In October I visited Austria for the launch of Ghostletters Vienna by Tom Koch. While there I was taken on many trips across the city, and also on a visit to the Schildermalermuseum (Sign Painter Museum). It is a little-known gem which should be a place of pilgrimage for anyone in the sign and lettering world.

The museum is housed in the former workshop of Josef Samuel, the last in four generations of Viennese sign painters. The business was originally set up in 1882 by Josef’s Great Grandfather and the museum contains material gathered across the 130 years that elapsed between then and the recent closure of the shop.

Signage for the Samuel business

Starting with the founder successive generations realised the value of keeping their work, and other materials connected with it. A number of pieces advertising the business itself were on display.

Gold & Glass Pieces

The business was highly versatile, able to work in a variety of techniques, including gilding and glass work.

Sample Panels

One of my favourite parts of the museum were the two dozen or so small sample panels, typically painted in the slower winter months as examples to show prospective clients of the type of work that could be commissioned.

Firmaschilder Ladenaufschriften, Wien 1899-1900

Josef brought out a number of books from the turn of the century, including this one which was a series of photographs documenting Viennese signage between 1899-1900.

Der Praktische Schildermaler by Hans J. Jedlitschka

A second book comprised a series of signs and layouts. (Damon Styer of New Bohemian Signs has written about this book here.)

Trade Directory

A trade directory featured a mixture of sign painter listings, and advertisements for them and their suppliers.

Final Apprenticeship Piece

Arnold Samuel (junior) completed this piece at the end of his apprenticeship, with sketches on display alongside the finished work.

Sketches & Cards

In addition to finished pieces and samples, a large collection of noteworthy and other sketches and pieces on paper and card have been saved.

Entrance & Artefacts

As you would expect, the entrance is well signed. Once inside it is possible to see some of the antique equipment that still sits where it was once used.

Other Work & Museum Founder

Finally, some samples of other signage, pictorials, and a portrait of museum founder, Josef Samuel. I highly recommend making an appointment to visit if you are travelling to Austria, or any of the neighbouring countries. There is no direct charge, but voluntary donations are welcomed. Appointments can be made via the museum website.

For more on Ghostletters Vienna, see this blog post on Ghostsigns about the launch, the book’s home page and Facebook page. It can be purchased directly from the publisher, or via Amazon and Abebooks (UK and USA).