„Oldrich Hlavsa's name has become a symbol of art and typography“
Jiri Setlik, art historian

“The point is to make a point”

Oldrich Hlavsa, 1963

The Czech book designer and typographer Oldřich Hlavsa (1909–1995) had a decisive influence on late 20th century Czech graphic design. Hlavsa worked in the field of graphic design for more than sixty years, creating about 2000 book designs, through which he formed distinctly new visual and communicative values of typeface and markedly influenced the vision of the intellectual and artistic concept of the book. Hlavsa focused his artistic efforts on the book, regarding it as a means of communication, an individual work of art that makes a complex impression. It combines ideas, esthetic perception, and demands the reader’s interaction. On the one hand, Hlavsa’s conception of (typo)graphic design continues the tradition of the classic Czech typography of Karel Dyrynk, Oldřich Menhart or Method Kaláb; on the other hand, it simultaneously follows the Czech avant-garde, i. e. the work of Karel Teige and Ladislav Sutnar. However, the constructional and functional elements get a new content in Hlavsa’s typographic work: above all, Hlavsa brings a very distinctive artistic approach which always constructs a book or a periodical as a deliberate and compact structure.

For Hlavsa, typeface represents the creative foundation and the most important constructional element

In 1965, Hlavsa expressed his attitude to typeface when he indicated his artistic contribution in the colophon: he replaced the words cover, binding, graphic design with the single expression typography. Today we distinguish between a graphic artist (or graphic designer) and a typeface designer / typographer, but Hlavsa regarded himself as a typographer and always referred to himself as such, although he never designed an original typeface. For Hlavsa, typeface represents the creative foundation and the most important constructional element, which he puts on par with image and illustration. Hlavsa always searches intensively for new expressive possibilities of lettering, while drawing on his knowledge (perfected through experience) of this “black” craft. Hlavsa gained this knowledge as a skilled display typesetter and later through longtime practice. The experience and knowledge of his craft gave him a stable background which helped him become a tireless experimenter and individualist, following his unique artistic intuition, fully using the technical facilities and breaking the established rules that he has superbly mastered. He experiments with various book sizes and materials; he designs various folders and bookmarks inside the book, as well as unconventional bindings which still amaze us by their singular originality of concept and at the same time, their simplicity of production. He bases his work on the unity of opposites and the tension of contrasts, the result of which are book and magazine units that are created with an exquisite sense of rhythm and express charming dynamism. Hlavsa’s typographic solutions succeeded in imbuing the repetitive repertory of typeface with the impression of originality and diversity, clearing it of the tinge of historic academism.


Hlavsa’s expression is often close to the non-figurative tendencies of the fine arts of his time. His “type-images” (as Ladislav Sutnar called Hlavsa’s typographic compositions) suggest a wide reference to the typeface experiments of the Futurists and Dadaists, or to the movement of visual poetry and Lettrism in the 1960s. At the same time, Hlavsa does not give up on the semantic value of the word and does not take the letter away from its functional value as a means of communication. He sees in typeface an object with its own individuality, a visual and conceptual synthesis, and a graphic record of language. There is a tension, sometimes even a clash between the attitude of a fine artist who works with a purely visual value of signs, and a typographer whose primary aim is to give information. Thanks to his singular artistic intuition and common sense, Hlavsa managed not only to keep up-to-date with the world, but also to create work whose quality was repeatedly acknowledged from the 1960s onward by prestigious international awards. Hlavsa’s world renown was confirmed by his own book Typografická písma latinková [Typographic roman fonts] (1957) co-authored with František Sedláček. This book met with such a great response from the international professional public that it was re-published in an English-language version as A Book of Type and Design in 1960.

Other benefits

The essential significance of Hlavsa’s personality lies not only in his original artistic contribution but also in that he always sought to increase the level of his own profession and the general awareness of it. He was a member of many international institutions and committees for applied graphic arts, he participated in the activity of numerous international juries in the book design field, he published his writings, and he taught various courses of display or book typography. He fought for a higher quality of local polygraphy and typographic education in general. Hlavsa’s teaching and publishing activity reached its peak with the three-volume Typographie (1976, 1981 and 1986). These books focus on the history and issues of contemporary typeface but at the same time present his own typographic work on a large scale. These Hlavsa's publications also received great response from professional public, and they are still counted between the fundamental works of Czech graphic design. In 1991, Hlavsa's work was crowned by the prestigious Gutenberg prize of the city of Leipzig, as a recognition for his lifetime extraordinary work in book design.

