History

From the bible to the banknote: milestones in the 500-year company history of Orell Füssli.

500 years of tradition

Orell Füssli Security Printing’s company history begins with book printer Christoph Froschauer’s move from Altötting in Bavaria to Zurich. In 1519, Christoph Froschauer became a citizen of Zurich. The city commissioned him with various printing contracts. These formed the basis for the establishment and expansion of the printers. Through continuous improvement of the printing process and through the use of innovative techniques, the company, which has called itself Orell Füssli since the end of the 19th century, became a market leader in security printing and security technology.

Printers at Aegertenstrasse 35
Printers at Aegertenstrasse 35, around 1921. The building at Dietzingerstrasse 3 is not yet finished.
Delivery vehicle
Delivery vehicle, June 1924.

The roots

The creation of Orell Füssli Security Printing is closely linked with the history of printing and publishing on one side and the culture of Zurich on the other. Soon after founding his printers, Christoph Froschauer became known beyond the limits of Zurich as an excellent printer and publisher of biblical texts (the Froschauer bible). Over the centuries, the printers changed hands several times. However, it always remained in the hands of important Zurich families like the Bodmers, Rahns, Heideggers, Füsslis, Gessners and Orells.

Printing, publishing, and bookselling

The three fields of business, printing, publishing, and bookselling were successfully established and have expanded continuously. In 1770, the Zurich families Orell, Gessner and Füssli founded the publishing house which published, among others, the works of Shakespeare and Homer in German. In 1780, the first edition of the “Neue Zürcher Zeitung” appeared, today known worldwide. In 1868 this became its own company, NZZ AG.

Sorting bonds
Sorting bonds, undated.
Retouching on the printing plate
Retouching on the printing plate, undated.

Advancements in printing technology and security printing

In the political turmoil of the 19th century, the focus shifted from publishing to printing. In 1827, Orell Füssli printed the first bonds, in 1843 the first European stamps, the famous “Zurich 4”, which was the second stamp to appear in the world. The development of the 10-colour photo chromic process in 1880 marked a technical success story for painting reproduction (asphalt photo lithography, also known as Orell Füssli printing). The process was spread globally by Photoglob AG, which still belongs to the Orell Füssli Group. In bond security, Orell Füssli invented the Hedopra engraving process with variable line widths and frequency. From 1970, this was the main process used for the 6th series of Swiss banknotes.

Banknotes for the Swiss National Bank

In 1911, the start of banknote printing for the Swiss National Bank became a further milestone in Orell Füssli Security Printing’s history. In 1923, the newly built business space in Zurich Wiedikon, still the head office of the Orell Füssli Group today, was where the copperplate printing process was introduced. During a strategic restructuring phase of the company in 1992, banknote printing was completely modernised and laid the foundations for printing the digitally produced design of the 8th series of Swiss banknotes with the utmost precision. At the same time, the commercial printer was sold to the Zürichsee Medien Group and the cartography division was made independent.
The most recent Orell Füssli Security Printing masterpiece is the 9th series of the Swiss National Bank. The printing processes are extremely complex and unique. The new banknotes fulfil the traditionally high Swiss standards for security. They are equipped with a variety of proven and the most modern security features. These features are incorporated into the front and back side of the banknote using various technologies on the innovative three-layered banknote substrate (Durasafe®). The combination of complex security features and challenging design distinguish the new series of notes. Because of this, these notes are difficult to forge.
In July 2002, the Orell Füssli Group bought 76% of the shares of Atlantic Zeiser AG in Emmingen. They bought the remaining 24% in 2005. Atlantic Zeiser, with operations in Germany, England, and America employs over 350 employees and produces systems for individualising products (including banknotes) and documents. This opens new possibilities for Orell Füssli in the worldwide industrial markets.

Copperplate printing tests
Copperplate printing tests at the end of the 1950s, undated.