Curriculum Vitae

Expanded from Susan Colodny’s work in RIT’s Finding Aid, Rochester, 2000.

dotAugust 27dot

Ismar David is born at 8:30 a.m. at Freiburgerstrasse 13 in Breslau to Benzion Wolff David (b. December 20, 1870 in Friedrichstadt), an insurance agent, and Rosa David, née Freund (b. January 16, 1875 in Breslau), a former teacher.

dotSeptember 12dot

And baby makes five. Sister Selma is born.

Selma at one year old
dotJuly 8dot

Forty-five-year-old Benzion David is drafted and posted to the Schlesische Train-Abteilung Nr. 6 as a recruit.


Ismar David follows brother Felix (b. February 15, 1909) at König Wilhelm Gymnasium, where Felix is an excellent student. Ismar’s academic career is considerably less successful.

dotDecember 15dot

Benzion David is discharged from service in Etappen Train Eskadron 602. Suffering the effects of malaria, the now Corporal David walks home from Rumania.

c. 1919

To recover from the hardship of wartime, “starving war children” are sent for short vacations with host families elsewhere. Ismar David goes to Prague and Vienna where he runs off with another boy to see Schönbrun. Stays with a family whose housemaid takes pleasure in rising early to create a new dessert for the evening.


At the age of ten, Ismar David has surgery to correct strabismus (crossed left eye).

dotJuly 9dot

Signs (with Benzion David) apprenticeship contract with painter-varnisher Carl Bautz. Father and son are aware that Ismar David will no longer be able to adhere to orthodox religious restrictions.

  • Apprenticeship contract
  • Apprenticeship contract
  • Apprenticeship contract
  • Apprenticeship contract
dotOctober 3dot

Begins classes at Handwerker- und Kunstgewerbeschule zu Breslau. Teachers include: Ludwig Peter Kowalski, Hermann Holscher, Georg Krause, Sigfried Haertel and Gerhard Stein.

Receives intensive private drawing instruction in an artist’s atelier.


First (known) published work, Jüdischer Jugendkalender, Berlin: Jüdischer Verlag 5690 - 1929/30, Cohn, Emil Bernhard, editor, appears.

dotMarch 31dot

Finishes courses at Handwerker- und Kunstgewerbeschule zu Breslau.

Handwerker- und Kunstgewerbeschule zu Breslau certificate
dotOctober 9dot

Passes journeyman’s exam as a painter with report of good behavior and sufficient skill.

Journeyman’s exam certificate

Begins study of decorative painting at the Städtische Kunstgewerbe- und Handwerkerschule zu Charlottenburg (Arts & Crafts School of Berlin-Charlottenburg). Lives in building owned by his uncle Ismar Freund. Develops close relationship to his aunt Elise and cousins.

  • Elise Freund
  • Anniversary poster
  • Sketch of Ismar Freund
  • Ismar Freund and two of his children
dotJanuary 20dot

Benzion Wolff David dies in Breslau and is buried in Cosel Cemetery.

Benzion Wolf David gravestone

Ismar David finishes study in Berlin and works for six months as a sign painter.

Berlin arts and Crafts school certificate
dotJuly 29dot

Jewish National Fund invites artists to submit designs for the fifth volume of its Golden Book.

dotNovember 9dot

Judges Hermann Struck, Saul Tchernikhovsky and S.A. Van Vreeland award Ismar David First Prize and £35 in competition for the design of Volume V of the Jewish National Fund’s Golden Book.

Golden Book 1932

JNF asks for guidance on execution of Golden Book design. Ismar David offers to travel to Jerusalem to oversee production.

dotMarch 22dot

Leaves for Palestine with a group travelling to the first Maccabiah Games. Has no intention of returning to Germany, if at all possible.

c. 1934

With little demand for decorative painting in Jerusalem, establishes a studio for “Artistic Advertising” on Princess Mary Avenue. Commissions grow to include exhibition work, interior design and graphics.

Business card
dotJune 28dot

The Palestine Pavilion at the World’s Fair (L’Exposition Universelle) in Brussels opens. The first of its three spacious halls displays large charts designed by Ismar David.

dotJune 7dot

Receives permission from Department Of Migration to remain in Palestine as an immigrant.

Postcard to Germany
dotNovember 1dot

Becomes a citizen of Palestine.