Barbora Toman Tylová

Last Update 15.12.2016


Look Inside
O. Hlavsa, Typografická písma latinková, 1957, dust jacket
Look Inside
O. Hlavsa, Typographia 1. Písmo, ilustrace, kniha, 1976, dust jacket
O. Hlavsa, Typographia 2. Fotosazba, 1981, dust jacket
O. Hlavsa, Typographia 3. 1986, dust jacket
F. Hrubín, Černá denice. 1968, dust jacket
F. Gellner, Hořká láska, 1984, dust jacket
F. Halas, Tvář rodné země, dust jacket
V. Holan, Matka, 1969, dust jacket
J. Orten, Elegie, 1989, dust jacket
Look Inside
J. A. Komenský, Typographeum vivum = Živá tiskárna,
aneb, Lis myšlenky
, 1968, dust jacket
Knižní kultura. Měsíčník pro knižní tvorbu, ediční činnost
a otázky knižního trhu.
Roč. 2, č. 11. cover
Look Inside
Plamen, roč. 9, č. 1, 1966, cover spread
Plamen, roč. 6, č. 6, 1964, typographic composition
Look Inside
Plamen, roč. 6, č. 7, 1964, cover spread
Plamen, roč. 5, č. 4, 1963, cover spread
Look Inside
Plamen, roč. 4, č. 4, 1962, cover
Plamen, roč. 7, č. 12, 1965, cover spread
Plamen, roč. 3, č. 9, 1962, typographic composition from the cover spread
Plamen, roč. 5, č. 8, 1963, cover spread
Plamen, roč. 11, č. 4, 1969, cover spread | 1914
Plamen, roč. 9, č. 12, 1967, cover spread
Plamen, roč. 6, č. 1, 1964, cover spread
Typografia, roč. 47, č. 6, 1940, cover
Typografia, roč. 47, č. 3, 1940, cover
Typografia, roč. 44, č. 3, 1937, cover
Typografia, roč. 47, č. 6, 1940, cover spread
Typografia, roč. 64, č. 6—7, 1961, cover spread
Typografia, Československé knihy — 1960, roč. 64, č. 3, 1961 cover spread
Typografia, roč. 64, č. 11, 1961, cover spread
Typografia, roč. 50 [spr. 51], č. 1, 1948, cover
Typografia, Adrien Frutiger, Hermann Zapf, roč. 68, č. 8, 1965, cover
Typografia, roč. 67, č. 8, 1964, cover spread
Typografia, roč. 63, č. 2—3, 1960, cover
Typografia, roč. 60, č. 1, 1957, typographic composition from the cover
Typografia, roč. 58, č. 2, 1955, cover
Typografia, roč. 61, č. 6, 1958, typographic composition from the cover
Typografia, roč. 61, č. 9, 1958, cover
Typografia, roč. 62, č. 4, 1959, cover
Typografia, roč. 68, č. 11, 1965, cover
Typografia, roč. 68, č. 11, 1965, cover
Typografia, roč. 64, č. 10, 1961, typographic composition from the cover spread
Ch. Morgenstern, Bim, bam, bum, 1971, dust jacket
Look Inside
Haló je tady vichr — vichřice!. Expresionismus, 1969, dust jacket
Look Inside
F. Halas, Hlad, 1966, dust jacket
J. Hora, Čas bratr mého srdce, 1965, dust jacket
V. Holan, Noční hlídka srdce, 1963, dust jacket
Look Inside
K. I. Galczyński, Začarovaná drožka, 1963, dust jacket
Look Inside
G. Apollinaire, Básně—obrazy, 1965, dust jacket
J. Hiršal — B. Grögerová (ed.), Experimentální poezie, 1967, dust jacket
E. Einhorn, Flexaret v praxi, 1968, cover
Look Inside
B. Hartl, Inspiromat, 1967, cover
Look Inside
W. Jens, Pan Meister, 1967, dust jacket
J. Řezáč, Pasáže, 1965, dust jacket



Oldrich Hlavsa is born on November 4, in Nachod, as the second child of a factory worker, Frantisek Hlavsa (4.3.1883—1924), and his wife, Marie, born Ehlova (19.2.1885 – Feb 1971). His brother, Frantisek Hlavsa, dies as a child (29.7.1906 – 16.6.1908).



