Fontana is a small
established by the graphic
designers Joep Pohlen and
Geert Setola in 1994.
NL-6041 EA Roermond
Telephone 0031 475 337 452
Fax 0031 475 336 526
In 1994 graphic designers Geert Setola and Joep Pohlen had the idea to start a publishing house. Geert was teaching at the academy of art St. Joost in Breda, The Netherlands. His friend and colleague at St. Joost was type designer Chris Brand. During conversations with Chris Brand but also with his French friend Pierre Bernard, who was one of the founders of the French design firm Grapus and also teacher in Paris, he spoke with them about the lack of a typographical handbook for teaching students the basics about type and typography that also addressed digital type, both in the Netherlands and in France.
As a result Geert and Joep decided to write that typographical handbook and to publish it by themselves. Geert proposed the name 'Fontana' for their publishing house, meaning fountain in Italian but also because it began with the word 'font'. With that also the name for the first book was came up: 'Letter Fountain' ('Letterfontein' in Dutch and 'La Fontaine aux Lettres' in French). Geert grew up in Belgium, a country with two languages, Dutch and French (and a little bit of German). Therefore the decision to publish the book in two language versions was quite obvious. The first edition was presented in 1994 at the 'Mois du Graphisme', in Echirolles, a village near Grenoble in France in the presence of international students and teachers.
To promote the book in France, Geert and Joep also made in 1995 a shop window at the bookstore La Hune in the heart of Saint-Germain-de-Prés in Paris. Printed sheets from the book were cut into strips forming a fountain with 'La Fontaine aux Lettres' as topping (picture on the left).
In 1996 the German version 'Letterfontäne' was added and around 2000 Geert decided to leave the publishing house. Until that date almost 15,000 books of 'Letter Fountain' were sold in three languages and the third edition of the Dutch version was sold out. Although there was still some demand almost every designer had to have the book and the thought was that a fourth edition would not sell anymore. Another consideration was of course the quick development of the Internet and the idea that books soon became obsolete. But teachers of art academies kept asking for the book because students needed it as Evert Bloemsma, teacher and type designer wrote in his regular mails. In 2002 the first attempts for the fourth edition were made but soon after that Geert decided not to participate because he had still his doubt about the need for it and if, by the time it would be ready, Internet would be preferred over an old-fashioned book. Joep Pohlen went on with the project and in 2009 the fourth edition was presented in Amsterdam. Its contents had grown to 640 pages and the text was expanded from 15,000 to 150,000 words. For the foreign languages Taschen was willing to produce and distribute the English, Spanish, French and German editions of 'Letter Fountain'. They became available in 2011 (www.letterfountain.com).
During the years beside 'Letterfountain' a couple of other publications were made. The metal measuring set 'Mackie M' in German and Dutch was sold out in no time and MiniQuest 01, a booklet with questions and answers about the printing business was published in German and Dutch. For the 'fun' and display fonts of the nineties 'Fresh Fonts' was published in English, German and Dutch.
Because publishing work at Fontana is done beside the daily business of Polka Design (www.polka.nl), books and related productions are realized more or less at random. A new part of the activities are the publications 'Graphic Heritage by Fontana'. The first was digitizing Excoffon's Calypso from 1958. This typeface is available for free download at the site of 'Letter Fountain': http://www.letterfountain.com/extras_e.html.
The second publication in this series is 'The Coats of Arms of the Book Trade' in a limited edition of 250, signed by the author.