Part of a group show at the Cabinet of Arts, Ben Yehuda Street in Jerusalem, including work of Dr. Seleigmann and Miss Flasheim, bookbinding; Lydia Deutch, raffia bags; David Gumbel, Mr. Wolpet (Wolpert?), Lore Lilien, Mr. Hess, metal work or jewelry; Karl Henschel, commercial graphics; and Miss Keines, weaving.


Begins renting studio space in the basement of 8 Keren Kayemet Street in Rehavia section of Jerusalem at around this time.

Business card

Makes proposal to Moshe Spitzer about a family of Hebrew typefaces.

dotNovember 12dot

Desperate after Reichskristallnacht, brother Felix commits suicide with wife and two young children in Stuttgart.

Gravestone for David family, Stuttgart

Sister Selma and family flee Germany.

dotMarch 4dot

Ismar David departs Cherbourg, France on the Queen Mary to arrive in New York on March 8, to install Palestine Pavilion at the New York World’s Fair. Stays at the Mayflower Hotel.

In front of the unfinished Palestine Pavillion, 1939
dotJune 14dot

He leaves New York on the RMS Aquitania, arriving in Cherbourg on June 20.

Works for three months with Abraham Yemeni, a skilled olivewood carver, to develop modern designs for Mr. Yemeni's craftsmanship, including boxes, cigarette cases, ash trays and book covers.


Part of an informal association, the Jerusalem Group of Commercial Artists, which includes Elly Gross, Franziska Baruch, Emanuel Grau, Zvi Narkis and Eliyahu Koren. Serves as president for unknown period.


True to her word that she would not leave Germany as long as she had a child living there, Rosa David finally flees Germany and manages to join Selma in Shanghai.


Ismar David shares second prize and LP 10 with Zeev Raban in a competition to design a label for Levant Brewery Ltd. Third prize winners Meir Gur Arieh, Hami Klein, and Private E. Coleman received LP 2 each. Abel Pan chaired the panel of judges.


Selma David Spittel and family emigrate to Australia. Rosa David remains in Shanghai until the Jewish Agency arranges for her departure in 1947.


Ismar David visits Lebanon and Syria, possibly in conjunction with project for Ellen Thorbecke.

dotJune 4dot

Ismar David attends the founding of the Weizmann Institute in Rehovot.

Founding of the Weizmann Institute 1946

Places fourth and receives LP 30 in Keren Hayesod sponsored competition for a United Jewish Appeal poster. Elly Gross wins the first prize. The jury includes Mordecai Ardon, Leo Hermann, Yehuda Yaari and two members of the Association of Jewish Commercial Artists in Palestine.

dotOctober 16dot

Arrives in Boston on a Transcontinental & Western flight from Paris. According to an early resume, he comes to study U.S. printing methods.

dotNovember 25dot

Attends Weizmann Dinner at the Waldorf Astoria.

dotNovember 28dot

Seventy-two-year-old Rosa David leaves Shanghai on the General W. H. Gordon, a converted troop transport ship, bound for San Francisco. From there, she travels by train to New York City, where she meets her son, before traveling further to Palestine.

dotJanuary 12dot

Arrives at Lydda Airport, after cutting short his American trip to return to his friends in beleaguered Jerusalem.


Participates in “Modern Jerusalem Handicraft” at the Bezalel Museum, as part of the “Week of Embattled Jerusalem” program.

dotNovember 10dot

Dedication of the Weizmann Institute of Science at Rehovot, for which Ismar David designs scroll and key.

dotAugust 28dot

Robert Leslie extends invitation (and makes formal request to State Department) for Ismar David to come to U.S. in order to “show newly designed Hebrew alphabets”. Intertype Corporation desires to make the matrices. Exit visa granted in December.

dotMarch 12dot

Arrives in New York on British Overseas Airways Corp Flight BA 507/222 from London to finalize arrangements for David Hebrew with Intertype Corporation.

dotApril 18dot

Executes agreement in NYC, giving Robert Leslie full power of attorney to negotiate and conclude agreement with Intertype.

dotMay 8dot

Signs contract with Intertype to produce David Hebrew. On May 11, Intertype authorizes the complete set of final drawings for three Hebrew alphabets.

dotJuly 16dot

Robert Leslie acknowledges receipt of David Hebrew sheets 1-22.