He goes to elementary and secondary school in Nachod. He likes drawing and painting.



He trains to be a typesetter with Vaclav Rydlo’s firm in Nachod.



After military service in Bratislava, Hlavsa works as a typesetter in printing houses based in Nachod, owned by Vaclav Rydlo, Vaclav Lehm, and Hugo Lustig.


Publishing of Josef Klesl’s book “Po přejití vichřic hněvu (After the storm of wrath)” It is the first documented title with Hlavsa’s graphic solution.


He gets married to Zdena Šťastná (born on 26.10.1912), who he met during his child years in Nachod.


As a member of the Unions, Hlavsa is fired after a strike and he stays jobless for nearly a year.


It is probably towards the end of the year when Hlavsa leaves Nachod and moves to Prague. There he gets a job in Koliš’s printing house, Solidarita. He starts cooperating with a professional polygraphic magazine, Typografia, and the cooperation continues until 1966.


He becomes a member of the editorial board of Typografia. He designs the covers of its individual issues.

Together with another native of Nachod, typographer Josef Týfa, they join Reklub.


Hlavsa leaves Koliš’s printing house, Solidarita, to work for a nationalized printing company, Svoboda – Rudé právo. Here, he gives lectures and courses organized by the Club of Typografia magazine.


Magazine Typografia is reestablished after WWII. Hlavsa is a member of their editorial board again. He is involved with the design of the magazine, he puts forward the innovative concept of art typography on their covers, but also in their graphic design. He also publishes his own articles.


Together with Ladislav Trefný, Hlavsa becomes the chief editor of Typografia.

He designs the whole volume of an illustrated monthly magazine for successful business, Typ (published by Reklamni klub Praha).


Hlavsa's attention is gradually drawn to book publishing.

8 April 1948 – he joins the Communist Party (KSC)

June 1948 – he is awarded a certificate of merit by the club of Typografia, the central educational office of Czechoslovak typographers.


In Typografia, besides a number of shorter articles, he publishes one of his essential studies, Sazečský seminář (Typesetters’s seminar), dealing with fonts, their combination, and typesetting (No. 1).


Hlavsa and Ladislav Trefný leave their functions of chief editors of Typografia. However, he stays on the editorial board, most probably as the art editor.

He starts a long-term cooperation with Československý spisovatel (Czechoslovak writer) publishing house.

22 January 1951 – his daughter Jana is born


August 1952 – Ceskoslovenske zavody typogragicke (Czechoslovak polygraphic company) announce and sponsor the first typographic competition for an original Czechoslovak font. Hlavsa is one of the initiators of this event, and together with other top experts, e.g. Frantisek Muzika or Method Kaláb, he becomes a member of the Committee for Font Creation.


Since this year, Hlavsa is regularly present at various book culture and typography exhibitions in Czechoslovakia and abroad.

January 1953 – Hlavsa starts cooperation with newly established Statni nakladatelstvi krasne literatury, hudby a umeni - State publishing of belle-lettres, music and art (SNKLHU).


Together with Frantisek Sedlacek, he prepares a comprehensive issue of Typography called “In memory of authors” (No. 10—12), which becomes the basis of Hlavsa’s own book Typograficka pisma latinkova (Typophic Roman Alphabet Fonts) published three years later.

Hlavsa sits on the Committee for Font Creation again.


Hlavsa goes on to work as an independent graphic artist-typographer. He concentrates especially on book publishing.

