Molded Inexorably by the Times: Rachel Wischnitzer’s and Franzisca Baruch’s Collaboration on the Headlines of Rimon/Milgroym

Ishai Mishory


Jew­ish cul­tur­al jour­nal Rimon / Mil­groym, print­ed in sep­a­rate Hebrew and Yid­dish ver­sions in 1920s Berlin, was the first of its kind: fea­tur­ing pic­tures and texts about con­tem­po­rary and tra­di­tion­al Jew­ish art – as well as poet­ry, prose and polit­i­cal texts – it was an impor­tant vehi­cle of the so-called Jew­ish Renais­sance.” The mag­a­zine brought togeth­er the textual/​theoretical and visu­al, and this arti­cle attempts to do the same: it exam­ines the col­lab­o­ra­tive work of its pio­neer­ing co-pub­lish­er, art his­to­ri­an Rachel Wis­chnitzer (18851989), and Jew­ish-Ger­man design­er and typog­ra­ph­er Franzis­ca Baruch (19011989), who designed and hand-let­tered the titles of the magazine’s first two vol­umes, as well as its mast­head. Broad­en­ing the scope to cov­er Baruch’s lat­er for­ays into the revival of medieval and Renais­sance-era Hebrew let­ter­forms, espe­cial­ly in her work in post­war Jerusalem, I argue that she uses frag­men­ta­tion’ as a strat­e­gy for visu­al, tex­tu­al and cul­tur­al revival, and that her tech­nique is informed by Wischnitzer’s the­o­ret­i­cal work. While both women’s work has been recent­ly treat­ed, this ear­ly col­lab­o­ra­tion has not been inves­ti­gat­ed schol­ar­ly; but it is exact­ly their joint work, I argue in an inter­dis­ci­pli­nary read­ing, that can show how the work of a schol­ar and a typog­ra­ph­er togeth­er can prob­lema­tize the received dis­tinc­tion between two sup­pos­ed­ly dis­creet realms of research, that of tex­tu­al frag­ments’ and con­crete, or visu­al,’ ones. Draw­ing on such diverse archives as recent writ­ing on the idea of the Jew­ish Renais­sance,” 19th cen­tu­ry writ­ing by design­ers of let­ters for print (Jews as well as non-Jews), Hebrew bib­li­o­graph­i­cal schol­ar­ship and Wischnitzer’s own writ­ing on medieval Hebrew man­u­scripts and their illu­mi­na­tion, I read aspects of Rimon / Mil­groyms design cru­cial to a visu­al under­stand­ing of Jew­ish his­to­ry. And in read­ing Wischnitzer’s and Baruch’s work togeth­er, I not only attempt to dis­man­tle the hard bound­ary between his­to­ri­o­graph­i­cal the­o­ry’ and visu­al design,’ but argue for an under­stand­ing of the shapes of Hebrew let­ter­forms them­selves – whether hand-drawn or cut for print – as a Jew­ish visu­al temporality.’

I would like to thank Eleono­ra Pis­tis for her wise, chal­leng­ing guid­ance and Michelle Ches­ner for her con­stant help. My thanks also go to Raphael Koenig, Sun­ny Yud­koff, Saul Zaritt and the two anony­mous, eagle-eyed In geveb read­ers, who com­ment­ed on an ear­li­er draft. 

For a pdf ver­sion of this text, click here.

In her magisterial 2002 article, Eva Frojmovic narrates three different turn-of-the century accounts of the development of a Jewish art history. Specifically, she examines the role played by the visual arts in Jewish history during what has been called the “Jewish Renaissance,” a term she reminds us was coined by philosopher Martin Buber (1878-1965) in his 1901 address to the Fifth Zionist Congress. 1 1 Eva Frojmovic, “Buber in Basle, Schlosser in Sarajevo, Wischnitzer in Weimar: The Politics of Writing about Medieval Jewish Art”, in Imagining the Self, Imagining the Other: Visual Representation and Jewish-Christian Dynamics in the Middle Ages and Early Modern Period, ed. Eva Frojmovic (Boston: Brill, 2002), 1–32; I elaborate on the idea of the “Jewish Renaissance” below. Frojmovic compares and contrasts the work of four writers—three Jewish, one Christian—to highlight their different perspectives on the function of visual production in the history of a people previously described, at least in German-Protestant circles, as “iconophobic.” She then ends with an account of the pioneering art-historical writing of Rachel Wischnitzer (1885-1989), “co-publisher, with her husband the social historian Mark Wischnitzer, of the Berlin cultural journal Rimon / Milgroim, printed in separate Hebrew and Yiddish series.” 2 2 Frojmovic, “Buber in Basle,” 25. The journal, a first of its kind, featured pictures and texts about contemporary and traditional Jewish art, as well as poetry, prose, and political texts. According to Frojmovic, the journal offered

an expressionist modernist appreciation of medieval manuscripts […] Visually, the journal’s hallmark was the combination of ‘primitive’ or folk and avantgarde art: it featured [leading contemporary Jewish artists] alongside papercuts, ritual objects and medieval manuscripts. The first volume opened with Rachel’s Wischnitzer’s essay “Modern Art and Us,” in which miniatures from a medieval Sephardi Haggadah are juxtaposed to a text about Impressionism, Cubism and Expressionism. The medieval miniature is the Jewish counterpart of the ‘primitive’ art so valued by Expressionist artists and collectors. By implication, we are made to see the expressive qualities of the medieval miniature. 3 3 Ibid., pp. 25-26.

Frojmovic’s description of the page, seen here in the below images: on the right-hand side of spread in figure 1 (Hebrew) and the top left side of the spread in figure 2 (Yiddish), disregards or glosses over a constituent visual element of its layout, which she does, however, cite as text: the ornate title, “Modern Art and Us.” 4 4 The exact text of the Hebrew title (Rimon) is “ha-omanut ha-adasha ve-ananu”, which Frojmovic not incorrectly renders as “Modern art and us”; literally, however, it should be rendered “The new art and us”, and thus could be read as “contemporary art and us;” the Yiddish title reads “Di naye kunst un mir,” i.e., the same text.

Written in letters that copy the visual idiom of a “medieval Haggadah” and that contrast the ornamentation of “Cubism and Expressionism,” the titles not only aid us in perceiving “the expressive qualities of the medieval miniature,” but also suggest an amalgamation of the medieval and the modern. The hand-lettering of the Hebrew was carried out by a young Jewish-German designer and typographer, Franzisca Baruch (1901–1989), who worked with Wischnitzer on all of the hand-lettered titles of the magazine’s first two volumes, including the magazine’s masthead (figure 3 and figure 4).

