These objects represent the remains of a tradition that began with Johannes Gutenberg, inventor of the ground-breaking hand mould, a device that could cast letters from a matrix even in the 1450s. (Prints were already being made from movable metal type on the Korean peninsula, more than 70 years before.)
Matrices of Univers 67. Photograph by Norman Posselt.
Top: Since 1997, Rainer Gerstenberg has been running his type foundry at the Haus für Industriekultur in Darmstadt. He is surrounded by 43 machines, most of which cast type from Stempel, Haas, Klingspor, Deberny & Peignot, Nebiolo and others, at a range of 4-72 point type size.
Ferdinand P. Ulrich, typographer, type historian, lecturer, Berlin, Germany
Read the full version in Eye no. 98 vol. 25, 2019
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