From this year, Hlavsa is a member of a number of professional committees, he becomes a member of several art editorial boards for publishing houses, e.g. Ceskoslovensky spisovatel, Mlada fronta, Statni pedagogicke nakladatelstvi More (State Pedagogic Publishing House), Academia, etc.

March 1955 – He takes part in the national graphic exhibition on Slovansky ostrov, Prague.

December 1955—February 1956 – He shows his works at a joint exhibition called “10 years of People’s Democratic Republic of Czechoslovakia in graphic art: Monumental art and poster” in the Riding School of the Prague Castle. Less


Together with Frantisek Sedlacek, they publish a book, Typograficka pisma latinkova (Typographic Roman Alphabet Fonts). This book summarizes world Roman alphabet fonts used in polygraphy, which influenced European graphic art in the 1950s.

Hlavsa becomes a member of a newly created art group, called Bilance.

The competition More for the most beautiful book is reestablished. Hlavsa sits on its jury many times, and is awarded a number of prizes every year. Less


Hlavsa is one of the founder members of the Association Typographique International (ATYPI) in Paris.

In the competition, The Most Beautiful Book, Hlavsa is awarded in the category of professional literature for his book Typograficka pisma latinkova.

17 April – 19 November 1958 – EXPO 1958 in Brussels. Hlavsa is one the artists involved in its preparation.


Hlavsa becomes the art editor of new magazine, called Plamen (The Flame). With the backing of its chief editor, Jiri Hajen, Plamen becomes a unique platform for Hlavsa’s art experiments.

There is roughly fifty per cent increase in books created by Hlavsa.

At the International Exhibition of Book Art in Leipzig, Germany, Hlavsa wins golden medal for his Typograficka pisma More latinkova, and silver medal for his graphic design of poem “Věčné ruce” (Eternal hands) by Jan Noha. Until 1982, whenever Hlavsa takes part in the competition, he repeatedly receives a number of awards.

Hlavsa’s works are presented at the exhibition of The Type Directors Club in New York. Less


Second, updated edition of Typograficka pisma latinkova is published, as well as its English version, A Book of Type and Design (cooperation between SNTL, Tudor Publishing Co., New York, and Peter Nevill, London).

Ceskoslovensky spisovatel awards Hlavsa the publishing house prize for his graphic cooperation.

He presents his works at the Bilance’s second members' More exhibition (Dum umeleckeho prumyslu, Prague), his works are also presented at the International Graphic Art and Experimental Typography Exhibition in Amsterdam.

29 November – 31 December – Independent exhibition called Oldrich Hlavsa’s Typography in Ceskoslovensky spisovatel’s Small Gallery room in Narodni trida, Prague. Less


Ceskoslovensky spisovatel publishes a new series, called Klub pratel poezie (KPP – Friends of Poetry Club). The basic series of KPP become one of the main pillars of Hlavsa’s graphic art.

Aaron Burns presents Ladislav Sutnar with Hlavsa’s book, A Book of Type and Design. This book starts their 14-year-long corresponding, where Sutnar and Hlavsa exchange their books More and discuss the development of typography.

He becomes a member of three prestigious graphic art institutions: The International Center for the Typographic Arts New York (ICTA), Society of Graphic Designers of Canada, and Art Directors Club Toronto. Less


He is included in a 600-page book, called Who is Who in Graphic Art, Vol. 1, published by Amstutz & Herdeg Graphic Press, Zurich.

SHKLU publishing house published a new edition of graphic art monographs, Mala galerie, realized solely by Hlavsa, who also designed the typographic symbol of the edition.

The publishing of realized books further increases. More

11—24 March 1962 – Independent exhibition of book graphics in Nachod library. Less


Publishing of professional publication, Pravidla matematicke sazby (The Rules of Mathematic Rate), by Karel Wick, graphic design by Hlavsa. The book is also published in English, and it becomes the core textbook used by polygraph institutes even in Western Europe and the USA:

Silver medal from the International Biennial Exhibition of Books and Graphic Art in Sao Paolo. More

Establishment of the international exhibition of graphic design Bienale Brno. Hlavsa is involved in preparing the first exhibitions and arranges contacts with leading professionals. Less


He becomes a member of the editorial board of monthly magazine, Knizni kultura (Book Culture).

