The characters of Garamont

The story of Claude Garamont, if he is not the author of the characters that bear his name, is also that of the typographers, type cutters and printers of humanist Paris from the XVIe century.

The story begins in the mode of a deceptive riddle: if we must remember that we cannot attribute Claude Garamont to the authorship of the characters of the same name (but with a d), why then not only were these characteristics attributed to him, but also, more curiously, how did he achieve a sufficient degree of glory to appear, from the very beginning, XVIIe century, in a gallery of portraits of famous men alongside Rabelais, Marot, Nostradamus, Ronsard, rasme and du Bellay?

Rmi Jimenes provides a detailed answer to the first question in his introduction (p. 20-28): on the one hand it is the history of the succession of Garamont and the diffusion of his characters after his death, on the other a trend, from the very beginning XVIe century, attribute to it older characters. This trend reaches a dacm point at XIXe century when we rediscovered the collections of the Imprimerie nationale and we attributed Garamont not only the King's Greeksbut also Roman characters known under the name of University Characters. From this model then emerges a multitude of variants which will spread in contemporary typography. This error ends when, in the line of Jean Paillard at the beginning of the XXe century, Beatrice Warde reattributes the model of what is called Garamond to the Sedanais typographer Jean Jannon (15801658).

But the history of misattribution, or the historiographical collection on the genetic relationship between Claude Garamont, engraver and reader printand the multiples Garamond omnipresent in our printed and digital landscape, is just a starting point: Claude Garamont. Typographer of humanism is intended above all to be the story of one who is not the origin of the type which bears his name and, therefore, the history of an entire world, that of the typographers, type cutters and printers of humanist Paris from XVIe century.

From military failure to the cultural glory of Francis Ier

The story follows a linear chronology divided into three parts: The beginnings, In the service of the king, Maturity, each comprising three chapters. In this perfectly balanced division, the first part nevertheless devotes itself to retracing more than half of Garamont's life (ca. 15001540). Devoted to the years of training, this first part also provides useful elements in general for any cultural history, in particular relating to the education of book professionals. It constitutes an excellent introduction to the bookish and academic topography of Paris lore of XVIe century, and to the educational context of the humanists and to the latter's relations with Francis Ier. Garamont's entry into the professional world indeed coincides with this moment when François Ier, after the defeat of Pavia, decides to achieve in the cultural domain what had failed from a military point of view (p. 47). He then undertook the publication of the manuscripts from his library, and initiated the project of creating the royal college, which corresponds, in contrast to the traditional University, to the establishment of educational institutions and places of knowledge, which depend directly on royal power. In the same spirit, the king's interest in typography aims to acquire national prestige by adopting a humanist typography, rivaling that of the Italians, and new compared to the old bastard Gothic (p. 58). This approach also triggered the first developments in orthotypography and the introduction into French of new diacritic signs such as the cedilla and the apostrophe (p. 7173). It is around these projects that the panthon of Parisian printers is organized: Geoffroy Tory, the Estienne family, Simon de Colines, Charlotte Guillard (p. 5763), who provide the framework for Garamont's career.

THE King's Greeks

The second part deals in detail with the ten years during which Garamont began to carry out the King's Greekscommanded by François Ier in 1540. There we meet Conrad Nobar, Greek printer recruited by the crown, who was succeeded by Robert Estienne, Ange Vergce, calligrapher whose writing serves as a model for the famous characters, and especially Jean de Gagny, chaplain to the king and doctor at the college of Navarre, who gleans manuscripts from the monasteries of the kingdom in order to have them printed. It was under his patronage that Garamont worked to establish a royal printing press.

The 1550 edition of the New Testament by Robert Estienne was composed with the Greeks of King de Garamont.

It is fascinating to appreciate the technical difficulties raised by the project of King's Greeks (p. 144148), as well as the innovation and success they represent. R. Jimenes demonstrates great mastery of historical narration, for example by exposing the causes of Garamont's various places of practice, and in particular his stay at the Hôtel de Nesle, where he will be evicted by the goldsmith Benvenuto Cellini, or the future full of romantic twists and turns of the King's Greeks (p. 151158). But here again, the real coup is to show, through these characters and this very typographic story, a much broader story whose stakes are clearly seen: the cultural and military policy of François Ier (p. 9599 then 131133), the motivations of Jean de Gagny, a Catholic theologian, who seeks to oppose an alternative to the reformed views of Robert Estienne (p. 124128), the history of technology finally, which is embodied here in that of book artisans , but whose relationships with other circles (such as that of goldsmiths) are often emphasized.

publisher, bookseller, engraver

The third part covers the last twenty years of Garamont's life, a period of maturity which followed the failure of the printing press at the college of Nesle and the king's disengagement from the royal college project. These years are marked by the death of Francis Ier in 1547. We then see Garamont trying other activities: he became in turn a publisher, then a bookseller, and ended up resuming his initial function, however favoring engraving at the foundry. Maturity acquires, throughout this third part, a double meaning: on the one hand, after his peak in the service of the king, Garamont returns in a way to less prestigious activities; on the other hand, this period corresponds to a perfect mastery of his art, a stylistic development, and a commercially prosperous moment (he enriches his catalog of characters, he recruits, his production intensifies). This duplicity tells us something remarkable which this time has more to do with a moral portrait: on the one hand, Garamont seeks less the reputation of his person than the wide diffusion of his characters, of which he does not retain the exclusivity (p. 189), and in this meaning he acts by trading; on the other hand, he seeks less innovation than perfect mastery, improvement and standardization of what already exists, and in this he acts as a technician.

Finally, this third part raises the question of Garamont's probable adherence to the Reformation. These hypotheses had been anticipated in the first part by presenting the first master of Garamont, Antoine Augereau (p. 7376) and his execution following theAffair of the Cupboards, in 1534. They develop in the conclusion of the work which takes on the appearance of a sociological investigation, taking advantage of the information provided by marriages, wills and inheritances. The moral portrait then becomes clearer to present Garamont in the light of his personal relationships with family and friends (p. 204210). It is therefore necessary to underline this other interest of the work as a whole which excels in showing the permeability of the environments considered, and draws a vivid portrait of the relationships, including family relationships, that these people maintain. Historical rigor gains through fine and careful analyses, a good example of which is that of the relations between Robert Estienne and Claude Garamont, which R. Jimenes qualifies even though their collaboration was too easily inferred from friendly relations (p. 135136).

To make room for meager criticism, we could say that the non-specialist reader can sometimes get lost in the multiplication of the names of the characters, or even suffer from the allusive nature of certain references (thus the name of Aldus Manutius is announced as an obvious fact). , p.59). conversely certain labels, such as that ofhumanist, perhaps have the disadvantage of simplifying more delicate historical realities through an a posteriori reading. But this should not make us forget the essential: Claude Garamont. Typographer of humanism fulfills its promises perfectly: it constitutes a majestic inventory of the question and an informed and up-to-date biography. As such, it is certainly a reference work for historians of typography and books.

Far from confining himself to this readership, however, R. Jimenes offers an abundant story during which the novice discovers that alongside the printer there is a constellation of professions among which those of the foundryman, and especially the engraver or type cutter, stand out prominently. . This is what makes a work on an ultimately niche subject an artful and exciting book. Finally, it is remarkable that a work on an expert typographer is also a magnificent icono-textual object, as richly illustrated as it is pleasant to read.