Akzidenz-Grotesk is considered to be a traditional, general-purpose typeface widely used in German printing during the 19th Century.
It has been recognized as a work of anonymous typecutters who were familiar with the finest subtleties and principles. This gave the typeface “a functional, formal rightness that transcends the whims of fashion”.
The design originated from Royal Grotesk light by Ferdinand Theinhardt. The Theinhardt Foundry later merged with Berthold and supplied the regular, medium, and bold weights. In the 1950s, Berthold’s then-art director Günter Gerhard Lange started a project to enlarge the typeface family. This meant a larger character set while keeping the characteristics of the 1898 letters.
Berthold added AG Medium Italic (1963), AG ExtraBold (1966), AG Italic (1967), AG ExtraBold & Italic (1968), and AG Super (1968). Several other fonts AG Light Italic, Super Italic, Light Condensed, Condensed, Medium Condensed, Extrabold Italic, Light Extended Italic, Extended Italic and Medium Extended Italic were added to the typeface family in 2001.
Berthold AG exclusively offers Akzidenz-Grotesk up to this day.
As with most sans serifs, Akzidenz-Grotesk has all letter strokes of similar width, making it “monoline” in structure. The absence of adornment and flourishes seen in more decorative types of the late 19th Century gives it a sense of simplicity.
Modern type designers liken these letterforms to the Didone serif fonts that were standard in the 19th Century. This is seen in the folded-up apertures of letters such as ‘a’ and ‘c’. Proportions such as looser spacing at smaller text sizes were a nod to old practices of designing and engraving metal type.