He is awarded the prize of Ceskoslovensky spisovatel publishing company.

October 1964 – He becomes a member of the international selective jury for exhibition TypoMundus 20 in Toronto, which consists of 12 leading graphic artists of that time, More e.g. Anton Stankowski (Germany), Lou Dorfsman (USA), Piet Zwart (Netherlands), and Hermann Zapf (Germany). TypoMundus 20 becomes the first internationally judged exhibition of world’s typography. Less


Hlavsa's work is especially successful at the International Exhibition of Book Art in Leipzig: he receives two gold, three silver, two bronze medals, and a honorable mention. He also meets personally the typographer, Jan Tschichold.

He designs typographic logos for Academia publishing house and for Art centrum.

He presents his works at the third biennial event in Sao Paolo More (Hlavsa’s book design receives two silver medals), and at an art exhibition organized for the 20th anniversary of liberation of the Czechoslovakia (prize of the main jury for typographic art).

1 – 9 October 1965 – Hlavsa initiates Hermann Zapf and Adrien Frutiger’s exhibiton in the exhibition hall of technical literature publishing house, called Fonts and Typography.

October 1965 – TypoMundus 20 starts in New York. The exhibition is accompanied by a publication of the same name. TypoMundus 20 awards Hlavsa a honorary mention for significant contribution to the development of 20 century graphic art. Less


He becomes a member of the art group, called Hollar.

He sits on the international jury of Report ICTA in Frankfurt, Germany.

His works are presented at the Biennial Event of Applied Graphic Art in Brno, where he is awarded the Biennial Grand Prix. He is also awarded at the competition, the Most Beautiful Book, and repeatedly at the International Exhibition of Book Art in Leipzig. More

June 1966 – Independent exhibition, Typografie, in Graficki kolektiv gallery in Belgrade.

August 1966 – He presents his works at a group exhibition, Bilance ’66, in Manes gallery, Prague.

September—October 1966 – He takes part in the exhibition, called Aktualni tendence v ceskoslovenskem uzitem umeni a prumyslovem vytvarnictvi (The Current Trends in Czechoslovak Graphic Art and Industrial Art), in Prague (Municipal House), London, Mainz, and Ljubljana.

He finishes his nearly 30-year-long cooperation with Typografia magazine with the cover for December issue. Less


At his own request, he finishes cooperation on the graphic design of Plamen magazine. Before the monthly magazine is finished in 1969, he realizes only a few covers.


Ceskoslovensky spisovatel publishes a new edition, called Bohemia. It is Hlavsa’s idea to start this edition, and he also designs its logo.

He is awarded at the competition for the most beautiful book of 1968, and receives golden letter for book Vlastiveda pro 4. rocnik at the International Book Exhibition in Leipzig.

He finishes his work within the Bilance group. More

He is a member of the selective jury of Art Committee, which announces the competition for scientific and technical literature font.

3. September – 20 October 1968 – The first member’s exhibition of Book Club in Ceskoslovensky spisovatel’s gallery. In the questionnaire accompanying the exhibition, Hlavsa criticizes the current situation in graphic art. Less


He finishes his membership in the Association of Czechoslovak Visual Artists.

At the Most Beautiful Book competition in Leipzig, he is awarded bronze medal for book called Ziva tiskarna aneb Lis myslenky (Living Printer or Idea Press) by Jan Amos Komensky.

He is asked by Jiri Setlik, the current director of Museum of Decorative Arts, to design their logo. More The typographic symbol, used until 1999, is accompanied also by other graphic print and a sign on the building.

He designs the concept of edition called Prstynek, a new Ceskoslovensky spisovatel’s edition focusing of miniature love poetry books.

June 1969 – 11th congress of international typographic association ATYPI in Prague. Hlavsa, together with Rene Murat, Stanislav Mars and Jiri Rathousky, is a member of the organization committee. Less


Obelisk publishing house starts a new edition Galerie Obelisk – a generous approach to art books, designed solely by Hlavsa.

Hlavsa’s book designs receive silver medal the International Book Exhibition in Leipzig.

