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Hermann Ihlenburg papers

 Collection — Multiple Containers
Identifier: CSC-0019

Scope and Contents

The Hermann Ihlenburg Papers spans the period from 1803 through 1906 and contains correspondence, photographs, letterform drawings, printed ephemera, and other documents relating to the career of the type designer and punchcutter Hermann Ihlenburg (1843-1905). The collection is organized into three series: I. Personal Papers; II. Type Drawings; and III. Other Papers.

Series I, Personal Papers (1839-1905) holds just a few letters to Ihlenburg, and one from him to his wife Pauline. Two were sent to him while he was still living in Europe, including an 1866 letter from the L. Johnson and Company foundry offering him a position in Philadelphia. A letter from the previous year details proposed financial arrangements and other details related to an opportunity to work in New York. Little of Ihlenburg’s correspondence exists and evidence in Series II reveals one reason: he cut up letters and other documents to use as drawing paper. The versos of several design sketches are sections of invoices from his investment counselor Frederick Narr, and from Thomas May Peirce, who was educating his son William Herman. There are also parts of letters from the New-York Type Foundry, with whom he did business in the 1880s, and from MacKellar, Smiths & Jordan. Also in the series are three photographs of Ihlenburg, a commonplace book he brought with him from Germany, and a number of drawings, some likely school exercises; many date from before his emigration.

Series II, Type Drawings (1866-[1904]) contains two albums and several folders holding hundreds of pencil sketches and ink drawings of typefaces, borders, and cartouches drawn on various papers and Bristol board. Most are not dated but likely were created for his American employers L. Johnson and MacKellar, Smiths & Jordan. The ink drawings are both loose cards and cards mounted on boards; the latter were formerly stored in reused portfolios and wrappers which have been retained in box 6.

Series III, Other Papers (1803-1906) contains miscellaneous printed material related to Ihlenburg’s field, and a set of early nineteenth-century wash drawings and watercolors by an unidentified German artist. The former material includes a group of printed stationery items used by the MacKellar firm; the fact that Ihlenburg kept them suggests that the fancy type faces and borders featured might have been his designs. Included in that group are specimen sheets for type and borders designed by Ihlenburg. There is one folder with two issues of Typographische Nachrichten (1895), one type specimen portfolio issued by Genzsch & Heyse (1886), and pages from an unidentified 1906 publication. The oversize scrapbook contains a collection of fancy typeface examples clipped from publications issued in major cities in the United States and Germany, but primarily in Philadelphia, between 1847 and 1888. It includes mastheads from newspapers and periodicals, commercial letterhead, labels, trade cards and trade catalog covers, invitations, cigar bands, advertisements from periodicals, almanac covers, and a variety of miscellaneous ephemera; media includes lithography and wood, metal, and photo engraving. The final forty-four pages hold covers from American railroad and steamboat schedules and legends from maps. Also present in the series is a folder of Sheet music covers, mostly German, probably kept for their fancy typefaces. A folder of Miscellaneous Ephemera holds more clipped lettering, some photostats, and other items saved for their design value; included is an instruction sheet for using “The Automatic Shading Pen” with lettering examples. At the end of the series is a set of twenty-five pencil and ink wash landscape drawings of German and Austrian scenes, dated 1803 and 1804; they are the work of “C.M.,” a skilled amateur who was possibly an ancestor of Ihlenburg or his wife Pauline. Also in that folder are two small lithographed German scenes of a later date.


  • Creation: 1803-1906
  • Creation: Majority of material found within 1866-1905


Conditions Governing Access

This collection is open to researchers.

Biographical / Historical

Hermann Ihlenburg, a German-American type designer who specialized in ornamental fonts and borders, was born in Berlin in 1843, and received training in drawing and painting there. He was apprenticed to the Trowitzsch & Son type foundry in Berlin, and then worked as a punchcutter in Dresden and at the G. Haase & Sons foundry in Prague. After positions at the Flinsch foundry in Frankfurt, the Battenburg foundry in Paris, and Fonderie Haas in Basel, Ihlenburg moved to the United States in 1866 to work for the L. Johnson & Company in Philadelphia (later MacKellar, Smiths & Jordan), where he spent the remainder of his career. He designed over eighty typefaces and thirty borders for that firm and several for American Type Founders Company after it purchased MacKellar, Smiths & Jordan in 1901.

Hermann Ihlenburg and his wife Pauline became naturalized American citizens in 1874. He died in Philadelphia in 1905, and was buried in West Laurel Hill Cemetery, Bala Cynwyd, Pennsylvania.

Ihlenburg was profiled by William E. Loy in The Inland Printer 21 (May 1898), and his career reviewed by David Pankow in “The Work of Hermann Ihlenburg, Type Designer” in The Ampersand 13 (1994).


1.5 Linear Feet (6 boxes)






The Hermann Ihlenburg Papers spans the period from 1803 through 1906 and contains correspondence, photographs, typeface drawings, printed ephemera, and other documents relating to the career of the German-American type designer and punchcutter Hermann Ihlenburg (1843-1905).

Physical Location

Cary Stacks, 13B

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Gift of Karl Koehler, grandson of the artist, 1990.

Processing Information

The collection was processed by Sandra Markham. Finding aid entered by Rachel Sheehan.


Hermann Ihlenburg papers
Cary Graphic Arts Collection
Rachel Sheehan
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description

Repository Details

Part of the Cary Graphic Arts Collection Repository

Rochester NY 14623 US
(585) 475-2408