Elizabeth Friedlander, modern print designer

Anyone interested in typography and book design will want to visit Ditchling Museum of Art + Craft in East Sussex this spring to see the exhibition devoted to the delightful work of Elizabeth Friedlander (1903-1985).

Born Elisabeth Friedländer (she anglicized her name on settling in Great Britain) into an affluent Jewish family, she studied typography and calligraphy under the renowned typographer Emil Rudolf Weiss. After completing her studies, she worked for the German fashion magazine Die Dame where she was responsible for designing headings and layouts. Her work came to the attention of the Bauer Type Foundry, one of the leading type foundries at the time, well known for commissioning and issuing modern and attractive typefaces (for example Futura by Paul Renner and Weiss Antiqua by Emil Rudolf Weiss). The foundry commissioned Elizabeth Friedlander to design a typeface. She finished the design in 1937 and the types were in production by 1938. “Elisabeth”, as the typeface became known as, is an elegant font, which cannot hide the influence of Emil Rudolf Weiss.

Promotional material issued by the Bauer Type Foundry (Morison.86.811)

Because of the oppressive anti-Jewish policies of the Hitler regime Elizabeth Friedlander had left Germany in 1936 and moved to Milan where she worked for the publisher Mondadori. However, she had to leave Italy in 1938 when harsh race laws were introduced there. Thanks to the efforts of Francis Meynell she was able to settle in London and worked during the war in a government propaganda unit.  After the war she worked for numerous publishers and print firms. Her most noteworthy work includes the patterned paper for Curwen Press, designs for Penguin Books as well as typographical devices for the Linotype and Monotype firms.

Friedlander designs for Penguin books (calligraphic device – Morison.86.94, roundel design for Penguin classics – 1952.7.3509, and patterned paper for Penguin scores – M319.d.3)

While the University Library cannot compete with the riches displayed at Ditchling, it does hold both primary and secondary material relating to Elizabeth Friedlander. Thanks to the archives of Stanley Morison, Francis Meynell, John Dreyfus and the Curwen Press, all held by the University Library, letters to and from Friedlander and original designs can be found. Of particular interest is a file in the Curwen Press archive containing sketches for decorative papers, which give an insight into Friedlander’s creative process. Detailed information on Friedlander archival resources in Cambridge are provided in Janus which contains catalogues of Cambridge archives.

Artwork for patterned papers from the file MS Add.9853/C2/20 (click on each image to see larger)

 The University Library also holds the only monographic study of Elizabeth Friedlander, New borders by Pauline Paucker, itself a beautifully produced limited edition book which contains numerous examples of Friedlander’s work and which uses a Friedlander pattern paper for its cover.

Front cover and title page of New borders

In addition, of course, many examples of Friedlander’s design can be seen in the UL’s holdings as the images above demonstrate.

I hope that the exhibition will stimulate interest in and appreciation of her work and inspire the use of the materials held by the University Library.

Christian Staufenbiel

1 thought on “Elizabeth Friedlander, modern print designer

  1. Hi Christian,

    Thank you very much for this wonderful post and the great images. Really inspiring and I will make sure that I’ll visit the Ditchling Museum as soon as I have a chance to see the books in real.

    Please post more.

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