John Dreyfus
A Tribute

The typographic community lost a true friend and an eminent leader last month. John Dreyfus died in London on December 29th. Few of us at Agfa Monotype knew John, but he was an important shaper of the Monotype typeface library.

Monotype has had three Typographical Advisors in its 100-year history: Stanley Morison, from 1922 to when he retired in 1955, John Dreyfus, who took over the position after Morison and held it until 1982 and John Miles. Morison was responsible for building what is now the foundation of the Monotype Typeface Library. Were it not for Morison, faces like Gill Sans, Bembo and Times New Roman would never have seen printer's ink. Dreyfus built on Morison's legacy adding faces like Dante, Univers, and Apollo, the first text typeface family designed specifically for phototypesetting, to the Monotype typeface library.

The Dreyfus family originated in Alsace, not far from the birthplace of printing. One branch established a bank in Basle, while Edmond Dreyfus decided to seek his fortune in England in the late 19th century. His wife, Marguerite, was of German extraction, but her father had moved to England before settling in Paris, where she was born. It was into this cosmopolitan family that John Dreyfus was born on April 15, 1918.

From an early age books and the printing process fascinated John. At just 14, he saw and was captivated by the redesign and new typeface family Morison created for The Times newspaper. Seven years later, Dreyfus joined the Cambridge University Press, where Morison was Typographic Adviser, as a graduate trainee. Although he had only worked at the Press for about a year before he joined the British Army in World War II, Dreyfus already began to make his mark on the typographic world. He returned to Cambridge after the war and, in 1949, became the Assistant University Printer. He excelled in this position, making a reputation as a gifted typographer and typographic historian.

In 1954, when Stanley Morison decided to retire from the Press, Dreyfus was his natural successor. A year later, Morison again recommended Dreyfus as his successor; this time as Typographic Adviser to Monotype Corporation.

In 1957 the first major new typeface under his stewardship was released. The typeface was Dante, designed by Giovanni Mardersteig, a book face subsequently used by Mardersteig at the Officina Bodoni in Italy and still a popular choice for high quality book printing today. A number of major new typefaces followed, including Univers, launched in 1961 and made in collaboration with the Deberny & Peignot type foundry in France and Apollo, designed by Adrian Frutiger, the first Monotype typeface made specifically for phototypesetting. Other notable designs developed under Dreyfus include Albertina, Photina and Calvert. He was also involved in the production of Sabon; a typeface designed by Jan Tschichold and manufactured by Monotype, Linotype and Stempel with the intention of being compatible across the different typesetting systems made by the three manufactures.

Although keenly aware of the value of typographic tradition, Dreyfus also had his eye on the future. Through Monotype, Dreyfus was able to provide opportunities for younger type designers to add their work to the Monotype Library. He saw the necessity of moving with the times, and of the advance from metal to film and ultimately to digital letterforms. Robin Nicholas, Type Development Manager in our Redhill office remembers, “I first met John Dreyfus shortly after joining the Monotype Type Drawing Office in 1965. A quietly spoken but authoritative man whose knowledge of, and enthusiasm for, type and the printed word was infectious. His astute eye and deep understanding of type helped to guide the development of Monotype's typeface library over a 27-year period. He will be much missed by the type community but leaves a wonderful legacy in the Monotype typeface library and in his writing.”

Dreyfus was also President of the Association Typographique Internationale (ATypI) from 1968 to 1973. He was largely responsible not only for the association's popular annual conferences then, but also for its campaign for legal recognition of the designer's rights to the types he designed.

A witty and popular lecturer, Dreyfus was much in demand in the United States as well as Europe. David Farey, who knew him well, described Dreyfus as “always a gentleman but never aloof.” Dreyfus was awarded the Goudy Prize from the Rochester Institute of Technology and the laureateship of the American Printing Historical Society in 1984. In 1994 the British Library published Into Print, his selected papers, and in 1996 he received a final accolade in the Mainz Gutenberg Prize–which he accepted with a speech in perfect German.

Harold Berliner, a close and long-time friend of John, recalls that there was more to John than career and work. “John had a loving family and a delightful personal life. He visited virtually every art exhibition in London and most plays and stage offerings. He was at least a weekly diner at the Garrick Club, where he met many friends, and a member of the great printing societies of London. His home for many years until his death was a large flat in Knightsbridge. It had a room for overnight visitor–which he graciously accommodated on many occasions. John also frequently cooked dinner for his guests, although it was his delight to dine at one of the many fine restaurants in that district. He generously held long and fine conversations with guests from all over the world.”

John Dreyfus has left a legacy of Monotype typefaces embodying classic heritage, timeless appeal, good taste and ultimate usability. He championed the best in typographic communication and worked tirelessly in the service of our community. He will be missed.




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