Skip to main content
Grolier Club Exhibitions

The First Golden Age



Simon de Colines (c. 1490–1546). Paris: Simon de Colines, 1528. Folio.

Jenson’s roman of 1470 was a game-changing typeface, followed in 1495 by the revolutionary Aldus/Griffo roman. Then, the French punchcutters of the first half of the sixteenth century brought the development of roman text types to its apogee, subsequently forming the basis of many of the most important roman and italic types, such as Jannon’s in the seventeenth century and Caslon’s in the eighteenth century. This book uses one of the earliest of the influential French typographic romans.

LENDER: Jerry Kelly



Geoffroy Tory (1480–1533). New York: The Grolier Club, 1927. Folio.

Bruce Rogers was a great admirer of Geoffroy Tory’s work. Rogers long hoped to produce a new edition in English of Tory’s Champ Fleury. As early as 1914 Rogers proposed the book to The Grolier Club, but it would be very costly, so they turned it down. However, Rogers would not give, and over a decade later the Grolier Club agreed to take on the publication.

Beautifully printed at William Edwin Rudge’s shop in Mount Vernon, NY, it is one of the finest editions published by the Grolier Club, and among Rogers’ thirty favorite examples of his work as a book designer.

LENDER: The Grolier Club



Giovanni Antonio Castiglione (c. 1484–c. 1557). Milan: G.A. Castiglione, 1541. Octavo.

In the early part of the sixteenth century, italic types evolved in two veins: one, based on the first italic type cut by Francesco Griffo for Aldus Manutius (no. 7), is rounder and more irregular in form than a second version, the chancery italics initiated by Ludovico Arrighi (no. 11). Castiglione’s italic is one of the most elegant of the early chancery italics. It is upright, showing that slope is not a necessary attribute of italic typefaces. There are several swash variants (swash upright roman capitals are very unusual). In the lowercase, there is a lovely swash e, v and x.

LENDER: Jerry Kelly



Claude Garamond (c. 1510–1561). Paris: Charles Estienne, 1551. Folio.

The sixteenth century was a golden age for French typography. Among the remarkable accomplishments of the great French punchcutters, Claude Garamond (or Garamont) is unsurpassed. In addition to trend-setting romans and an assortment of italics, Garamond was commissioned by King François I to cut a new Greek font for royal use. The resulting types became known as the grecs du roi.

Originally produced in one medium size, a smaller and larger size were added later. The three sizes comprising the complete grecs du roi appear together for the first time in a double-page spread of this edition of the History of Rome by Appianus.

LENDER: Jerry Kelly



Robert Granjon (1513 –1589). Lyon: Robert Granjon, 1557. Octavo.

If Robert Granjon had his way, works from different nationalities in different languages would be printed in different types: the Italians had their elegant humanistic roman and chancery cursive, the Germans had their fraktur and schwabacher fonts, and Granjon hoped that a unique gothic cursive style would be adopted as the preferred type for French texts. Towards that goal he produced a so-called civilité type. This category of types is named after this book. 

While Granjon’s civilité types are a virtuosic achievement, it is his italic fonts that have had the most lasting influence.

PROVENANCE: The American Type Founders (ATF) library; later Columbia University Rare Books and Manuscripts Library



Claude Garamond (c.1490–1561). Paris: Michael Vascosan, 1553. Folio.

Claude Garamond (sometimes known as Garamont) apprenticed with Antoine Angereau (c. 1500–1534). His first roman types began to appear in the 1530s. There was a long and fruitful relationship between Garamond and the Estienne family, though Garamond produced type for many other printers too, including Plantin and Michel Vascosan. Garamond brought exceptional elegance and refinement to the model. Garamond worked primarily as one of the first independent type designers, doing little printing and publishing on his own account.

In the twentieth century, there were probably more types called “Garamond” than any other name.

LENDER: Jerry Kelly



Christopher Plantin (d. 1589). Antwerp: 1567. Quarto.

Christopher Plantin was the most successful printer of his day. Born in France, he established his press in Antwerp. Plantin was not a type designer, but he showed excellent taste in typefaces. He was fortunate to live during a golden era of typeface manufacture. Therefore, this index displays romans by Garamond, italics and civilités by Granjon, Hebrews by Le Bé, and other prime examples of the finest punchcutters of the time.

Very few type specimens were produced in the first century and a half of printing; Index Sive Specimen Characterum is among the earliest, and among the rarest. Only two copies are known to exist, both in the Plantin-Moretus Museum in Antwerp.

[Shown in the facsimile produced by Douglas C. McMurtrie, New York: 1924.]

LENDER: The Grolier Club



Guillaume Le Bé (1523/4–1598). Paris: Officina Gulielmi Le Bé, 1609. Quarto.

Guillaume Le Bé was born in Troyes, France. He studied punchcutting in Robert Estienne’s type foundry before moving to Venice in 1545. There, in addition to cutting some handsome roman types, he cut eight Hebrew types. It is a great tribute to Le Bé’s skill as a cutter of Hebrew types that Garamond, who himself cut several Hebrew typefaces, marketed some of Le Bé’s Hebrew types, along with his own wares.

PROVENANCE: The American Type Founders (ATF) library; later Columbia University Rare Books and Manuscripts Library



Joseph Moxon (1627–1691). London: Printed for the author, 1683. Octavo.

Joseph Moxon was the son of a printer. He was born in Yorkshire and probably grew up in the Netherlands. He pursued several careers, rising to the post of Hydrographer to the King.

Mechanick Exercises was the first manual in English of the printer’s art, and in many respects it would remain the most thorough and best such instruction book for centuries. Forty years passed before another comprehensive manual would be published in any language. Just about all such works that followed after Moxon were based to some extent on his manual.

LENDER: The Grolier Club