Call to Save a Cultural Treasure – the Future of Offizin Haag-Drugulin, Dresden, is Uncertain

By Silvia Werfel

After the death of Eckehart SchumacherGebler on 17 December 2022, it is uncertain what will happen to Offizin Haag-Drugulin (OHD).

After the reunification, SchumacherGebler had taken over the renowned Leipzig company, founded in 1829, and for the last ten years continued to run it in Dresden. Not as a museum workshop, but as a craft business. Profit maximisation was not the focus here. Eckehart SchumacherGebler's concern was to preserve and pass on a cultural treasure and the skills associated with it. Thus, OHD carries out printing jobs in hot metal typesetting and letterpress at the highest professional level, and thanks to Monotype, also book projects on a larger scale.

The core of the OHD is the historical typographic material that Eckehart SchumacherGebler has collected, maintained and used over the course of more than sixty years: in other words, the unique, immense font and matrix treasures, the functioning Monotype and letterpress machines, but above all the knowledge gathered here. This refers to the highly motivated people trained in the historical techniques, above all Max Lotze as Germany's youngest monotype caster and Heike Schnotale as a (also still young) typesetter and monotype master. The team also includes printer Albrecht Günther and typesetter Ute Finger, who have many years of professional experience.

The declared aim is to continue typesetting and printing at the highest level. Printing projects would exist. In addition, the staff are qualified to train others, thus ensuring the continuity of crafts such as typesetters, monotype typesetters and founders and letterpress printers.

What is certain, however, is that the print shop and its employees need financial support, because the heirs cannot continue the tradition-steeped business. Possible solutions are already being worked on. The cooperative Büchergilde Gutenberg, for example, is currently exploring the extent to which it could participate in the continuation of the OHD. A cooperative concept would also be conceivable for the Offizin.

How do other nations deal with their cultural heritage? The French – following the Japanese model of the "living national treasures" – have been honouring craftsmanship since 1994 by appointing exceptional Maîtres d'Arts, among others in the field of lettering and printing, because this craftsmanship is indispensable "both for the preservation of the heritage and for contemporary creation" (Catherine Tasca). The South Korean metropolis of Cheongju even celebrates the book "Jikji", which was printed here in the 14th century with metal types, as an identity-forming cultural asset.

And what happens to Gutenberg's legacy in Gutenberg's country? Printed text and image media have been part of European culture and knowledge society for almost 600 years, and in Germany Johannes Gutenberg and Albrecht Dürer stand for the beginnings of this innovation. This is what the "Nationwide Register of Intangible Cultural Heritage" says, in which the "Artistic Printing Techniques" were included in 2018, a first step towards UNESCO World Cultural Heritage. This intangible cultural heritage, expanded to include type production and typesetting, is preserved and cultivated in a very tangible way at Offizin Haag-Drugulin.

So far, it has not been possible to get the federal and state governments on board with the art of printing. The Rainer Gerstenberg type foundry in Darmstadt, for example, could not be saved and the "world museum" of the art of printing in Mainz, as "Städtisches Amt 451", continues to fight for every cent.

What will happen to the Haag-Drugulin print shop now? Perhaps comrades can fix it? Or a private individual with the necessary financial background?

Silvia Werfel

Whoever would like to participate in saving the Haag-Drugulin dispensary,
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