From the Bookcase no. 1—French Renaissance Printing Types

This is the first in a new series of posts. These are not Blue Pencil autopsies of books nor are they conventional book reviews. Instead, these are reports on what I have learned from reading books. These notes will either encourage followers of Blue Pencil to buy and read a book or save them the trouble and expense of doing so.

French Renaissance Printing Types: A Conspectus
Hendrik D.L. VervlietNew Castle, Delaware: The Bibliographical Society, The Printing Historical Society and Oak Knoll Press, 2010

This is the first in a new series of posts. These are not Blue Pencil autopsies of books nor are they conventional book reviews. Instead, these are reports on what I have learned from reading books. These notes will either encourage followers of Blue Pencil to buy and read a book or save them the trouble and expense of doing so.

“A majority of today’s text types, either Roman, Italic, Greek or Hebrew, derive directly or indirectly from type designs conceived or perfected in sixteenth-century France. They became a kind of European standard in the 1540s, towards the end of the reign of François I. From the second half of the sixteenth century onwards they were available world-wide as is shown by the Plantin (Antwerp, 1567) or Berner (Frankfurt, 1592) type-specimens and the many French faces occurring in sixteenth- and seventeenth-century English, German, Spanish and Italian printing.” p. 15

“The status of their design, often going by the prestigious name of Garamont, remained unchallenged for two centuries…. While their influence as type designs faded during the following two centuries, the pleasing serenity and excellent readability of the so-called ‘Garamonds’ caused a revival from the middle of the nineteenth century onwards. It persists to this day. Moreover, when demand was low, as it was for very small sizes or for Hebrew types, they enjoyed a remarkable longevity. Cast upon original matrices, some of them remained available for sale into the first quarter of the twentieth century.” p. 15

“Except for Estienne’s Hebrew specimen of c. 1543 (Vervliet, 2004, 166), no French sixteenth-century printer’s specimens have been preserved to my knowledge, though a royal ordannance of 1586 required the presses to register an ‘essay et epreuve de tous les sortes et especes de characteres’. Intended as a measure of censorship, it was apparently not enforced (Pallier, 1975, 39, n. 142).” p. 20

…facts deserve respect….” p. 20

[this could be the motto of Blue Pencil]

“In the fifteenth century, so it is assumed, the technical printing crafts, such as letter-engraving, type-casting, composing, presswork, and correcting, were concentrated in a single pair of hands or under one roof and master. Except for papermaking and binding, the whole work was done in house. This view means that each printer had his own individual typefaces.… In fact for the late-fifteenth or the early-sixteenth centuries some typefaces start appearing concurrently from different presses (Proctor, 1898, 14; Consentius, 1929; Johnson, 1943; Carter, 1969, 105), implying that some craftsmen had settled down as independent type-casters, owning their own shops, however small, and earning their living from the orders of different customers.” pp. 23–24

16th c. several models of type procurement:
early 16th century:
1. punches normally belonged to a single owner
occasionally sold or bequeathed
hiring or lending them was exceptional
2. proprietary matrices could be outsourced for casting by an independent type-caster on a piece-work basis

mid-16th century:
3. regular trade in matrices and strikes by both printers and booksellers

late 16th century:
4. casting type replaced selling matrices or strikes

In-house type casting gradually disappeared during the 16th century, surviving only in large houses such as that of the Estiennes or the Imprimerie Royale. p. 25

“Domestic type-casting dwindled as typefounders ostensibly managed to hoard most punches or matrices floating around on the market.… One of the fatal consequences was the petrifying of French type design and punchcutting in the century [17th] that followed.” p. 25

French court pushed the Romanization of vernacular printing in the 1520s p. 27

competition among punchcutters so fierce in the 1540s that it forced some of them to emigrate (e.g. François Guyot who moved to Antwerp and then London) p. 27

France flooded with Gothic Texturas, Rotundas and Bastardas at end of 15th c. p. 27
glut produced a decrease of professional punchcutters and “consequentially a catastrophic plunge in printing standards”

Claude Garamont had a typefoundry, probably operated with the printer and caster Pierre Gaultier p. 28
he provided matrices, strikes and moulds to customers
he did not sell punches except when they were part of a contract such as the situation with the Grecs du Roy

in the 1570s Hendrik van den Keere was a typefounder pp. 28–29
his foundry was headed by Thomas de Vechter who later set up the earliest Dutch typefoundry in Leyden
he supplied founts to printers throughout the Low Countries (including Christophe Plantin)
he also struck or engraved matrices upon demand “for customers willing to bear the costs” such as Plantin

Peter II Schoeffer (c. 1466–1547) one of the earliest known independent punchcutters p. 29
active from 1497 on
operated a small typefoundry but earned most of his income from selling matrices
designs available throughout German-speaking regions, Paris, Lyons, Venice, London, Cambridge, Salamanca, Coimbra and the Low Countries

Robert Granjon never owned a typefoundry p. 29
itinerant punchcutter working alone or with an apprentice
worked in Lyons, Paris, Geneva, Antwerp, Frankfurt and Rome
earned living from engraving punches and selling matrices or strikes

mid-16th century printers rarely owned proprietary typefaces p. 29

p. 30
division of labor in type making was:
striking matrices
justifying matrices
dressing type
usually performed by one person in 16th century with possible aid of an apprentice
gradually division of labor emerged during the century
basic split between the punchcutter and the typefounder

1539 Villers-Cotterets decree the first document to distinguish typefounders from printers, though it says nothing about punchcutters p. 30

“Punchcutting also demanded a longer investment in time [than typecasting]: to cut a new size and provide a set of strikes, say for Roman or Italic, required four to six months’ full-time work; it may have been a bit less for the thirty or so sorts of Hebrew, but substantially more when the several hundreds of sorts of a new Greek type were needed (Vervliet, 1968, 334–7).” p. 31

it can be assumed that most punchcutters were trained in a printing house or a type foundry p. 31

409 new type designs (Roman, Italic, Greek and Hebrew) introduced in France in the 16th century (excluding music and Gothic types) p. 32

1500–1519 1.2 new faces per year

1520–1559 6.5 new faces per year

1560–1600 2 new faces per year

punchcutting was affected by religious wars and political unrest p. 32
also by the glut of excellent, new faces in the middle of the century
and by the practice of hoarding strikes and matrices by printers

typecasters who were not also engravers cast type from matrices supplied by printers p. 33
often did job printing as well
first Parisian typecaster was probably Jean I Larcher dit Dupré (period 1481–1504)

Jean Vatel (fl. 1513–1522)
printer and punchcutter in Paris

Simon de Colines (c. 1490–1546) pp. 35–36
introduced coherent roman and italic types equal to or better than those of Italian printers
first to do so outside of Italy
earliest types c.1518
leading letter specialist of his time
may have coached both Antoine Augereau and Claude Garamont

Maitre Constantin (c. 1500–c. 1533) p. 36
helped initiate the new Aldine style in Paris
hypothesis that he was responsible for Robert I Estienne’s faces 1530–1533
modeled on Francesco Griffo’s Great Primer Roman in De Aetna (1495)
led to 5 sizes—first coherent roman type family

Antoine Augereau (c. 1500–1534) p.p. 37–38
may have been instructed by de Colines and may have been Garamont’s teacher in punchcutting
imitated the lighter Estienne romans instead of the darker ones by de Colines
co-printed some books with de Colines
was strangled and burned on Christmas Day 1534 for heresy

François Gryphius (fl. 1531–1545) pp. 38–39
also a printer and possibly a graphic artist
used unique types and thus assumed to have done punchcutting as well

Claude Garamont (c. 1510–1561) pp. 39–40
born c. 1510 not earlier as previously surmised
entered type trade c. 1535
apprentice c. 1525–34
journeyman c. 1535–38
master c. 1538–1561 with apprentices as typecasters
first romans, early italics and hebrews cut 1536–1548
Grecs du Roy contract 1540
involved briefly in publishing 1545–1546
second romans and late italics 1548–1561
died 1561