Ismar David is serving in Israeli army.

Military document
dotDecember 17dot

Robert Leslie sends David Hebrew sheets 23-60 to Intertype.

dotJanuary 24dot

Robert Leslie sends David Hebrew sheets 61-117 to Intertype.

dotMarch 3dot

Ismar David arrives at Idlewild Airport on EL AL flight 201/30 from Lod, Israel to design and install industrial exhibitions for Bonds for Israel.

Booklet for the Bonds of Israel5

Emigrates to America and begins work in New York City.


Exhibition at the Jewish Museum in New York, NY.

  • Exhibition at Jewish Museum, 1953
  • Exhibition at Jewish Museum, 1953
  • Exhibition at Jewish Museum, 1953
Hortense Mendel in an undated photo
dotJune 3dot

Marries Hortense Mendel, publicity director of the Composing Room.

Wedding invitation
dotJune 8-26dot

Guest lectures at the Jewish Museum: Designing of Modern Jewish Ceremonial Art.

dotNovember 5dot

Test proof of new matrices of 12 point David Hebrew with italic.

dotJanuary 19dot

Test proof of corrected matrices of 12 point David Hebrew with italic.

dotJune 21dot

Recommended by George Salter and appointed calligraphy instructor in the Art School in Cooper Union, starting September 21, 1954.


Begins the first of three years teaching at Pratt Institute.

dotMarch 1dot

Delivers working drawings for “additional matrices for David Hebrew and the italic version.”

Ismar and Hortense Mendel David attend the International Design Conference in Aspen and visit the Pacific Coast.

Participates in the international design project Liber Librorum, to benefit Albert Schweizer.

dotMarch 29dot

Rosa Freund David dies in Israel.

dotNovember 15dot

Ismar David becomes naturalized citizen of the United States.

dotApril 11–June 16dot

Takes part in group exhibition, Art in Judaism: Past and Present, at the Newark Museum.

dotJune 2dot

Ismar and Hortense Mendel David attend opening ceremonies for the Bible Gardens of Israel at Woodbridge Cemetery. Guest speaker is Eleanor Roosevelt.

  • Eleanor Roosevelt at Woodbridge Cemetery
  • Eleanor Roosevelt at Woodbridge Cemetery
  • Dedication of Bible Gardens at Woodbridge Cemetery

Ismar and Hortense Mendel David attend The Art and Science of Typography: An International Seminar of Typographic Design, in New Canaan, Connecticut, organized by the Type Directors Club of New York and the World Affairs Center, New York.

dotJuly 15dot

Intertype calls to say it has finished with 10pt David Medium with Bold. After OK, would proceed with 8pt Medium with Bold. July 22 Intertype sends first proofs of 10pt David Hebrew with Bold, dated July 17, font No. 2908. More proofs from Sept 26. More proofs in October. More dated December 29.

dotMay 25- July 27dot

Ismar and Hortense Mendel David depart New York on the S.S. Flandre for vacation in Europe: France, Italy, Israel, Netherlands, Great Britain.

Hortense Mendel David and Ismar David on the S.S. Flandres

Moshe Spitzer chooses David Hebrew for Tarshish edition of S. Y. Agnon’s A Stray Dog. It is the first booklength use of David Hebrew.

A Stray Dog double spread
dotApril 21dot

Intertype sends proof sheet of 8pt David Medium with Bold.

dotOctober 9dot

Hortense Mendel David dies suddenly from a heart attack.

dotJune 3dot

Ismar David arrives in Israel for a vacation.

Welcome To Israel, 1961
dotOctober 6dot

Artwork from the 23rd Psalm is displayed at a special service during The Arts Festival, Temple Emanu-el, Yonkers, NY.

dotOctober 17dot

Marries Dorothy Hoffman.

Dorothy Hoffman David, 1964

His work is included in a comprehensive exhibition of Hebrew lettering, curated by Henri Friedlaender. The show travels from Ein Harod Kibbutz to the Printing Art Museum in Safed and then to Jerusalem, Tel Aviv and other places in Israel.


Begins work on No Man Is An Island mausoleum in Pinelawn Memorial Park. Continues to design mausoleums, ground layouts, features and graphics for Pinelawn for more than 30 years.

