Book culture in St Gallen

Traditional craftsmanship


The production of books has a long-standing tradition in St Gallen. Testimony to this are the city’s various libraries, which still hold a historical treasure trove of artistic manuscripts, wonderful examples of the earliest printing techniques and important holdings of contempo-rary book design. Well-known historical personalities shaped this tradition, among them numerous book artists of the early medieval monastery of St Gallen, but also the reformer, mayor and poet Vadian, whose book collection became the foundation of the Vadiana can-tonal library. One of the oldest newspapers in Europe, ‘Annus Christi’, was printed in the Imperial Abbey of St Gallen in Rorschach.

In addition, book design with sophisticated typography has a long tradition in St Gallen. For centuries, world-famous institutions and book designers have worked here, stimulated con-temporary discourse and attracted international attention with their books. Institutions such as the Henry Tschudy publishing house and book designers such as Rudolf Hostettler, Max Koller, Hans-Peter Kaeser and Jost Hochuli have shaped the tradition of books in St Gallen. Their students, including Gaston Isoz, and the agency TGG Hafen Senn Stieger continue this tradition, and young designers keep the book culture in sync with the times.

Image gallery

  • Page from the Codex Abrogans in St Gallen, the oldest book in the German language. [Cod. Sang. 911, Pergament, 323 pp., Abrogans – Vocabularius (Keronis) et Alia, around 790] © Stiftsbibliothek St.Gallen
  • Exhibition hall of the Abbey Library in St Gallen [St Gallen, 2014] © Stiftsbibliothek St.Gallen
  • Max Bill’s circle drawings congenially complement Gomringer’s 33 constel-lations. Texts and drawings are sensi-tively assigned to each other and placed on the page. [Eugen Gomringer: 33 constellations. Published by Tschudy-Verlag. St Gallen, 1960] © VGS Verlagsgenossenschaft St.Gallen
  • An ambitiously designed, valuable resource for typographic laymen and historians. [Rudolf Hostettler: Type. A selection of types. Une sélection de caractères d’imprimerie. Eine Auswahl guter Drucktypen. St Gallen, London, 1949] © VGS Verlagsgenossenschaft St.Gallen
  • Cover from the series ‘Huber’s classics of medicine and the natural sciences’ designed by Rudolf Hostettler. [Josef Tomcsik (Ed.): Pasteur and the Generatio spontanea. Bern, Stuttgart, 1964] © VGS Verlagsgenossenschaft St.Gallen
  • A glossary that attracted international attention when it was published – because of its concept, and its practical clear and at the same time appealing layout. [Rudolf Hostettler: The printer’s terms. St Gallen, 1949] © VGS Verlagsgenossenschaft St.Gallen
  • Various print type alphabets are presented on a rigid grid with details of the designers, the year of publication and further information. [Jost Hochuli: Freude an Schriften. Spass an der Freude. Ein typografisches Pasticcio (Joy in type. Fun in joy. A typographic pastiche). St Gallen, 1993] © VGS Verlagsgenossenschaft St.Gallen
  • At a time when no printing shop invested in books on font samples, Zollikofer published this directory: 24 pages, stapled together in a grey paper cover; containing the most important information, laid out in a clear and playful way – the work of an expert. [Zollikofer AG, St.Galler Tagblatt: List of publications. St Gallen, 1989] © VGS Verlagsgenossenschaft St.Gallen
  • The cover design showcases the equally ambitiously designed content of this documentation. [Building Department of the City of St Gallen: Museum of Natural History and Art of St Gallen 1877/1987. St Gallen, 1987] © VGS Verlagsgenossenschaft St.Gallen
  • A clever layout using capital letters in narrow semi-bold sans serif and the corresponding Morse code Spiel and signal flags. The blue printed transparent paper creates attractive per-spectives and overlays. [Ian Anüll: Artists’ booklet. St Gallen, 1987] © VGS Verlagsgenossenschaft St.Gallen
  • The author Liana Ruckstuhl interviewed fifteen former locomotive drivers for this 168-page Typotron notebook. [Typotron notebook 28 – Lokremise (locomotive depot) St Gallen, 2011] © TGG Hafen Senn Stieger
  • The designer has gone all out in creating a fitting layout for this satirical novel a fitting form with palpable joy. [Jaroslav Hašek: Geschichte der Partei des gemässigten Fortschritts im Rahmen des Gesetzes (The Party of Moderate Progress Within the Bounds of the Law). Berlin, 2005] © VGS Verlagsgenossenschaft St.Gallen

References and documentation

  • Roland Früh: Buchgestaltung in St. Gallen. St. Gallen, 2008

  • Hermann Strehler: Die Buchdruckerkunst im alten St. Gallen. Die Geschichte der Offizin Zollikofer. Vom «Wochenblatt» zum «St. Galler Tagblatt». St. Gallen, 1967

  • Jost Hochuli: Buchgestaltung als Denkschule: über die Symmetrie im Buch, über Funktion und Funktionalismus in der Buchttypografie und gegen die Ideologisierung gestalterischer Strukturen (Stuttgarter Schriftenreihe Typografie). Stuttgart, 1991

  • Jost Hochuli: Buchgestaltung in der Schweiz (Schweizer Kulturstiftung Pro Helvetia). Zürich, 1993

  • Jost Hochuli: Bücher machen. Praxis und Theorie. St. Gallen, 1996

  • Richard Hollis: Schweizer Grafik: die Entwicklung eines internationalen Stils, 1920–1965. Basel, 2006

  • Rupert Kalkofen: Das Büchlein der Bücher: 25 Jahre VGS Verlagsgemeinschaft St. Gallen (Edition Ostschweiz, Heft 5). St. Gallen, 2004

  • Robin Kinross: Jost Hochuli aus englischer Sicht. In: Jost Hochuli: Drucksachen, vor allem Bücher. Sulgen, 2002