He receives the prize of Odeon publishing house for graphic design of Vladimir Holan’s Collected Works and the edition called Mala galerie.

April—May 1970 – More The Ministry of Culture appoints Hlavsa as Czechoslovak delegate in the international jury for the most beautiful book exhibition competition in Moscow, where he also receives two first prizes. Less


Golden medal for book Lenin 100 at the International Book Exhibition in Leipzig, at the competition for design of books with the topic of V.I.Lenin.

Publishing of the first volume of edition of Czech classical prose and poetry, Slunovrat, solely with Hlavsa's design.

19 January – 28 February 1971 – He presents his works at the collective exhibition SCUG Hollar, Grafika 71, in Manes gallery, Prague. More The art group is dissolved in the same year.

At his own request, he finishes his membership in the Communist Party. Less


He receives the prize of Ministry of Culture of CSR at the fifth Biennial of Applied Graphics in Brno, for his typographic book designs.

March 1972 – O. Hlavsa’s and Josef Tyfa’s joint exhibition, Pismo a kniha (Font and Book), organized by Bauersche Giesserei gallery in Frankfurt.

14 June – 17 September 1972 – Hlavsa presents his works at the fifth Biennial of Applied Graphics More in Brno and Venice, Italy.

Finishing his membership in the Communist Party does not affect the number of incoming orders, however, it brings Hlavsa many complications. Publication of a few books is stopped. Less


On the occasion of Hlavsa’s 65th birthday, the philosopher Karel Kosik, poets Jaroslav Seifert and Ivo Stuka, artists Jiri Rathousky, Zdenek Sklenar, Vladimir Tesar, Josef Tyfa, Karel Wick, Hermann Zapf, and Josef Zika contribute to a private publication designed by Rostislav Vanek, with the main text by Jiri Setlik.


SNTL publishes the first volume of Hlavsa’s book, Typographia, subtitled Font, Illustration, Book, where Hlavsa summarizes his experience with classical book publishing fonts, and he pays tribute to history and values of 500-year-long history of book publishing. He realizes the publication together with Karel Wick and Jiri Setlik, whose name is not written due to political reasons.

6 June – 26 September 1976 – More Hlavsa presents his works at the seventh Biennial of Applied Graphics in Brno. Less


For his graphic design of hexalingual Dictionary of Polygraphy, by Antonin Rambousek and Antonin Pesek, he receives bronze medal at the World's Most Beautiful Book competition in Leipzig.


His design of the publication Typographia 1 and a book by Halas, Nase pani Bozena Nemcova (Ceskoslovensky spisovatel, 1979), receive the Silver eagle at the International Book Festival in Nice.


SNTL publishes Typographia 2. The core of the book is examples of fonts again. This time, Hlavsa concentrates of the technique of phototypesetting and confronts the classic Roman alphabet fonts with his own choice of current alphabets, which are proposed for phototypesetting.

He designs his last book of the basic edition of KPP in square design.


Hlavsa is included in the second volume of professional publication, Who is Who in Graphic Art.

14 February 1982 – His grandson, Jan Kočvar, is born.


Hlavsa’s work receives the critics’ prize at the eleventh Biennial of Applied Graphics in Brno.

4 November 1984 – He receives the state award for excellent work, for his original work in typography and literature design.

November – Independent exhibition of edition Bohemia in Mala galerie of Ceskoslovensky spisovatel, Prague.


SNTL publishes the last volume of Hlavsa’s trilogy, Typographia, focusing on the history and issues of current fonts and books. In the last volume, Hlavsa summarizes especially polygraphy knowledge in relation to phototypesetting, using examples of real graphic designs.

24 April 1986 – He receives the Meritorious Artist award.


Hlavsa joins the group Typo&. 6 June – 31 July 1988 – He presents his works at the sixth exhibition in Moravian Museum, Brno.

He receives the prize of Polygraficky prumysl Praha (Polygraphic Industry Prague) and magazine Typografia.


The number of Hlavsa's book design orders declines. Before 1993, the volumes are published in well-established editions, and the successful book titles are published with the same graphic design.

He becomes a member of re-established Association of Czech Graphic Artists, Hollar.

