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Romain Du Roi and calligraphy

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Davide Giorgetta's picture
Joined: 22 Nov 2009 - 1:49pm
Romain Du Roi and calligraphy
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Hi, i'm a new user of Typophile. I'm studying typography and print history. I have a question about Romain Du Roi typeface. Which was the relation between Romain Du Roi typeface and the calligraphy of that period? i read on some books that Romain Du Roi departed typography and calligraphy. i want to know more about this argoment.
Thanks for the answers!!

Blank's picture
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Joined: 25 Sep 2006 - 2:15pm
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In The Stroke Gerrit Noordzij states that “The minutes of the commission confirm what anyone can ascertain: the designs follow in detail the handwriting of Nicholas Jarry, who worked around 1650 as the calligrapher for the Cabinet du Roi. This history leaves us no other choice than to view the ‘romain du roi‘–the type–in terms of the handwriting of Jarry.” (page 17 of the English edition)

IMHO design histories that try to insert specific breaks between type design are writing are dumbing things down for the sake of creating a simple timeline. The real history of type and writing is more like dozens of threads that weave through each other as type design and writing influence each other. The more time you spend studying it the more confused you’ll get.

John Hudson's picture
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Joined: 21 Dec 2002 - 11:00am
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Do you read French, Davide? Le Romain du Roi: la typographie au service de l'Etat, 1702–2002, edit by James Mosley, is the best work on the subject. It introduces all the elements that contributed to or influence the design of the new type, including the lettering or royal medals, Jarry's calligraphy, and of course Grandjean's role as punchcutter. In this larger context, the famous plates showing the rationalised design of the committee seem to me a product unto themselves, largely leapt over by Grandjean's interpretation, which refers back much more directly to Jarry's writing and to other existing models.

The book includes a nice reproduction of a page of formal writing most probably by Jarry. Interestingly, the style of italic shown is closer to Fournier's type than that of the Italique du Roi.

Blank's picture
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Joined: 25 Sep 2006 - 2:15pm
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Le Romain du Roi: la typographie au service de l'Etat, 1702–2002

This book is unavailable on Amazon.fr, but I’ll be in France next week. Does anybody know of a bookshop in Paris where I could pick up a copy on a Sunday afternoon?

I really am an unforgivable nerd…

Nora Gummert-Hauser's picture
Joined: 7 Sep 2007 - 11:33am
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I'm not sure, if you can get it there ... you can try it at Shakespeare and Company: http://www.shakespeareandcompany.com/
Perhaps you call them and ask, but nevertheless ...the place is worth a visit.

James Mosley's picture
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Joined: 4 Jan 2007 - 4:03am
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James, I don’t know where in Paris you could rely on picking up a copy of the Romain du roi catalogue of 2002.

I know that Frits Knuf Antiquarian Books, specialists in printing history with a big stock, have some copies. They are in Vendôme. (Vendôme is not very near Paris, but I’m told it is a nice town in some splendid countryside – and that name Vendôme has irresistible echoes of Excoffon and the Fonderie Olive. Maybe a trip for another time. They would certainly supply it by post.) I think that the Musée de l’imprimerie in Lyon, where the exhibition took place, still has copies available, too.

As for the type itself, it is surrounded by myths. (No, Phil Meggs, it was not a crime punishable by death to copy it.) But it is certainly the first known type for which a separate ‘design’ was made. In fact the design seems to have begun simply as a rational way of making letters, before the idea for the making of a new type was launched. But then the two projects seem to have developed together. One of the other myths is that it was the punchcutter, Grandjean, who took the ideas of a set of non-practical technicians and made the design work in typographical terms. But it was Fournier le jeune, a professional punchcutter, who started that one. From what we have of the written record, it is clear that Jaugeon, one of the technicians directing the process, was frustrated by Grandjean’s inability to work accurately from the model in front of him, and in fact they dumped his first punches as unusable. The later ones were better.

The calligrapher who comes into the story was not Jarry (who was certainly one of the great names of the century) but Allais. Gerrit got that wrong. Jean-Baptiste Allais published a writing book in about 1680, and the committee looking after the project agreed to follow some of his designs for specific italic characters. One of the distinctive things about French calligraphy of this time is that the lead-in stroke of letters like i, m, n and so on have flat, rather ‘roman’, serifs, making them look a bit like a ‘sloped roman’. That feature did not get into type with the romain du roi, but Fournier used it fifty years later in his ‘new style’ italics, and later so did Firmin Didot. And that French flat serif also turns up in, of all places (it’s a complicated story), the italic to Times New Roman. I have a feeling that I have written about this in an earlier thread (maybe someone can find it) so I will stop here.

Davide Giorgetta's picture
Joined: 22 Nov 2009 - 1:49pm
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Thanks to every one !! Your answers are very very complete! James Mosley i agree your affermation... it's a complicated story. i'll search your thread about this argoment.. thanks for these answers!

Arno Kathollnig's picture
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Joined: 4 Jan 2007 - 3:30am
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If someone is interested in purchasing »L'art D'Ecrire« by Jean-Baptiste Alais De Beaulieu, it is available here:

http://www.fritsknuf.com/product_info.php?products_id=23886

John Hudson's picture
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Joined: 21 Dec 2002 - 11:00am
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Oh, that's very tempting. And my birthday is coming up.

James, do you know if a facsimile of L'art D'Ecrire has ever been produced?

Nick Shinn's picture
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Joined: 8 Jul 2003 - 11:00am
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...it is certainly the first known type for which a separate ‘design’ was made.

But not the first attempt at formalizing the alphabet according to mathematical principle.
I wonder if any types were made according to Albrecht Durer's deconstructions?