This article examines Baruch’s revival of medieval Hebrew letterforms in her work on Rimon/Milgroym; it further explores her use of fragmentation as a strategy for visual, textual, and cultural revival. It does so, moreover, in conversation with Wischnitzer’s work. While the latter has been treated by scholars 5 5 Katharina S. Feil, “Art under Siege: The Scholarship produced by Rachel Wischnitzer during her Berlin Years 1921-1938”, Leo Baeck Institute Yearbook, 45, no. 1 (2000): 122. and the former has recently received new interest, 6 6 The most prominent is a whole chapter devoted to her work from her early 20s until her death: Ada Wardi (ed.), New Types: Three Pioneers of Hebrew Graphic Design (Jerusalem: Israel Museum, 2016): 175–245; the second is a historical piece in the design of modern Hebrew letters: Ittai Tamari, New Hebrew Letter Type [in Hebrew] (Tel Aviv: Keter, 1985). to date no one has investigated the way the two women’s work intersected.

By narrating the two women’s work together, I argue that their collaboration, which cut across disciplinary lines, allowed them to metaphorically fragment historical Jewish manuscripts and letterforms and recombine them in a thoroughly modern way, achieving a new classic of Hebrew letter design.

Introducing Franzisca Baruch

Though she was an influential Hebrew typographer and graphic artist, little research has been done on the life of Franzisca (Esther) Baruch. 7 7 Wardi, New Types, 175-245. Born in Hamburg, at age seventeen she was accepted to the educational institution attached to the Kunstgewerbemuseum, Berlin. There, she studied illustration, graphics, and bookmaking under German graphic artist Ernst Böhm (1890-1963), with whom she was to work on the Rimon/Milgroym project. A year before beginning that project, she executed the lettering for a Passover Haggadah illustrated in woodcuts by well-known Jewish-German expressionist Jacob Steinhardt (1887-1968); the two would work together again, in Israel, years later. 8 8 Philipp Messner, “The 1921 Passover Haggadah: Lettering by Franzisca Baruch, Illustrations by Jacob Steinhardt,” in New Types: Three Pioneers of Hebrew Graphic Design: 187-201.

In 1933, prompted by the rise of the Nazis to power, Baruch immigrated to Palestine. A versatile artist, she took on diverse Hebrew lettering projects. The masthead she designed in 1940 for Ha’aretz remains in use to this day. 9 9 Ittai Joseph Tamari, “Hebräische Typographie des Schocken Verlags,” in Der Schocken Verlag Berlin. Jüdische Selbstbehauptung in Deutschland, 1931-1938: Essayband zur Ausstellung ‘Dem suchenden Leser unserer Tage’der Nationalbibliothek Luxemburg, ed. Saskia Schreuder and Claude Weber (Berlin: Akademie Verlag, 1994): 327-339. She also designed book layouts (figure 5), lettered headlines, logos, banknotes, and even the Israeli passport.

During the 1940s and 50s, she worked with several of Israel’s leading publishing houses on lettering, type, and logo projects. In addition to several Hebrew font faces she designed between the 1930s and 60s, each of which offered fresh revivals of past Hebrew letterforms, Baruch is perhaps best remembered for her design of three-dimensional lettering projects, such as the 1954 iron lettering at the Weizmann Archives and Weizmann Institute’s various laboratories (figure 6), the lettering of the Founders’ Wall at Hadassah Hospital, and the carved stone lettering at Hebrew Union College.

To begin to explore Baurch’s earlier work—specifically, the lettered headlines she produced in collaboration with Wischnitzer on Rimon/Milgroym—I must briefly mention two major historical developments that influenced their work together. First, I will return to the idea of the “Jewish Renaissance” introduced at the outset of this article. Then, I will turn my attention to the culture of typographic revival that was reaching its cultural zenith at the time.

“The Jewish Renaissance” and Typographic Revival

The term “Jewish Renaissance,” Frojmovic reminds us, referred not simply to a form of Jewish cultural renewal but to “a historical consciousness” reflected in “music, literature and art.” 10 10 Frojmovic, “Buber in Basle”, p. 5. According to Buber and many of his Jewish-Zionist interlocutors of the turn of the twentieth century, the visual arts — and the arts in general — were not merely regarded as “important” for the project of Jewish national liberation, they were regarded as essential for its realization. Writing about the visual aspects of the Jewish Renaissance, Avner Holtzman cites David Frischmann, a pioneer of modern Hebrew literature, as using the headline “fine arts—the revival of the nation” for his entire oeuvre. 11 11 David Frischmann, “In Long and in Short” [Hebrew], Ha-Dor 1 No. 22 (1901): 15-16; quoted in: Avner Holtzman, “The Jewish Renaissance and the Plastic Arts”, Jewish Studies Quarterly 10, no. 4 (2004): 355. Holtzman goes as far as stating that this linkage of the visual and the national was so well entrenched at this time that it was the material of comedy: he quotes “conservative critic and historian Simon Bernfeld from Berlin, who used to mock the fine arts enthusiasts. Here, for example, is a quotation from an essay he published in 1901: ‘Everyone is yelling now: Fine arts! Paintings! Sculptures! Suddenly sculpture became an essence, and those who do not bow to this or that sculptor are not considered human beings’”. See: Holtzman, “The Jewish Renaissance,” 355.

This new temporal understanding — that after a period of cultural ‘dormancy,’ the Jews were now to spring to new life and reinvent themselves as a ‘visual people’ — was reflected in a ferment of Jewish visual creation, particularly in Germany. 12 12 Kalman Bland, especially, has narrated how under German-Protestant influence, eighteenth and nineteenth century German Jewry went out of its way to portray Jewish history as “without visual aspects,” and how this began to change at the turn of the century for reasons that fall outside the scope of this paper. See: Kalman Bland, “Anti-Semitism and Aniconism: The Germanophone Requiem for Jewish Art,” in Jewish Identity in Modern Art History, ed. Catherine M. Soussloff (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1999): 41–66; and Kalman Bland, The Artless Jew: Medieval and Modern Affirmations and Denials of the Visual (Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 2000): 13–37. A more recent book in Jewish history (rather than art history) investigates the idea of the “Jewish Renaissance” itself, as well as how it relates to wider currents in European intellectual and cultural history of the late nineteenth century: Asher D. Biemann, Inventing New Beginnings: On the Idea of Renaissance in Modern Judaism (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2009). This was evidenced at the turn of the twentieth century in a variety of Jewish themed exhibitions of liturgical objects as well as contemporary art. There were a string of “international expositions” followed by stand-alone historical presentations. Richard Cohen has argued that the appearance of these exhibitions created a new Jewish art-viewing subject. 13 13 See: Richard I. Cohen, Jewish Icons: Art and Society in Modern Europe (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1998); on the role of the Jewish audience and Jewish collectors in twentieth century avant-garde, see also: Emily D. Bilski, ed., Berlin Metropolis: Jews and the New Culture, 1890-1918 (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2000); and the discussion of Wischnitzer’s collection of Hebrew manuscript reproductions as a “paper museum,” below. Alongside a burgeoning field of Jewish visual culture was an increase in Jewish literary productivity in Berlin: upwards of thirty publishing houses of Hebrew books operated there between 1921 and 1924 alone. 14 14 See: Leonid Yuniverg, “Jüdische Verleger des ‘Russischen Berlin’ in der Weimarer Republik”, Marginalien: Zeitschrift für Buchkunst und Bibliophilie 191, no. 3 (2008): 10; and Glenn Levine, “Yiddish Publishing in Berlin and the Crisis in Eastern European Jewish Culture 1919-1924,” Year book - Leo Baeck Institute 42 (1997): 85. Rimon/Milgroym may be seen as indicative of this moment in the Jewish/art/history nexus.

