Jan Šetek and type foundry PangudiLuhur Part 1

Jurgen-Wegner-Post-PictureIndonesia is our most populous neighbour with about 260 million or a little over ten times the population of Australia. The Dutch, trading as the Vereenigde Oost-Indische Compagnie (Dut., Dutch East India Company), established themselves there at the beginning of the seventeenth century. Indonesia remained a Dutch colony until independence after the Second World War in 1949. How much printing would a country of over a quarter a billion people have produced? How many printeries and related enterprises would there have been? And also, how much printing history would there have been over the past four hundred years since European involvement?

Today’s capital of Jakarta was originally called Batavia. The area came under Dutch control in 1619 and was officially named thus in 1621. For over three hundred years it was the capital of the Nederlands-Indië or theDutch East Indies. Today Jakarta has over ten million inhabitants and is therefore almost twice the size of a Melbourne or a Sydney. It is located on the northwest side of Indonesia’s most populous island of Java. To the South East of Jakartais the special economic region of Yogjakarta with the small town of Muntilan just to the north west of the latter.

Like many young people, Jan Šetek(of the Utility Press private press) went to see the world, an interest which continues into later life. On a visit to Bali,Šetek spotted a business selling printing supplies including type. The type was old and looked not to have been touched since it had been cast. An inveterate experimenter, Šetek bought some of the type and brought it back home with him to Queensland! There he tried printing from it on an Adana but encountered a problem he hadn’t thought of—the type was not the normal Anglo-American type height but European. So, he set about modifying his Adana and then printed some ephemera on it. While he did not keep the packets the type came in, he did cut off and mount onto A4 cards all of the original twenty-six foundry labels “for the record”. Imagine the weight of these. Both the Adana and the “Bali” type were gifted to me and they are now part of the Brandywine Archive.

The labels all bear the name and the logo of the PenuanganHuruf “PangudiLuhur”. Penuangan means pouring also as in the casting of metal while huruf means alphabet. So, the pouring of alphabets as in casting type in a type foundry. And what a wonderful turn of phrase this is. I have been unable to find the meaning of “PangudiLuhur” though luhur means grand or glorious. The word is still in use and seems mostly to be a name attached to schools. The quotation marks seem to indicate the name of a significant person, event or perhaps a concept?

The foundry labels describe a number of varieties of type and type matter such as:


  • Baskerville (type face name)
  • Bembo (type face name)
  • Goudy Text (type face name)
  • Letterwit (Dutch for spaces)
  • Randen (Dutch for borders)
  • Swing bold (type face name)
  • Times New Roman (type face name)

Nothing very unusual here though, of course, the above is the selection by Šetek for his practical printing. There may well have been some really exotic types still available which he did not buy. Or maybe these were just the rest, type that people didn’t want. I wonder what sort of Randen they were? Probably just plain ruled borders as anything fancy would have been dignified with a name (and sold). Some of the other labels are handwritten with one undecipherable while some of the printed labels look to be of great age.

What was the PenuanganHuruf “PangudiLuhur”? What is its history (or even the history of type founding in Indonesia)? Was it a big type foundry and is anything left of it to be seen? Muntilan does not seem to be one of those rapidly developing places in Southeast Asia but rather a sleepy rural hamlet of largely farmland. So perhaps the Jin. Kartini 2 is still there today after all these years. Maybe even the foundry too, forgotten, quietly gathering dust.

Jürgen Wegner, Librarian, Sydney

Originally published in The book ark, 87 (Aug. 2016), p. [14-17].

If you have any information regarding this article, please share. I’ve done some research myself, here it is.

Coen Fransen 24-2-2018


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