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Grolier Club Exhibitions

The Age of Reason

Description et Perfection des Arts et Métiers, des Artes Consruire les Caractères. Description et Perfection des Arts et Métiers, des Artes Consruire les Caractères.


Phillippe Grandjean (1666–1714) et al. Paris: André Jammes, 1961. Folio.

Under Louis XIV committees were set up for the study of many disciplines, including the Bignon Commission, charged with the investigation of the techniques used in various arts. In 1692 the commission analyzed the design of letters, rendering them with ruler and compass over a grid of 2,304 squares: 36 columns of 64 rows each. These designs were engraved onto copperplates by Louis Simonneau. The plates still exist at the Imprimerie Nationale; they were reprinted for the portfolio exhibited here.

The romain du roi was a proprietary type for the Imprimerie Royale. The rational, vertical shading and high stroke contrast formed a template which inspired punchcutters from Fournier to Bodoni.

LENDER: The Grolier Club

La Science Pratique de L'Imprimerie.


Martin Dominique Fertel (1684–1752). Saint Omer: Published by the author, 1723. Quarto.

Since its beginnings, printing had been practiced in secrecy in the hope of providing competitive advantage to those “in the know.” Printers jealously guarded the techniques of their craft. Fertel deplored this situation, feeling that good practice should be disseminated far and wide. La Science Pratique de l’Imprimerie is the first printer’s manual in French. It is also the first to show model designs for title pages, complicated two-column setting and annotations.

LENDER: Jerry Kelly

Indice de Caratteri...Nella Stampa Vaticana.


[Vatican Printing Office]. Rome: Stampa Vaticana, 1628. Octavo.

The Vatican established its printing office in 1587 by a decree of Pope Sixtus V, with the aim of printing works to spread the Gospel far and wide. Therefore, the shop amassed an impressive inventory of exotic fonts for typesetting in myriad languages. Many of these are shown in the Indice.

Updike called this early type specimen book “among the most interesting specimens in the history of printing, [it] shows the material of a seventeenth century Italian printing-office at its simplest and best.”

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

Virgil / Bucolica, Georgica, et Aeneis.


John Baskerville (1706–1775). Birmingham: John Baskerville, 1757. Quarto.

John Baskerville left a promising career as a writing master and letter carver to go into japanning, where he made his fortune. He then decided to devote his resources and efforts to type design and printing, which he sought to raise to a higher level. Baskerville addressed every aspect of the art, from ink and presses to, importantly, type and paper.

His fonts take their cue from the rationalized letterforms of the romain du roi, but freed from the directives of a scientific committee, and with his experience as a calligrapher, Baskerville was able to produce much more lively and successful fonts.

LENDER: Jerry Kelly

Imprimerie Nationale Catalogue.


[Jean Jannon (1580–1658)]. Paris: Imprimerie Nationale, 1968, two volumes. Quarto.

Poor Jean Jannon. Or should we say poor Claude Garamond? We can feel sympathy for Jannon since some exceptional roman and italic typefaces which he cut were credited to Claude Garamond. On the other hand, Garamond’s superlative romans and italics, produced almost a century before Jannon’s, are not as widespread as Jannon’s work which bears his name. Therefore, Garamond may be most well-known for types which he did not cut. It is a bit confusing; a case of mistaken identity which was not unraveled until Beatrice Warde (writing under the pseudonym “Paul Beaujon”) unearthed a unique copy of a sixteenth-century type specimen that revealed the true Garamond types.

LENDER: Jerry Kelly

Manuel Typographique. Manuel Typographique.


Pierre-Simon Fournier (1712–1768). Paris: Printed for the author, 1764–66. Octavo, two volumes.

Pierre-Simon Fournier (also known as Fournier Le Jeune, to distinguish him from his printer father, Jean-Claude Fournier), was among the most important typographers of eighteenth-century France, and not only because of his popular transitional type designs. He was also one of the earliest developers of a point system (including features such as a pica divided into 12 points), that are in use to this day. Fournier’s system allowed for consistent measuring of type sizes.

Fournier’s type designs were very influential, forming the basis of a popular typeface revival produced by the Monotype Corporation in 1929.

PROVENANCE: Daniel Berkeley Updike, author of Printing Types and proprietor of the Merrymount Press; later David R. Godine

Proef van Letteren.


Enschedé Type Foundry / Joan Michael Fleischman (1701–1768). Haarlem: J. Enschedé, 1768. Octavo.

Fleischman was born in Germany in 1701. He moved to Holland in 1728, where he worked for a number of type foundries, but after 1743 he produced punches almost exclusively for the Enschedé company in Holland.