How did this new/historical understanding of Jewish visual history affect the design of Hebrew typography? Specifically, how did a new consciousness of a rediscovered history of Jewish visual arts influence Baruch and Wischnitzer’s revival of medieval and Renaissance-era Hebrew letterforms? To answer this question, we must first attend to two almost-contemporary examples of letterform representation in which designers, in contrast to Baruch and Wischnitzer, did not take on the historicity of the letters they represented: a 1905 book of Hebrew book fragments presented in lithograph facsimile entitled Ornamentation des anciens manuscrits hébreux (figures 7 and 8) and the content and context of a 1911 essay by influential Hebrew typographer Raphael Frank (1867-1920), entitled “On Hebrew Types and Fonts” (figure 9).

Taking a closer look at both will allow us to see what was novel and even revolutionary about Baruch’s work. As Mirjam Rajner and Susanne Marten-Finis have demonstrated, the publication of Ornamentation des anciens manuscrits hébreux influenced Wischnitzer deeply.15 A groundbreaking visual treatment of the history of Hebrew text— and more specifically, as implied by its title, the history of “Hebrew” ornament—the publication was however neither the work of Jewish scholars nor primarily directed at a Jewish reading audience at all.16 It is usually treated, as Rajner does, in the context of the rising national consciousness among pre-Revolutionary Russia’s different ethnic groups, a context very much relevant to the work of Baruch and Wischnitzer. However, the book still betrays a less-than-historical approach to the functioning of Hebrew text as such. One only needs to look at the publication’s frontispiece (figure 4), with its garbled use of Hebrew-looking Latin script, to see that it was invested not at all in the historicity of Hebrew paleography as such, but in fact in a somewhat fanciful and orientalized presentation of Mediterranean Jewish existence in keeping with turn-of-the-century idealized Russian representations of “ethnicity.”

Raphael Frank designed the highly popular, crisp and legible Hebrew font face Frank-Rühl, used both for the layout of Rimon/Milgroym’s running text and for the majority of Hebrew publications to the present day. 15 15 Rafael Frank, Über hebräische Typen und Schriftarten: mit Einem Nachwort von Jacques Adler (Berlin: Schriftgiesserei H. Berthold, 1926). First published by the Archiv für Schriftwerbe in 1911, it was reprinted in memory of his death by Berthold, the foundry that produced Frank-Rühl (and was responsible for producing many of the Hebrew fonts used during the period), in 1926. His masterful understanding of Hebrew calligraphy and typography, his intimate knowledge of the historical vicissitudes of the shapes of Hebrew letters, is expressed in his highly formalist essay, originally published in 1911, focusing exclusively on the shape, rather than the content, of the Hebrew printed object.

The page layout of his article (figure 9) fittingly frames the printed letters of the past as images: they are set apart from the body of the running text and presented as figures. This visual distance and distinctness from past exemplars, inherent in the layout of his essay page, also led Frank to design a thoroughly modern and contemporary font face for the print needs of his own time. His Frank-Rühl is formalistically very much a Hebrew Jugendstil turn-of-the-century creation. 16 16 Ittai Joseph Tamari, “Rafael Frank und seine hebräischen Druckschriften”, in Judaica Lipsiensia: zur Geschichte der Juden in Leipzig, ed. Manfred Unger (Leipzig: Edition Leipzig, 1994): 70–78. While Frank’s methods became widely influential, in particular as a resurfacing of historical knowledge, Baruch’s lettered creations took this new information in a totally different direction. She was aware of Frank’s work; she would have had to have been, seeing as the magazine’s running text used letters he had designed. But as we will see, she took his idea of visual-typographical revival in a completely new direction.

Frank’s study of the historical shapes of Hebrew letters was not particularly groundbreaking within the larger European context; it continued a trend, taking place throughout the continent since the mid-nineteenth century, of type revival and a renewed interest in typography’s historical shapes. As type historian Daniel Updike narrates in his 1922 survey, the first concrete typographical revival in the English language happened in 1844, when publishers Pickering and Whittingham commissioned the heirs of the eighteenth-century typographer William Caslon to revive one of their illustrious ancestor’s celebrated font faces. For the 1844 printing of the “fictitious journal of a seventeenth century lady of quality,” The Diary of Lady Willoughby, “old style type was thought appropriate.” 17 17 Daniel Berkeley Updike, “Revivals of Caslon and Fell Types”, in Printing Types: Their History, Forms, And Use: A Study in Survivals (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1922), 199. On the subject of Caslon revival, see: William Berkson, “Readability and Revival: The Case of Caslon,” Printing History 10 (2011): 3. Updike goes on to contrast these early type revivals—of only an illustrative nature, aping the “look” of earlier printed material—with the later nineteenth century revivals of William Morris (1834–1896). Besides revolutionizing the layout and understanding of the printed page, Morris is mainly remembered for his Gothic Revival work in his Kelmscott Press. 18 18 On Morris’s revolution of the printed page and the greater array of meanings the use of revived type has had in his work and its reception, see: Aaron Donachuk, “After the Letter: Typographical Distraction and the Surface of Morris’s Kelmscott Romances,” Victorian Studies 59, no. 2 (2017): 260. In fact the printing house produced a neo-Renaissance, humanistic Roman font face called Golden Type in 1892 (figure 10).

