Call to save a cultural treasure

The future of the Offizin Haag-Drugulin, Dresden, is uncertain

By Silvia Werfel

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

SchumacherGebler had taken over the renowned Leipzig company, founded in 1829, after the fall of the Berlin Wall, and most recently continued to run it in Dresden for ten years. Not as a museum workshop, but as a craft business. Profit maximisation was not the focus here. Eckehart Schumacher-Gebler’s concern was to preserve and pass on a cultural treasure and the skills associated with it. Thus, OHD carries out printing jobs in hot metal typesetting and letterpress at the highest professional level, and thanks to its Monotype plant it undertakes book projects on a larger scale.

The core of the OHD is the historical typographic material that Eckehart SchumacherGebler has collected, maintained and used over the course of more than sixty years: a unique, immense stock of fonts and matrix treasures, functioning Monotype and letterpress machines, and, above all, the knowledge required to use them which is exercised by the highly motivated people trained in the historical techniques, above all Max Lotze as Germany’s youngest monotype caster and Heike Schnotale as (also still young) typesetter and monotype master. The team also includes printer Albrecht Günther [photo] and typesetter Ute Finger, who have many years of professional experience.

The declared aim of OHD is to continue typesetting and printing at the highest level. In addition, the staff are qualified to train others and thus ensure the continuation of crafts such as typesetting, monotype setting and typefounding and letterpress printing.

I is clear, however, that the print shop and its employees need financial support because Eckehart SshumacjerGebler’s heirs are not in a position to continue the tradition-steeped business. Possible solutions are already being worked on. The cooperative Büchergilde Gutenberg, for example, is currently looking into how it might be able to participate in the continuation of the OHD. A cooperative concept would also be a possibility for the print shop.

How do other nations deal with their cultural heritage? The French–following the Japanese model of the living national treasures–have been honouring craftsmanship since 1994 by appointing exceptional Maîtres d’Arts, among others in the field of lettering and printing, because this craftsmanship is indispensable both ‘for the preservation of the heritage and for contemporary creation’ (Catherine Tasca). The South Korean metropolis of Cheongju even celebrates the book Jikji, which was printed there in the 14th century with metal types, as an identity-forming cultural asset. And what is happening to Gutenberg’s legacy in the land of Gutenberg? Printed text and image media have been part of European culture and the knowledge society for almost 600 years; in Germany, Johannes Gutenberg and Albrecht Dürer represent the beginnings of this innovation. This is what the Nationwide Register of Intangible Cultural Heritage says, in which the ‘Artistic Printing Techniques’ were included in 2018, a first step towards UNESCO World Cultural Heritage. This intangible cultural heritage, expanded to include type production and typesetting, is preserved and cultivated in a very tangible way at Offizin Haag-Drugulin.

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

What will happen to the Haag-Drugulin print shop now? Perhaps comrades or a cooperative provide a solution? Or a private individual with the necessary financial backing?

If you would like to help save the Haag-Drugulin dispensary, please contact:

For more information about the OHD: