Hermann Zapf Virtuosa 1952; 2009

“Until the nineteenth century, books remained the major product of the printer. By the beginning of industrialization, the traditions of roman, italic, and black-letter types had been well established” (Lawson, 363). However; script types did not readily join their serif and sans serif counterparts in the new century. At the time, very few script types were available and advertising agencies specifically “employed hand-lettering artists to supply [script] styles” (Lawson, 360). Although ad agencies had the budget to “readily cover the cost of making photoengravings of single words or lines” in script type, printers did not (Lawson, 360). During this time of change, printers urgently needed script type and “a market for typefounder’s scripts” quickly developed (Lawson, 360).

Hermann Zapf began tackling this problem around 1947. “Of the opinion that the true copperplate scripts were not typographic, he attempted to capture their spirit but within the restriction of a normal type body” (Lawson, 363). His solution was to generate a script which lacked “the connecting strokes and excessive kerning of the [existing] copperplate” (Lawson, 363). The type was titled Virtuosa (I) and was released by Stempel Typefounders in 1952 (Lawson, 363).  A second version of Virtuosa (II) was later created in 1957, wherein “Zapf simplified the capitals” (Lawson, 363). Virtuosa was Hermann Zapf’s very first script typeface and was “based on the letterforms in the Hans von Weber quotation” from one of Zapf’s sketchbooks done in 1944 (Virtuosa).

During their collaboration on the typeface AMS-Euler, for the American Mathematical Society, Hermann Zapf and David Siegel also conceived an idea on how to “replicate handwriting with digital technology” as well as make “type look realistic”, where “letters and their joining strokes would change the height of the baseline… as with normal handwriting” (Haley). The calligraphy which had been a model for the type “Virtuosa” was heavily involved in their process to make this a reality and was among Zapf’s first fonts to be replicated and produced digitally in 2009 (Haley). “Like all elegant script faces, Virtuosa is intended primarily for use with small amounts of texts, and in display applications. Virtuosa proved itself in the old days as an extremely successful formal invitation face, as well as a selection for certificates and calling cards” (Virtuosa).

Zapf, Hermann. Virtuosa detail.



Lawson, Alexander S. Anatomy of a Typeface. David R. Godine Publisher, 1990.

Haley, Allan. Hermann Zapf: Three Stories of Point & Counterpoint. STEP Magazine, Oct. 2007. https://www.rit.edu/news/utilities/pdf/2007/2007_10_23_Step_Inside_Design_Herman_Zapf.pdf. Accessed 04 April, 2018.

Virtuosa Classic. Linotype. https://www.linotype.com/5833/virtuosa-classic.html. Accessed 04 April, 2018.