Updike quotes Morris regarding the process of its creation:

By instinct rather than by conscious thinking it over, I began by getting myself a fount of Roman type. And here what I wanted was letter pure in form; severe, without needless excrescences; solid, without the thickening and thinning of the line, which is the essential fault of the ordinary modern type, and which makes it difficult to read; and not compressed laterally, as all later type has grown to be owing to commercial exigencies. There was only one source from which to take examples of this perfected type, to wit, the works of the great Venetian printers of the fifteenth century, of whom Nicholas Jenson produced the completest and most Roman characters from 1470 to 1476. This type I studied with much care, getting it photographed to a big scale, and drawing it over many times before I began designing my own letter; so that though I think I mastered the essence of it, I did not copy it servilely; in fact, my Roman type, especially in the lower case, tends rather more to the Gothic than does Jenson’s. 19 19 Updike, Printing Types, 206.

This last admission—that his lowercase tends “more to the Gothic”—is unsurprising if we take into account Morris’s later repudiation of the Renaissance in favor of medieval letterforms for revival. But for our purposes here it suffices to focus on the fact that in order to revive a letter face, he is adamant to describe how he intervenes, by mechanical and dexterous means, into the original form, adjusting salient parts and arriving at an entirely new outcome. Rather than revive the font as an image, as in the case of the Caslon revival (and, in a somewhat different manner, in Frank’s presentation of Hebrew print history), he in fact fragments the original face in order to revive only those parts he is interested in. He then describes working them into a completely new context (a “lower case [that] tends rather more to the Gothic”) and using his artistic judgment, his typographical giudizio dell’occhio, to achieve a new and thoroughly modern whole out of these “shards.” 20 20 I treat this text by Morris—foundational for the understanding of turn-of-the-century type revivals—as a typographical counterpart to the kind of architecture-painting-sculptural fragment assemblage that Anna Bortolozzi has described in her narration of the design of Saint Peter’s grottos. Morris’ revived letters are both “historical evidence of a distinct past, ‘symbol and proof of what happened,’” and a textual “environment in which history could be visually experienced in a manner quite similar to that of the historical rooms created in nineteenth-century museums.” See: Anna Bortolozzi, “Recovered Memory: The Exhibition of the Remains of Old St. Peter’s in the Vatican Grottos,” Journal of Art History 80, no. 2 (2011): 90–107.

Nor was Morris the only artist or typographer working on revivals at the period: the turn of the twentieth century experienced a kind of “medium nostalgia” not dissimilar to the one attending the move from mechanical print to digital media today. 21 21 Lisa Gitelman has investigated the move from print to digital media, attending to its nostalgia and skeuomorphisms. Narrating PDF files’ “look of printedness,” she employs a sentence that could just as easily fit Morris’ type revival: “[w]hen computer users click to open a PDF, they […] have a keen sense that they are looking at an image and/of text, a text that is somehow also an image of itself.” See: Lisa Gitelman, “Near Print and Beyond Paper: Knowing by 8.pdf”, in Paper Knowledge (Durham: Duke University Press, 2014): 114-115. Though it is true that his own specialized, elite, and private house was immune to the kind of volatile capitalistic attack the whole trade of the master-printer was undergoing at the time, 22 22 In the introduction to a special volume of Printing History, dedicated to an exhibition of papers in the collection of the American Typefounders Company (ATF) Typographic Library and Museum (founded 1923) at Columbia University’s Rare Book and Manuscript Library, we are told that, at least in the United States, in the 1880s and -90s, “typefounders themselves were very often perilously close to bankruptcy […] on top of vicious competition, unsustainably low prices, and back-stabbing business practices [… their] stock-in-trade, especially to newspapers, was made obsolete almost overnight by the development of machine composition systems, chiefly Ottmar Mergenthaler’s Linotype machine. The first commercially successful model was introduced in July 1886 at the New York Tribune; from there the Linotype quickly made its way into the composing rooms of hundreds of American newspapers and printers.” See: Jennifer B. Lee, “Introduction to the Exhibition,” Printing History 43/44, vol. 22, no. 1 and no. 2: 5. its reverberations—especially in the nostalgia to pre-capitalist modes of production—are felt in his “stylized medievalism” extolling nature and an imagined communalism that supposedly existed prior to industrialization. 23 23 On Morris’ “stylized medievalism,” see: Veronica Alfano, “William Morris and the Uses of Nostalgia: Memory in the Early and Late Poetry,” Victorian Studies 6, no. 2 (Winter 2018): 243–54; and Larry Lutchmansingh, “Morris, Marshall, Faulkner and Co: William Morris’s Medieval Craft Adventure,” Studies in Medievalism 3, no. 2, (Fall 1990): 115. On the impact of Morris’ medievalism on the history Jewish art, see: Natalia Berger, “To Realize a Dream: Boris Schatz and the Bezalel Museum in the Formative Years, 1906-12,” in The Jewish Museum: History and Memory, Identity and Art from Vienna to the Bezalel National Museum, Jerusalem, ed. Natalia Berger (Boston: Brill, 2018), 332–78. Finally, and crucially for the argument of this paper, the influence of Morris’s revivals—both Roman and Gothic—was keenly felt on the continent, and Updike narrates that German Secession designs after the 1890s began following this trend, “followed in 1894 by the appearance of the secessionist periodical Pan, which introduced Morris’s books to the German public, and the typographical style of which greatly influenced contemporary German printers.” 24 24 Updike, Printing Types, 220. It is important to note that Morris’ conceptions of the roles of art and design in modern society – especially as those relate to Socialism – had a pivotal effect on Jewish art and on conceptions of the relation of the visual to its national awakening. On this, see: Margaret Olin, The Nation without Art: Examining Modern Discourses on Jewish Art (Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 2001), 146–47; Inka Berz, “Trouble at Bezalel: Conflicting Visions of Zionism and Art”, in Nationalism, Zionism and Ethnic Monbilization of the Jews in 1900 and Beyond, ed. Michael Berkowitz ( Boston: Brill, 2004), 274–75. The trans-European influence of Morris’ ideas of typographical revival—originally tied to a specifically English medieval idea—needs to be highlighted in the context of Baruch’s years in the German art school, where her teachers were steeped in it. As we will see below, she picks up the master typographer’s lead, and elaborates it further, in a Hebrew context, in her work with Wischnitzer.

A Fusion of Past and Present: The Rimon/Milgroym Headlines

I would now like to return to the material and temporal implications of Baruch’s illustrated headlines and masthead of Wischnitzer’s Rimon/Milgroym. Widely considered one of the most influential critics of Jewish art to have worked in the twentieth century, Wischnitzer (née Bernstein) was born into a Russian-Jewish upper-middle-class family. She grew up in Warsaw and received a comprehensive education in the humanities at the University of Heidelberg. She also studied architecture, first in Brussels and then at the École Spéciale d’Architecture in Paris, from which she graduated in 1907, as well as art history at the University of Munich. She later married sociologist and historian Mark Wischnitzer, one of the editors of the Russian-language edition of the Jewish Encyclopedia (Evreiskaia entsiklopediia), which featured some of her early writing on synagogue architecture. 25 25 Claire Richter Sherman, “Rachel Wischnitzer: Pioneer Scholar of Jewish Art,” Woman’s Art Journal 1, no. 2 (Autumn 1980/Winter 1981): 42.

