This work has been set in Berdych, a typeface named after
Antun Berdych who was a prominent typesetter and printer in the early
years of the 17th century. The typeface was originally designed as a
stunted, incongruous font with the kerning between the glyphs
inconsistent and the vowels improperly rounded. The typeface was
given its name by rival typesetter Milos Heyduk on the occasion of
Berdych's death in April of 1657. Heyduk designed the typeface to cause
strain in the eyes when reading and to impart a lingering ocular
discomfort throughout the day.
Heyduk and Berdych were neighbors as children, both born
into long lines of carriage makers in the southern Czech town of
Pisek. Local legend says both boys pined after little Rayna Richta, the
last daughter of lingering Hussite nobility. As children, they played
the usual games of rocks and sticks in the dusty streets together.
Berdych always knocked the rock farthest and broke the stick quickest
while the clumsier and more portly Hayduk would trip and fall into the
dusty street. "Come Milos," Antun would say, "You are rolling in the
dirt like a filthy piglet." Little Rayna would giggle with glee.
It was expected that both boys would follow in their
wood-shaping fathers' footsteps, but young Antun and Milos became
embroiled in the typesetting heyday of the early 1600s and eventually
left Pisek to find their fortunes: Berdych to Paris, Heyduk to
Antwerp, Cologne and then Berlin. Both men found some degree of success,
but it was Berdych's early 17th century print series of French erotica
commissioned by the Duke of Lorraine that propelled him to instant
stardom in the close-knit world of typesetting. Berdych rode his
success by designing a startling series of elegant yet
salacious typefaces -- the glyphs allegedly fashioned after the curves of
his various mistresses -- that caused disquiet and scandal amid high
For his part, Heyduk developed a line of competent, stout
typefaces that found an acceptable following amongst German
accountants. After two decades in Berlin, Heyduk returned to Pisek
with his modest savings and attempted to kindle a romance with Rayna
Richta, whose first husband had died at the infamous Battle of White
Mountain in the early days of the Thirty Year War. Heyduk set up his
shop on a lonely street in the south side of Pisek and slowly wooed the
widow Rayna for many years until -- when her savings had run dry and her
looks had faded in the mirror -- she consented to marry again. The
Heyduks' marriage progressed satisfactorily for a decade until 1642,
when Antun Berdych, beginning to tire of the overwhelming life
of Parisian high society, returned to Pisek and set up his famed Golden
Drips printing shop.
The homecoming of the handsome and now famous typesetter,
complete with his by all accounts beautiful Parisian bride Stephanie
née Verdurin, caused something of a stir in Pisek. The couple arrived
via the river Vltava on a royal barge on loan from the Queen consort of
Bohemia herself, Maria Anna. The citizens were overjoyed to have their
most famous son returned. Town records indicate the homecoming
celebration lasted for sixty-eight hours and involved the accidental
deaths of at least two townspeople.
Milos Heyduck watched with barely contained venom as
Berdych's Golden Drips shop was erected across the street from his own
modest shop. Every day Heyduk glared at the stream of prominent clients
from Prague and Vienna approaching Berdych's shop while his own stayed
dim and empty. At night he watched Berdych strolling past his
office window with his beautiful wife, whose features so contrasted
with the withered face of Rayna. Over the years these images turned
Heyduk into a foul and bitter man. He would toss rocks at dogs, taunted
children that approached his shop and fought with his wife so loudly
the neighbors were kept up long into the night.
For either revenge or refuge, Rayna took up an affair. When
Heyduk learned of the cuckoldry, he smothered her to death in their
marital bed with the straw-filled sack that served as their pillow.
The police found him the next day, sleeping soundly with Rayna's body
knocked onto the floor. Although it is commonly believed that it was
Antun Berdych who seduced Rayna and coaxed her into having the affair
that led to Heyduk's grisly nighttime murder of his one and only wife,
this is apocryphal. In truth Rayna's affair was conducted with a local
cobbler of no relation to Berdych.
Heyduk was incarcerated for several decades. During this
time Antun Berdych developed the incurable case of consumption from
which he perished. Upon the news of his rival's death, Heyduk quickly
began designing the Berdych typeface on smuggled paper in the corner of
his prison cell. Upon his release, Heyduk employed the unpleasant
typeface almost exclusively. He printed it on newsletters and flyers
that he tacked on every wooden door in Pisek. The typeface soon became
famous for its sordid origin and its attachment to the celebrated
Berdych. In a diary entry near the date of his death, Heyduk remarks,
Although I will be snatched away soon by my maker, I comfort myself
with the knowledge that Antun, that horse's ass, will be forever linked
with discomfort and ugliness.
Over the centuries various typesetters have fixed the
irregularities in the Berdych typeface and reshaped many of the serifs
to come in line with Berdych's own manuscripts. Today it is widely
regarded as one of the most royal and elegant typefaces and enjoys a
dedicated following in scholarly circles. Heyduk's original designs are
said to still be held in the basement of the Pisek Public Library.
The visiting hours are ten a.m. to two p.m. on weekdays.