5 May – 2 July 1989 – Hlavsa presents his works at the next Typo&Exhibition in the More exhibition hall of Kruh priatelov ceskej kultury (Group of Friends of Czech Culture) in Bratislava. Less


He receives the last prize in the Most Beautiful Book of the Year competition.

7 June – 29 July 1990 – He takes part in the last exhibition of Typo& in Vaclav Spala’s Gallery.

November 1990 – He holds his independent exhibition in the exhibition hall owned of Odeon publishing house, Prague.


He receives the prestigious Gutenberg’s prize.


The edition Bohemia finishes with Poesie by Styrsky.

Hlavsa’s wife, Zdena, dies.

17 November – 11 December 1992 – He takes part in the joint exhibition, Book Design in Prague, 1960 – 1990, in Herb Lubalin Study Center of Design and Typography, New York.


Due to restitution, Hlavsa’s studio at Narodni trida, Prague, is returned to the Earl of Kolowrat, and Hlavsa’s rental lease is finished.


27 December 1995 – Oldrich Hlavsa dies in Prague after a short illness.


Adrian Frutiger

Swiss typographer (*1928—2015)

taken from correspondence, 1 August 1957

Dear Mr Hlavsa,
It was a great surprise for me when I was delivered your book, Typograficka pisma latinkova, in the post. Besides my cordial thanks, I would like to express my honest admiration for your work. For me, it is one of the greatest books of this kind, much better than most of other books published in Europe, due to its tasteful arrangement, and especially its rich contents. It is especially amazing to realize the obstacles you had to overcome while collecting the western material. […] I am greatly honoured to be in contact with you.. With cordial greetings and many thanks.

Max Caflish

Swiss typographer, book graphic artist (*1916—2004)

taken from correspondence, 1957

Dear Mr Hlavsa!
I would like to express my gratitude for you sending me your book Typograficka pisma latinkova, and also for your kind letter. […] I regret again that I do not speak Czech. However, I can assess the typography. Here, I want to congratulate you not only on the contents, but also on the beautiful typographic design of the book. It is delightful to see how successfully you managed to join illustration and typography. The font is used wonderfully and it provides the learner with enormous input. To see also the explanation of historical relations makes the study book worth recommending. Overall, it is a “fine” publication. […]

Albert Kapr

German typographer, calligraphist (*1918—1995)

taken from correspondence, summer 1957

Dear Oldrich,
Finally, upon my return from holiday, I have received your book (Typograficka pisma latinkova), which I had seen at Mr Zapf’s place in Frankfurt.
Here are my compliments and congratulations — it is truly outstanding! Its cover, endpaper, title, and the thousands of ideas and examples, all are in their way unsurpassable. Here, the knowledge and artistic expression intertwine. […] You did a wonderful job. It is classical and also modern together. For the foreign world, your book is a symbol of great abilities of Czech typography. It should unconditionally be translated into English and German.

Paul Standard

American calligraphist, professional publicist (*1896—1992)

taken from correspondence, 16.12.57

I have just received the book by Hlavsa and Sedlacek (Typograficka pisma latinkova), which truly pleases every lover of the printed word. It is to a great honour not only to the author and publisher, but also a repeated confirmation that Czechoslovakia is an unchanged genius at printed books, even at times when other countries (like my own) do not have the courage and hesitate in such business. This book is very practical with its numerous examples of fonts, useful for all publishers today. […] There are no books in English, comparable in the contents and quality: It could even be used in our vocational schools if it was also printed in English.

Jan Tschichold

Swiss typographer, teacher, writer (*1902—1974)

taken from correspondence, 22 June 1965, Basil, Switzerland

Dear Mr Hlavsa,
It was a great honour to me to meet you in Leipzig, and I hope to meet you more often. […]

Ladislav Sutnar

Czech designer, typographer, living in NY, USA from 1939 (*1897—1976)

taken from correspondence, 05.01.66, NY, USA

Your graphic designs always show (and you probably know that) tireless experimenting and continuous innovation. They demonstrate also surprising advancement to bigger freedom and liberty in terms of using the potential of typographic material. They become something that might be called (when short of other words) “typopictures”. But the title or its “sign” are not important. The most important thing is that they are interesting and deserve praise also for their value.

taken from correspondence, 06.05.98, NY, USA

As if a steam engine walks freely… Such creative, organizational fever. And unlimited enthusiasm!… – Congratulations!