Fleischman’s letterforms have high contrast between the thick and thin strokes. The skillfulness of his cutting is exemplary. In his preface, Johannes Enschedé writes that Fleischman’s work “constitutes an endowment from which posterity may benefit for many centuries to come.”

Fleischman died on 27 May 1768, the same year this type specimen book is dated. 

LENDER: The Grolier Club

A Specimen of Printing Types, by William Caslon, Letter-Founder to His Majesty.


William Caslon (1692–1766). London: Printed by Galabin and Baker, 1785. Octavo.

Caslon worked as an engraver, including engraving words and names on gun barrels. Such experience would serve him well when he turned his attention to punchcutting and printing types in 1716.

Caslon absorbed the Dutch models and added his own peculiarly English character to them, creating somewhat irregular yet pleasing and easy-to-read fonts. For a time Caslon’s types were very popular, but in the early nineteenth century they were all but forgotten in the wake of the wave of types based on the modern style of Bodoni and Didot. However, the Caslon types were far from dead: Caslon’s types were revived around 1840, since which time they have never been excluded from the printer’s repertoire.

PROVENANCE: American type designer George Abrams; later Jerry Kelly

A Specimen by William Caslon, Letter-Founder.


William Caslon (1692–1766). London: William Caslon, 1734. Broadside.

In addition to several type specimen books, William Caslon also issued broadside type specimens. This was not unusual; indeed the first type specimen ever, printed by Erhardt Ratdolt, was a broadside. Included in this specimen, printed to be folded and included in Chalmers Encyclopedia, are a few exotic alphabets, blackletter typefaces, and ornaments, together with several of Caslon’s famous romans and italics.

LENDER: Jerry Kelly

Poems by Goldsmith and Parnell.


William Bulmer (1757–1830). London: Shakespeare Printing Office, 1795. Quarto.

Like Baskerville before him, and whose work he builds upon, William Bulmer sought to improve the art of printing through the use of exceptionally beautiful and modern types, fine materials, and careful presswork. Bulmer’s printing and Martin’s types are combined here with wood engravings by Bewick and paper handmade by Whatman in the production of a volume that does indeed “raise the Art of Printing.” The types used in this book would be re-cut by the British Monotype Corporation and later issued in digital form.

LENDER: Jerry Kelly

A Specimen of Printing Types and Various Ornaments. A Specimen of Printing Types and Various Ornaments.


S. & C. Stephenson. London: Printed by A. Macpherson, 1856. Octavo.

The Stephenson type foundry thrived at a time when Great Britain was the leading industrial power in the world. Though not as large as major competitors such as Caslon and the Fann Street Foundry, the Stephenson firm was still a major resource for an exceptionally wide variety of popular type styles. John Bell took Simon Stephenson (d. 1864) into partnership in 1789, transferring ownership of the foundry to him late in the year.

The type known today as “Bell,” included as one of the core Microsoft fonts, an elegant take on the Baskerville transitional style and a most original set of decorated capitals, appears in the pages of this specimen book.

LENDER: The Grolier Club

Oratio Dominica. Oratio Dominica.


Giambattista Bodoni (1740–1813). Parma: Bodoni, 1806. Folio.

In 1758 Bodoni moved to Rome to work at the Propaganda Fide, a press set up by the Vatican to spread the Gospel. One of the special features of this press was the printing of texts in foreign languages, including many which used exotic and uncommon scripts.

In the early 1800s Bodoni set and printed The Lord’s Prayer (Oratio Dominica) in 155 languages, including such unusual tongues as Greenlandic, Madagascarese, and Javanese. Aside from being a triumph of polyglot printing, the Oratio is a beautiful piece of typography: the multi-rule borders on each page are a precursor to Bodoni’s Manuale Tipografico.

PROVENANCE: Bruce Rogers; later David R. Godine

The History of Printing in America.


Isaiah Thomas (1749–1831). Worcester: The Press of Isaiah Thomas, Jun. 1810. Octavo.

Isaiah Thomas was born into poverty in Boston on 19 January 1749. His father abandoned the family when Isaiah was six, leading the young boy to be apprenticed to a rather shady printer named Zechariah Fowle.

The History of Printing in America has become a standard work on which all subsequent studies of the subject have built. By America Thomas meant the United States, for printing was practiced south of the border for about a century before the first press was established in the colonies.

At the age of seventy-six Thomas wrote: “Could I live my life over again and choose my employment it would be that of Printer.”

LENDER: The Grolier Club