Michel Du Boys (c. 1510–1561) pp. 40–41
Jean Arnoul dit Picard (fl. 1539–1545) pp. 41–42

Pierre Haultin (c. 1510–1578) pp. 42–43
one of the best type designers of the 16th c.
best known for high legibility typefaces with large x-height at small sizes (especially his Nonpareils)
peak of his career was spent in Geneva and Lyons 1550–1565
cut types for Paulus Manutius and for Protestant Bibles
ran a type foundry 1571–1587 in La Rochelle
provided founts to England

Robert Granjon (c. 1513–1590) pp. 43–44
bookseller from 1539 on; and punchcutter from 1543 to 1590
worked for Christopher Plantin in mid-1560s
his italics the best of all the 16th c. French punchcutters; his romans the equal of Garamont’s
types used throughout Europe

Guillaume I Le Bé (1523/1524–1598) pp. 44–45
trained in punchcutting at the Estienne press in the early 1540s
specialized in Hebrew and music types
also worked in the papermaking trade
founder of the main Paris typefoundry
critical inventory of matrices by Garamont, Haultin and others

Charles Chiffin (fl. 1545–1549) p. 45
goldsmith from Tours
copied Aldine italics

Nicolas II de Villiers (c. 1550–1613) pp. 45–46
little known printer and lettercutter
probably worked on contract

Philippe I Danfrie (c. 1531–c. 1610) p. 46
engraver, globe maker, metal worker
punchcutter in 1560s

Julien Du Clos (fl. 1564–1584) pp. 46–47
substandard faces used by this printer; new and thus assumed to have been cut by him

Jacques I de Sanlecque (c. 1570–1648) p. 47
birth date revised from c. 1558
types attributed to him are highly hypothetical

Guillaume II Le Bé (c. 1570–1645) p. 47
succeeded his father in the foundry
expert in oriental typography

Johannes Trechsel (fl. 1489–1498) p. 47
work not identified
claims to have cut a rotunda

unclear if Robert I Estienne (c. 1503–1559) cut types p. 48

no types cut by Sebastian Gryphius (1493–1556), Pierre Attaignant (c. 1490–1551), Nicolas Du Chemin (fl. 1540–1576)

Matthieu Poigret (fl. 1540–1571) and Guillaume Thiboust (fl. 1544–1558) probably cut cast types; both music printers

Guy Ogereau cited as a punchcutter 1557–1558

Charles II Estienne (1537–c. 1571) may have engraved a few punches p. 49

not included in this book

Jean Micart (fl. 1541–1545) type caster with punchcutting skills

P. Ricard probably the same individual as Jean Arnoul (see above)

Jean Le Fevre (fl. 1573–1590) probably a wood cutter

Jacques Sabon (d. 1581) supposedly a punchcutter for Christian Egenolff in 1560s p. 49

undocumented work as a punchcutter

recut some unfinished Garamonts for Plantin

specialized in typefounding

names of typefaces first appeared in the 1520s p. 51

standardization happened in the mid-16th c.

due to the ascendancy of regional typefoundries

[see charts on text types and titling types pp. 52–53]

[pp. 81–426 reproduce facsimiles at real size of 409 typefaces cut in France during the 16th c. There are 216 romans, 78 italics, 60 Greeks, 40 Hebrews and 3 Arabics. Simon de Colines is credited with 20 romans, 4 italics, 2 Greeks and 1 Hebrew. Claude Garamont is credited with 19 romans, 8 italics, 9 Greeks and 3 Hebrews. Robert Granjon is credited with 19 romans, 30 italics, 9 Greeks and 1 Hebrew. (His civilités are not included in this book.) Pierre Haultin is credited with 20 romans, 8 italics, 4 Greeks and 2 Hebrews.]