Paris, Christmas Eve, 1534. As countless families delighted in the happy faces of their children, at the Place Maubert
, 35-year-old Claude Garamond
was experiencing the most terrible moment of his life. He was watching with tears in his eyes as his teacher, the printer Antoine Augereau
was burnt at the stake, along with his books.
These were turbulent times, early in the French Renaissance, full of faith in intellectual thinking, in writing, in books and in humanism. The Bible was being printed in the vernacular for the first time, bills protesting against the Mass heralded the Reformation, Luther’s theses were circulating, and religious power struggles were on the horizon.
Claude Garamond, circa 1543
Augereau was accused of writing pamphlets which criticised the Catholic Church. But in fact he was a scapegoat, sacrificed in place of his client Margaret of Navarre
, a sister of the king and enthusiastic supporter of Luther. The powerful theologians of the Sorbonne
were simply too cowardly to take any action against the aristocratic publicist herself. The Paris street Grand-Rue Saint-Jacques
was a gathering place for open-minded printers and publishers. One of these was Antoine Augereau, who held the opinion that new ideas needed new typefaces. His apprentice Claude, who had already proved his aptitude as a punch cutter on many occasions, accepted this challenge just a few years into his career. In 1530, under Augereau’s supervision, he cut his own Cicero (12-point) typeface for the famous printer Robert Estienne
. His work received great admiration. Almost one hundred years later, around 1620, it was reproduced by the Swiss printer Jean Jannon
under the name Garamond
, and quickly achieved world-renown.
After the death of Augereau, Claude Garamond opened his own workshop in the Rue des Carmes
, where he perfected his Roman type. At the suggestion of the rector of the Sorbonne, Jean de Gagny
, he designed an italic typeface for his Cicero of 1530, the future Garamond. To this day, this italic font is considered by many type designers to be the epitome of aesthetic perfection. After Garamond’s death in 1561, part of his type repertoire passed into the possession of the Imprimerie Royale
Most of the matrices and punches, however, were bought by Christophe Plantin
of Antwerp, while seven Roman series were bought by the Frankfurt type founder Jacques Sabon
The template for present-day interpretations of Garamond: the Egenolff-Berner type sample from 1592
After almost 200 years of oblivion, these were revitalised in 1928 on the basis of the old samples from the Egenolff-Berner foundry, and are referred to as the “Garamond punches”. Many punch cutters, type founders and type designers have since taken Garamond as a template for their own fonts. Two examples of this are Tony Stan’s
ITC Garamond and Jan Tschichold’s Roman typeface Sabon.
Among the digital Garamonds available, Adobe’s
is considered to be one of the best. Robert Slimbach
initially took an Egenolff-Berner type sample from 1592 as his template. But after researching at the Plantin-Moretus Museum in Antwerp, he decided to rework his first draft in order to give the characters greater vitality and authenticity. The Adobe Garamond’s decorative letters, ornaments, historical ligatures and titling letters are a result of the same research visit.