After moving to Berlin in the 1920s, the couple founded the journal Rimon/Milgroym, a Hebrew/Yiddish illustrated publication dedicated to Jewish art, culture, literature, and history. They published six issues between 1922 and 1924: Mark was the general editor and Rachel was the artistic editor. In this position, she worked directly with Baruch on the headlines and masthead. 26 26 Sherman, “Rachel Wischnitzer,” 43. Besides her work on Rimon/Milgroym, Wischnitzer wrote and edited a series of academic texts on Jewish art, architecture, and architectural ornament history until fleeing Berlin with her husband and son in 1938. 27 27 Feil, “Art under Siege”, 122. She published at least one major book on Jewish art, 28 28 Rachel Wischnitzer, Symbole und Gestalten der Jüdischen Kunst (Berlin-Schöneberg: S. Scholem, 1935). and curated several shows for Berlin’s Jüdischer Museum. In New York City, she got another Master’s Degree, from New York University, and later taught at Yeshiva University. Throughout her sojourn in the United States, she published copiously in English on Jewish architecture and ornament. 29 29 A short list of her publications in English includes Rachel Wischnitzer, The Messianic Theme in the Paintings of the Dura Synagogue (Chicago: University of Chicago Press 1948); Rachel Wischnitzer, Synagogue Architecture in the United States (Philadelphia: Jewish Publication Society of America, 1955); Rachel Wischnitzer, Architecture of the European Synagogue (Philadelphia: Jewish Publication Society of America, 1964); a collection of essays, Rachel Wischnitzer, From Dura to Rembrandt: Studies in the History of Art (Milwaukee: Aldrich, 1990); and several dozen other essays on Jewish art and architecture.

I have dwelt briefly on Wischnitzer’s career here to establish her interdisciplinary interests: part architect, part writer, and part art-historian, she viewed texts from many different angles, including seeing them as visual objects. While Katharina Feil, who has written about Wischnitzer’s output during the Weimar Republic period, rightly highlights the fact that she “often discussed literary sources as if they were the only possible factor that could influence the shape of Jewish art,” 30 30 Feil, “Art Under Siege”, 130. I would like to argue that she was also keenly aware of the visual aspects of the Hebrew texts she dealt with. For instance, I take Wischnitzer’s remark that she “had arrived [in Berlin] from England with copies and photographs of illuminated Hebrew manuscripts from the British Museum, the Bodleian Library, Oxford and other collections,” 31 31 Rachel Wischnitzer, “From My Archives,” Journal of Jewish Arts 6 (1979): 12. as referring to a sort of embryonic, or at least movable, “paper museum” of Hebrew illumination and paleography. This term relates to a tradition of comprehensive print-collecting as dilettante-scholarly project (Museum chartaceum), most famously undertaken, in the early modern period, by Cassiano dal Pozzo (1588–1657) and Scipione Maffei (1675–1755). 32 32 On Pozzo see: Francis Haskell (ed.), The Paper Museum of Cassiano del Pozzo (Ivera: Olivetti, 1993); On the “paper museum,” see: Deborah Lutz, “The Paper Museum”, Victorian Review 43, no.1 (2017): 25–30; and on Maffei’s collection’s contribution to Latin paleography and philology, see: Joseph W. Russell, “Scipio Maffei and Latin Paleography” (PhD thesis, Fordham University, 1957). This idea can also be read as complementing Susanne Marten-Finnis’ assertion that Wischnitzer theorized Milgroym “as a pathway towards the global museum.” See: Marten-Finnis, “Translation, Cosmopolitanism and the Resilience of Yiddish.” These combined collections of prints, antiquarian materials, and curiosities, which attempted to achieve comprehensive representation of their selected subject (Roman antiquity, flora and fauna, a certain city etc.), included material that could simultaneously be used art-historically and philologically, such as prints of Latin epigraphy. 33 33 See: William Stenhouse, “The Renaissance Foundations of European Antiquarianism,” in Alain Schnapp, Lothar von Falkenhausen, Peter N. Miller, and Tim Murrayl, eds., World Antiquarianism (Los Angeles: Getty Publications, 2015), 305306.

In the above-mentioned quote, Wischnitzer goes on to state that Jewish-Russian Constructivist artist El (Elazar) Lissitzky “brought [to Berlin] copies of eighteenth-century paintings at the Mohilev synagogues on the banks of the Dnyepr. The Middle Ages and Baroque were the talk of the day.” 34 34 Wischnitzer, “From My Archives”, 14. Lissitzky was involved at the time in projects of Russian-Jewish cultural renewal and the establishment of a Jewish museum in Saint Petersburg. He was also experimenting with the design and lettering of Hebrew letters for modern ends, for instance in his Had Gadya scroll project. 35 35 On Lissitzky’s Had Gadya, see: Kenneth B. Moss, Jewish Renaissance in the Russian Revolution (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 2009). We find, then, that both in this important Jewish avant-garde artist’s work, and in Wischnitzer’s collaboration with Baruch, the production of an avant-garde, visually modern Jewish idiom was based on the collection and transferal of medieval Jewish material to the cultural center of Berlin.

And in fact Wischnitzer interests in Jewish manuscripts were novel for their time: Feil points out that her focus on the locus classicus of Hebrew illuminated books, Passover Haggadot, demanded keen knowledge of the different ethnic and cultural heritages of diverse Jewish communities, an eye for detail later reflected in Baruch’s work, as well:

In further observations on illuminated Haggadot, Wischnitzer showed her readers how the expulsion of the Jews from Spain had led to a mixture of Ashkenazi and Sephardi styles within one manuscript. She thus made the turmoils of Jewish history visible by using a Haggadah from Frankfurt. In her description of the document, Wischnitzer pointed out that while the manuscript 36 36 For the sake of brevity, ‘Ashkenazi’ in this paper relates to the cultures of the Jews of central and eastern Europe, from France to Russia, and their specific scribal culture; ‘Sephardi,’ which related to the Jews whose genealogies can be traced to Spain, encompasses – roughly – Greece, North Africa, Turkey, Palestine and other Middle Eastern Jewish cultures. While Baruch focused on a revival of ‘Ashkenazi’ script in the Rimon/Milgroym period, she was later to focus on the letters used by the Soncino family of printers, which – originating in Italy – technically fall outside of both groups. See: Ada Yardeni, The Book of Hebrew Script: History, Paleography, Script Styles, Calligraphy and Design (Jerusalem: Carta, 1997). followed an Ashkenazi rite, its depictions showed the signs of a Spanish illuminator who has depicted Moorish-looking servants. 37 37 Feil, 128, quoting Rachel Wischnitzer, ‘Die Parabel von den vier Söhnen in der Haggadah’ (“The Parable of the Four Sons in the Haggadah”), in Gemeindeblatt der jüdischen Gemeinde zu Berlin (April 14, 1935): 2–5.