Prof. Hermann Zapf

German typographer, teacher of typography, calligraphist, bookbinder (*1918—2015)

… What a great piece of work lies in your new book full of bright ideas. Such work can be valued only by somebody who has undergone a similar task himself. I have to keep admiring your innovation and liveliness, with which you approach such plain material as alphabet and typography. Using wonderful illustrations of your many friends from Prague, you know how to attract your readers and draw their further attention. You have proved that in abstract letters lies more, and they form a direct relationship with our lives. I would like to congratulate not only you, but also the publisher on a book which shows innovative possibilities of phototypesetting…

Jaroslav Seifert

Czech poet, writer, journalist and translator,
holder of the Nobel Prize in Literature (*1901—1986)

[OH65] special print, 1974

I am not a big fan of so called bibliophilism, but I am happy when a book is beautiful both on the inside and the outside. When the book is beautiful inside, it always deserves it! And so, let me cheer: Let live Mr Hlavsa!

Josef Týfa

Czech typographer, book designer (*1913—2007)

Hlavsa (75), Typografia, 1984, Vol. 87, No. 11

He was born to become a typographer. And so Hlavsa trained to be one — and trained others. And he mastered this skill. He moved to Prague. He learns new arts. He looks for principles of modern typography. And the result: HLAVSA. A name which is sometimes condemned, but in the end, it is fully respected. Hlavsa does not design books, he creates them. He is an ardent architect and a builder from its foundations to a complete book. […]
I have no idea how many world awards Hlavsa has received for his works, but there are numerous. And he was assessed by true experts, who have put Hlavsa among the world’s leading typographers.

Jiří Rathouský

Czech typographer, graphic designer (*1924—2003)

Hlavsa (75), Typografia, 1984, Vol. 87, No. 11

He has always been my model in terms of putting forward something new (he has never been fond of “average people”) and in terms of hard work. […]
He came on the right time to “pull down the thrones of the past”. He was admired by some and disgusted by others. This alone proves his role in the modern typography.

Jan Solpera

Czech graphic designer, typographer, teacher, professional publicist (*1939)

Hlavsa (75), Typografia, 1984, Vol. 87, No. 11

Not only for me, but also for my generation, which only started focusing on applied graphic art and typography in the 1960s, Hlavsa’s work was fundamental. In typography and in the basics of typography, fonts, Hlavsa discovered new visual values and meaning, and he was able to convey his point. […] Seeing Oldrich Hlavsa’s works had to leave deep imprint on minds of all people working in this branch, whether they want to admit it or not. From the point of view of typography as an art discipline, Hlavsa’s work is an undeniable milestone. We could say there is typography before Hlavsa and typography after Hlavsa. My personal view is, this is true not only for our typography, but also for world’s typography.

Zdeněk Ziegler 

Czech graphic designer, typographer, teacher (*1932)

Hlavsa (75), Typografia, 1984, Vol. 87, No. 11

Hlavsa is an individual with his own criteria how far he can go in his experimenting, and at the same time he is already a renowned and experienced classic. However, he is able to react gently to new impulses of world’s typographic trends, and he is never uniform or left behind. Among my well-known foreign colleagues, Hlavsa is a name, often commented on with jealousy (“I could never do this back home”),and with regret (“It’s a shame, we would like to have him on our jury or giving a lecture”).

Vladimír Tesař

Czech painter, illustrator (*1924—2008)

Hlavsa (75), Typografia, 1984, Vol. 87, No. 11

When you say “Oldrich Hlavsa”, it has a reputation not only in Czech, but also in the world’s typography. It is a symbol and a quality seal, and for illustrations, the guarantee of exquisite maintenance. With no worries I would leave my drawings under the protection of somebody, later to be a true friend of mine, who understands defenceless illustrations, left to his mercy.