No Man is an Island

Students in his evening class at Cooper Union give him Vom Felsbild zum Alphabet by Károly Földes-Papp in appreciation for his instruction.

dotMay 25dot

Leaves on Type Directors Club trip to London, Edinburgh, Oxford, Salisbury, Cambridge and Paris. Meets Stanley Morison, Beatrice Warde, John Dreyfus, Matthew Carter and Adrian Frutiger.

  • Group portrait 1966
  • Group walking 1966
  • Kelvin J. Arden and Ismar David
c. 1967

Cooper Union dismisses its calligraphy instructors, including Ismar David.


Begins association with Geyer Studio.

An advertisement for Geyer Studio
Ismar David in his studio, 1975
dotSeptember 13dot

B’nai B’rith Klutznick Gallery in Washington, D.C. exhibits Ismar David’s drawings for The Psalms.

B’nai B’rith Klutznick ExhibitionB’nai B’rith Klutznick Exhibition

Pascal’s Les Pensées, Bloomfield, CT: Limited Editions Club, published.

Selected Drawings by Tully Filmus, Philadelphia: Jewish Publication Society of America, is highest scorer in Philadelphia Book Show.

dotFebruary 4dot

Exhibition: A Series of 58 Drawings for the Psalms and Ceremonial Objects for the Home at the YM-YWHA Essex County.


Selma David Spittel visits the U.S.A.

Selma David Spittel and Dorothy David in Pinelawn

The Psalms, New York: Union of American Hebrew Congregations, published and chosen for “Fifty Books of the Year” by American Institute of Graphic Arts (AIGA).

dotMarch 6dot

The Typophiles celebrate “Ismar David Day.”

Ismar David Day invitationGuests at Ismar David Day luncheon
October 16-November 1dot

Printers’ Pilgrimage to Israel with The Typophiles.

dotDecember 11dot

Exhibition, with Ernst Reichl, in AIGA Gallery (New York, NY), showing both the drawings for the Psalms and Pascal’s Les Pensées.

AIGA exhibition invitation

Included in an exhibition of selected works of calligraphy, 1941-1976, by The Cooper Union alumni and faculty in celebration of the opening of the Cooper Hewitt Museum.


Our Calligraphic Heritage, New York: Geyer Studio, published.

dotMay 28dot

Selma David Spittel dies in Perth, Australia.


Begins negotiations and various iterations of agreements with Technomark, then Arta/Letraset in 1983/84 for display versions of David Hebrew.

Begins work on a version of David Hebrew for IBM Selectric typewriter. Work proceeds through 1982, when it is aborted.

Proof for IBM Seletric typewriter system.

Conducts workshops at The Calligraphy Connection, a calligraphy conference in Minneapolis.


Conducts workshops at Philadelphia Conference on the Calligraphic Arts.

dotSeptember 2dot

Manager of Grid & Font Manufacture at Stempel, René Kerfante, writes, asking for authorization to produce “DAVID”.


Geyer Studio produces the uncompleted and now lost documentary film,“The Work of Ismar David,” with filmmaker Jeff Keller.

Ismar David in his studio, 1984

The quarterly Calligraphy Idea Exchange publishes the “Ismar David Portfolio” in the second number of the year.

dotAugust 16dot

Stempel sends first proofs of David Light and Bold.


Ismar David conducts workshops at The Calligraphy Connection, again in Minneapolis.

dotMay 1-12dot

Joins Typophiles’ group trip to Jerusalem, celebrating Robert Leslie’s one hundredth birthday.

dotMay 7dot

Gives lecture at Bezalel Academy of Arts and Design, Jerusalem.


Facilitates the donation by Stempel to the Israel Museum of his 1984 drawings for David Hebrew.

dotNovember 7dot

Dorothy Hoffman David dies.


Establishes ABCD Architectural and Graphic Studio with Helen Brandshaft.


Visits Israel, with stops in Europe.


The Hebrew Letter: Calligraphic Variations, Northvale, NJ: Jason Aronson, published.

dotJune 10dot

Inauguration of his design for the sanctuary of the Brotherhood Synagogue on Gramercy Park in New York City.

dotFebruary 26dot

Ismar David dies in New York, NY and is buried in the Garden of Peace in Pinelawn Memorial Park.

The End