What is at play here, I suggest, is not just a rote kind of history-writing and/or an appreciation from afar of “the monuments of Hebrew writing,” as we saw with the example of the Ornamentation des anciens manuscrits hébreux, which did not intervene into the letterforms it exhibited, but only presented them visually, as museum pieces. Rather, Wischnitzer’s penetrating gaze, her ability to parse ‘take apart’ manuscripts into their constituent elements—writing style (i.e. dating and geographical placement), illustration iconography, literary genre analysis, ethnographic characteristic—constitute these elements as visual fragments of text, from whose elements Baruch was then able to reconstitute her modern, expressionistic headlines. 38 38 On a tradition of turn-of-the-century and early twentieth century Russian and other Eastern European art and design borrowing from medieval sources to formulate a modernistic idiom, see: Jefferson J.A. Gatrall and Douglas Greenfield (eds.), Alter Icons: The Russian Icon and Modernity (University Park, Pa.: Pennsylvania State University Press, 2010). As we saw above, Wischnitzer’s recombination of historical and modern material was reflected in Rimon / Milgroym’s page layout, with modern, medieval and ancient material laid side by side. The headlines Wischnitzer ordered from Baruch display the same kind of historical promiscuity — a mixing of modern and medieval in one visual element. And just as we have seen above in Morris’ work, these fragments of letterforms were reconstituted to form not a simple revival of an earlier writing style but rather, through a complex process of selection and reconstitution, a temporal revival meant to fuse past and present. Baruch’s operation, which collapses fragments of an unspecified ancient original into a modern new whole, achieves a seemingly timeless quality, what I would argue constitutes a “Hebrew Classic.”A major exhibition dedicated to the work of Baruch and two other German-Jewish (and later Israeli) typographers, Henri Friedlander and Moshe Spitzer, was recently held at the Israel Museum in Jerusalem. 39 39 Wardi, New Types. From its handsome and well-researched catalog we learn that Baruch’s “work for Rimon, under the guidance of its art director Rachel Bernstein-Wishnitzer [sic], included the lettering for the journal’s masthead, which was illustrated by Ernst Böhm, one of her teachers” (figures 3 and 4); the same is true of the illustrated headline with which I opened the paper, as in the headline in figures 9 and 10. 40 40 Ibid., 175. In both cases, Baruch has clearly used the historical materials of medieval Ashkenazi letters such as those contained in the Prague Haggadah of 1526 (figure 11). 41 41 On the Prague Haggadah, see: Yosef Hayim Yerushalmi, Haggadah and History: A Panorama of Five Centuries of the Printed Haggadah from the Collections of Harvard University and the Jewish Theological Seminary of America (Philadelphia: The Jewish Publication Society of America, 1975), 32–34.

In the headline, she based herself on the “running text” of the historical document, staying quite close, in her pen and ink rendering, to the letters’ historical shapes: the pointed rendering of their vertical stems, the relation of wide horizontal strokes to relatively slender vertical ones (not repeated, however, in the punctuation marks underneath and inside the letters, which are rendered only as lines and dots), and the letters’ “square” proportion (ktav merubah is the Hebrew typographical term). Rendering them only in black and white (and thus closer to their historical source), Baruch has however playfully kept some of the horizontal strokes white where they would be black in the original, thus presenting them both as a new invention rather than as a one-to-one copy, and highlighting their drawn—rather than serially printed—characters. (If this were a revived font, all letters would have been treated equally.) The ornamental background of the headline, we remember, was done by Böhm. His pen and ink drawings of plant motifs are abstract and primitive in character, though not based on any recognizable source, Jewish or otherwise. His repeated black pen strokes against a white background could signify shading and a cubist-like understanding of space. They break into the lettered space rather than surround it, an avant-garde rendering for 1922.

In her work on the magazine’s masthead, Baruch focused on a more prominent part of the Prague Haggadah, the text used for headlines or section markers in the text, such as the word nishmat (soul), the largest and (in typographical terms) the“blackest” looking text seen in figure 11. She has retained the text’s most historically prominent feature (the feature that characterizes it as “Ashkenazi script”), namely the decorative circular shapes adorning each letter’s stalk and the letters’ particular “rhythm,” as embodied in the relation between the horizontal and vertical strokes but also in the unique way space between letters is rendered (i.e., there is almost none of it). The letters of the masthead are rounder than the letters in the Prague Haggadah source, and the circular decorative adornment of their stalks even more flowery, however her rendering makes the medieval source immediately recognizable.

The relation between text (Baruch) and illustration (Böhm) follows a similar model: the image bleeds into the text, and does not allow it a unique space outside it. However, what was simply primitive imagery in the headline is, in the masthead, a full-blown neo-medieval representation of a walled city surrounded by several mythical beasts with presumably a synagogue or some other kind of temple at its center. Baruch’s black letters (one is almost tempted to write, ‘Hebrew blackletter’) 42 42 A common binary arrangement of typographic history is the one between ‘Blackletter’—the letters variously known as ‘Gothic,’ Fraktur or Bastarda, which form the tail-end of a particularly German writing history and which Gutenberg used for his 42-line Bible—and the ‘bright,’ classicizing humanist letters employed by incunable printers beginning with Nicolas Jenson and Aldus Manuzius. While the former’s black character was deemed illegible by followers of a “Renaissance” idea of the book (and also carries very specific legalistic associations in the English-speaking world), it was exactly the kind of text Morris revived and regarded as the epitome of elegance. See: Robert Bringhurst, The Elements of Typographic Style (Seattle: Hartley & Marks, 2012), 56–58; and Peter Bain and Paul Shaw, eds., Blackletter: Type and National Identity (New York: Princeton Architectural Press, 1998). The histories of Hebrew typography fall somewhere outside this scheme: tempting as it is to substitute “Ashkenazi” for Fraktur (Ashkenazic script having been developed under the influence of the Gothic), that would in fact be an incorrect loaning of Christian ideas into a Jewish realm. Sephardi script, on the other hand, is certainly not “humanist” in the Renaissance sense; it is significantly darker than classicizing script, and based in a completely different scribal tradition. stand in stark opposition to Böhm’s colorful, almost childish illustration. The masthead and headlines both evoke a medieval modernity or a modern medievalism.

Baruch’s drawing sketchbooks, which I will describe shortly here, allow us to discern certain similarities between her work process and Wischnitzer’s. The drawings in pencil, pen and ink, and watercolor denote a grey area between scholarly reverence and playfulness: on the one hand, she precisely copies the letters she has chosen from a given manuscript; on the other, her choices are idiosyncratic, based not on a text’s seeming liturgical importance but on its appealing visual elements. She also makes sure to emphasize illustrative elements that she is drawn to: the figure of an elephant, some scribal ornament, the almost comically over-elongated “flag” in the letter lamed (figure 12, top right-hand image, third row at right). And she can do so as the series of hand-lettered units she creates in the sketchbook are very limited: only single letters. Conversely, if she were attempting to design an entire font for print (as she would do later in her career), she would need to make sure of the different signs’ compliance to and commensurability with a much larger family of letters in the alphabet. The sketchbooks clue us in on a series of fragmentation and reassembly moves she subjects her chosen texts to: like Morris, she picks and chooses only those areas she is interested in, using any technique she deems appropriate to mark them; and like Morris, she freely reassembles what she deems to be the best parts into a whole that simultaneously evokes the project of historical reproduction and enacts a contemporary innovation. Her work is simultaneously medieval and modern. 43 43 It bears mentioning that Baruch is reviving classical Hebrew (rather than Yiddish) hand-lettered letters and type when designing letterforms – even for Yiddish text. Her sources are mainly texts like the Passover Haggadah, betraying a strong taste toward elite Jewish production – as opposed to the absolute majority of Yiddish print production up to the 19th century, which was not produced with the same ‘production values’ Baruch found so engaging when reviving fonts by, for instance, Gershom Soncino and Bomberg. More research needs to go to the level of her acquaintanceship with avant-garde trends of Yiddish typography during her times, though I find it hard to believe she would have been very interested in it. Even the most stylistically-forward avant-gardist Yiddish production of her time was mainly an extension of non-Jewish trends in typography and design, whereas Baruch was interested, from an early point in her career, in formulating a ‘classical’ Hebrew idiom, as based on “the best of the past.” On the politics of Hebrew and Yiddish in book publication, see: Naomi Seidman, A Marriage Made in Heaven: The Sexual Politics of Hebrew and Yiddish (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1997): 1–39.

This relationship to the history of Hebrew type echoes Wischnitzer’s theorization of Jewish art. Though her 1922 essay in Rimon/Milgroym “Modern Art and Us” opens by quoting the typical turn-of-the-century Jewish art jeremiad—“Naturalism has never found many followers in Israel” 44 44 Rachel Wischnitzer, “Modern Art and Us,” Rimon 1 (1922): 2. Translation here and below, mine. (a clear reference to the desire by such figures as Buber for an appearance of Renaissance-like ‘visualism’ in Jewish culture), she immediately goes on to denounce such a characterization of Jewish visual culture. Instead, she praises the late Medieval Jewish manuscript illumination that took place much before “[t]he invention of the printing press laid waste to individual value through the craft of mass copying.” 45 45 Wischnitzer, “Modern Art and Us,” 2. Wischnitzer extolls the art of La Coruña illuminator Joseph ibn Chaim, whose illustration of “The Song of Miriam” in a fourteenth-century Haggadah (from the Bodleian collection) appears on the right-hand side of the spread in figure 1. 46 46 On Joseph ibn Chaim, see: Katrin Kogman-Appel, Jewish Book Art between Islam and Christianity: the Decoration of Hebrew Bibles in Medieval Spain (Boston: Brill, 2004): 62–64. The illustration on the left-hand page of the same spread represents the Exodus from Egypt. “What does naturalism help with the art of the book? How to express the visible form of physical things in three dimensions, on a page, on the very bed of writing?” Wischnitzer asks rhetorically, 47 47 Wischnitzer, “Modern Art and Us,” 2. adding later that modern artists “quickly felt that a painting by Giotto, who knew nothing of perspective or plein-air painting, moved the heart before and has retained the power to powerfully shock us even today, 600 years afterwards. 48 48 Ibid., 3. ”In extolling the specific qualities of medieval manuscript illumination, Wischnitzer—a knowledgeable art historian and connoisseur of Jewish culture—moves the understanding of Buber’s and others’ call for a “Jewish Renaissance” away from a simplistic temporal understanding of the European Renaissance itself in favor of a Jewish visual rebirth out of what, to her, was the actual classical time of Judaism: the Middle Ages.

Wischnitzer’s interpretation of the history of Western art ties the productive, expressive energies of medieval illumination to the work of contemporary, expressionist artists while sidestepping Impressionism, which she sees as a continuation of a by-now refuted Renaissance understanding:

As opposed to the professional gentility of the art of the recent years, whose roots lie in the art of courtly Rococo and Bourgeois Romanticism […] the new artists, and the Jews among them, have rebelled in simplicity. It was in fact […] the simplicity of the folk art which continued into the eighteenth century, in its very shortcomings, that triumphed, by power of its truthfulness, over the excessive ‘culture’ of these wimps. There has been a rebellion, a vox clamantis for new social developments, fresh forces for an art that has become too comfortable. 49 49 Ibid., 5.

Her choice of illustrations—paintings by contemporary Jewish artist Issaschar Bar Rybak and his expressionistic representations of a synagogue structure and an old Jewish man (both paintings 1917) 50 50 See for example: Hildegard Frübis, Max Liebermann, Else Lasker-Schüler, Issachar Bar Ryback und die Kunst der jüdischen Moderne (Berlin: de Grutyer, 2015). —drive her point home, explaining why Wischnitzer’s contemporary avant-garde program, both textually and visually, comprised a turn to the Middle Ages rather than to the Renaissance. Expressionist art is not born ex nihilo; in fact it harkens back to the Middle Ages, producing a continuity not often associated with what is essentially a nationalist conception of Jewish culture. If Zionist historiography can be characterized by a leap between the biblical and the modern, Wischnitzer subvents this periodization altogether, locatingthe highest achievement of Jewish visual culture in the medieval.

Interestingly, Frojmovic finds a similar construction of (Jewish) time in Wischnitzer’s later work, and in her reading this development has to do with the 1932 archeological discovery of the Dura Europos, a Hellenistic-period synagogue in Syria. 51 51 Lisa R. Brody and Gail L. Hoffman, eds., Dura-Europos: Crossroads of Antiquity (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2011). In her narration,

Dura Europos allowed the tracing of core Jewish iconographic motifs back to the biblical period […] This monument underpinned Wischnitzer’s construction of a homogenous and timeless iconography of Judaism […] The Judaism we encounter in [her book] Gestalten und Symbole is monolithic: unlike the fragmented spectrum of Jewish religious denominations and political factions of Wischnitzer’s own time, it is unified and at peace.

It bears mentioning that Wischnitzer published her book, including references to the Dura Europos Synagogue, only in 1935, when the Nazis already controlled the Reichstag. As a book dealing with a continuity of Jewish time, I believe it is much more than the “fragmented spectrum of Jewish religious denominations and political factions” that Wischnitzer’s—and by extension Baruch’s—work was reacting to. Though Wischniter may have fantasized about a continuity of Jewish time, she was doing so from a more and more fragmented present. An unprecedented cataclysm that was to overshadow any and every prior fragmentation of the Jewish experience was already felt in the air; three years after this book’s publication, both women would already be living and working elsewhere.

How does this idea of fragmentation feature in their collaboration on Rimon/Milgroym? A comparison with the 1905 fragmentary compilation Ornament hébreux is telling: while the latter was an amalgamation of fragments from historically, geographically, and stylistically diverse sources, Baruch’s work here draws on a distinct source (mostly the Prague Haggadah, and generally medieval Ashkenazi script). And while Ornament hébreux was set up, above all, for aesthetic pleasure, with no idea of Hebrew as a living language behind it (and thus the ability to present a “Hebrew looking,” actually Latin script, title page), Baruch’s research was meant first and foremost for the creation of a legible letterhead usable for modern reading purposes. And finally, where Ornament hébreux was based on an extant collection of Hebrew text fragments, in her work on Rimon/Milgroym, Baruch respectfully, exactingly, and almost scientifically extracted, from whole manuscripts, only the pieces she needed for her work, recombining them into a modern whole of her own creation.

Baruch would go on to elaborate this work process and fine-tune it even further in later typographical work she did for the Schocken publishing house in Israel, 52 52 On Baruch’s work with the Schocken publishing family, see: Stefanie Mahrer, “Tradition and Modernity: Salman Schocken and the Aestheticization of the Everyday,” in New Types, 69–86; and see also: Saskia Schreuder and Claude Weber, eds., Der Schocken Verlag/Berlin: Jüdische Selbstbehauptung in Deutschland, 1931–1938 (Berlin : Akademie Verlag, 1994). especially in her masterful font Schoken-Baruch (figure 13). 53 53 Philipp Messner, “‘Schocken-Baruch:’ A New Hebrew Letter,” in New Types: The Graphic Design of Moshe Spitzer, Franzisca Baruch, and Henri Friedlaender ed. Ada Wardi (Jerusalem: The Israel Museum, 2015): 239-256. The latter drew on Italian Renaissance Hebrew printed sources, of the incunable and early print period, such as books printed by the Soncino family of printers, as well as non-Jewish Venetian printer Daniel Bomberg. 54 54 Daniel Bomberg, or van Bombergen, was a Christian German printer active in Venice from approximately 1517 to 1549, who printed renowned editions of the Talmud, among other works. See: Bruce Nielsen, “Daniel van Bombergen, A bookman of Two Worlds,” in The Hebrew Book in early Modern Italy ed. Joseph R. Hacker and Adam Shear (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2011): 56-75; Joshua Bloch, “Venetian Printers of Hebrew Books,” in Hebrew Printing and Bibliography (New York: New York Public Library and Ktav Publishing House, 1976): 63-88; on the Soncino family of printers, see: David Werner Amram, The Makers of Hebrew Books in Italy: Being Chapters in the History of the Hebrew Printing (Philadelphia: J.H. Greenstone, 1909); Abraham Meir Habermann, Ha-madpisim bene soncino: toldoteihem u-reshimat ha-sefarim ha-ʻivrim she-nidpesu ʻal yedehem [Hebrew] (Vienna: Daṿid Frenḳil, 1933). In doing so, she would go on to further synthesize the work process she formulated in Rimon/Milgroym with Wischnitzer, figuratively fragmenting parts of extant and whole books (i.e., decidedly non-fragments), breaking down the Venetian printed page to its tiniest constituent elements —its taxonomy, to borrow an architectural term—in order to reconfigure it. 55 55 On the relation between typography and architecture, especially the idea of ‘taxonomy,’ see: Mario Carpo, Architecture in the Age of Printing: Orality, Writing, Typography, and Printed Images in the History of Architectural Theory (Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press, 2001). One of the most appropriate frameworks to make sense of Baruch’s moves here is the emerging field of ‘thing theory,’ especially as it addresses the meanings of objects/fragments that cross geo-cultural lines (or in this case, migrate through historical ones). For a relevant exploration, see: Avinoam Shalem, “Histories of Belonging and George Kubler’s Prime Object,” Getty Research Journal, vol. 3 (2011): 1-14; Daniel Miller, “Alienable Gifts and Inalienable Commodities”, in The Empire of Things, edited by Fred R. Myers, (Santa Fe: School of American Research Press, 2001): 91-115; and W. J. T. Mitchell, “Romanticism and the Life of Things: Fossils, Totems, and Images”, in Things, edited by Bill Brown (Chicago: University of Chicago Press): 227-244.

Baruch was not the last Hebrew typographer to practice calligraphic or typographical revival: with the establishment of the Zionist state of Israel in 1948, the taste for revival changed to older (ancient, even) examples of Hebrew letters; and the early 2000s saw a vogue for retro Hebrew type revivals of the fonts of the 1950s and 1960s. Those type revivals—meant to look like the text of the Dead Sea Scrolls or like 1960s Israeli military propaganda etc.—have been short-lived, evoking a simulacrum of the past and falling quickly out of style. Baruch’s earliest efforts, the illustrated headlines for Rimon/Milgroym, as well as her rigorous later work, speak to the fact that only the kind of meticulous historical work she carried out—first under Wischnitzer’s knowledgeable, exacting, and inspiring aegis, and then on her own—could be long lasting. It could achieve an amalgamation of past and present, a historicity of Hebrew text that encompasses old and new in a living assemblage, a “homogenous and timeless” whole “unified and at peace,” without however forgetting or effacing its own history.

Mishory, Ishai. “Molded Inexorably by the Times: Rachel Wischnitzer’s and Franzisca Baruch’s Collaboration on the Headlines of Rimon/Milgroym.” In geveb, December 2019:
Mishory, Ishai. “Molded Inexorably by the Times: Rachel Wischnitzer’s and Franzisca Baruch’s Collaboration on the Headlines of Rimon/Milgroym.” In geveb (December 2019): Accessed Jan 27, 2021.


Ishai Mishory

Ishai Mishory is a PhD Student in Columbia University's Department of Religion.