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View Full Version : Let's defend French typographic heritage!


Christoph
06-25-2005, 01:53 PM
Hi all,

Bad news from the home country of Garamond! The Imprimerie nationale, still property of the State, has been privatized de facto. And their funds shall disappear soon in unknown places, if not destroyed once for all, inaccessible to the common of mortals. There even isn't any coherent museum project so far! All the original punches are threatened…, maybe only by corrosion, but that should be sufficient to definitely make them disappear ;-(.

Maybe we can still prevent this cultural disaster. Have a look at http://www.garamonpatrimoine.org and sign the petition. Sorry, no English version available, only French, AFAIK. But Frenchies use Caslon without caring whether he spoke and read French or not. Brits and Americans do use Garamond. And cultivated people should read, write and speak several languages, just like me <vbg>.

Be warned: the site is beautifully designed but unfortunately badly made. Quite tricky to use. I don't even say "sorry", as I'm not the guy who designed it <g>.

Regards,

Christoph

BTW: it's quite curious to see that in the same time Garamond becomes fashionable anew, being the leading typeface family for decades, after more than a century of Didot- and Bodoni- style typefaces' reign here in France. But that's just one of the multiple "neocons"' contradictions (consider that name in French and you'll be mort de rire!)

Michael Rowley
06-25-2005, 04:53 PM
Christoph:

consider that name in French and you'll be mort de rire

Not really, Christoph, though it would have raised a laugh once (when I was a schoolboy).

But just what is proposed? Does it follow that the punches etc. won't be cared for when the imprimerie is privatized? Not that I approve of privatization of government printing, but possibly the Imprimerie nationale needs more capital than the French government was prepared to allow it, as has happened elsewhere (the UK, for example).

And by the way, I don't think you intended to convey what is widely understood by anglophones when you say, 'And their funds shall disappear soon in unknown places'. (The distinction between 'shall' and 'will' is tricky, for it doesn't exist in German or French.)

Christoph
06-26-2005, 11:57 AM
Christoph:

But just what is proposed? Does it follow that the punches etc. won't be cared for when the imprimerie is privatized? Not that I approve of privatization of government printing, but possibly the Imprimerie nationale needs more capital than the French government was prepared to allow it, as has happened elsewhere (the UK, for example).

Not so sure, the more as this kind of decision is always complex and a result of others taken before. Why isn't there enough capital? Tax reductions for high incomes, a willingness to destroy or at least to weaken everything that has the bad smell of civil service or "public" or, worse, property of the State and so on. In the U.K. it started with the Thatcher era. And if it's true that there wasn't much money, it's true also that there wasn't a real need to privatize British Telecom, for instance (that, BTW, ended up in a chaos, almost like the one of British Rail — at least no one died on the phone because security was neglected so far, AFAIK). Was it that useful to sell BMC first to Honda who re-sold it to BWM who realized that they couldn't or didn't want to afford that, and now when they produce fairly good quality anew (or maybe for the first time) maybe thanks to Honda, are independent, British, have an original design (with a solid technical basis from Bavaria), just had to close because even the Chinese didn't want to take the risk to buy the company? One could still write a lot about the importance of choices in politics, but that's not the subject here. I'd just like to add that, if there were no choices possible but only a kind of fatal and natural law, politics and democracy would become obsolete.

And concerning the punches, it seems clear now that, if nothing happens, no one would care about them. Not such a long time before, there were still enterprises who sometimes financed "useless" things like culture, of course not for simple charity <g>. But when only "shareholder value" counts, even that seems impossible, and I'm afraid even Deutsche Bank won't do so much art mecenate any more in the future. To give an example: the famous bridge of Millau (architect: Norman Foster, if it should be necessary to remember…) was lit all the nights around Christmas. The mayors of the towns and villages around financed the equipment, but of course as a long-time investment. Now the company that built it and now runs the exploitation refuses to pay the electricity, that would represent some hundreds of Euros only for a day. Even no need to be opposed to capitalism in general to see that for a couple of years now, something is going very wrong… Concerning Imprimerie nationale, BTW, one could be afraid of other things, too. How much can we trust a private company that will print Euro bills, stamps, official forms? There even are security issues! But besides of that, punches, machines and so on, even privatizing the company itself, should end up in a museum that could, without too much hassle, be financed by public instances (and entrance fees). But there's also a lot of know-how that was preserved in the past by the public print office. They even had apprentees who learned the old-fashioned techniques. There are still printers in small French towns who never learned to use a computer or never could afford a high-tech equipment. But of course, they'll disappear in the next few years. And of course, most of them never learned punch-cutting, just purchasing ready-made fonts. There is a printing museum in Lyon and smaller ones in villages like Montolieu (close to Carcassonne in the South). The Lyon one needs renovation, and that of Montolieu, run by volunteers, is much too small and terribly lacks money to even give sort of a historical overview of typography (what the Lyon one does, but only showing print samples in dusty vitrinas in humid rooms where even the paint on the walls starts to fall off). And of course, a museum dedicated to the Imprimerie nationale should have its place in Paris! Punches won't be destroyed deliberately, but they'll just rust, and nobody, besides of perhaps some research specialists, be able to see them, still supposed that they'll know where to find them and who to ask to obtain an authorization. Of course, lead typography is dead (although some bibliophiles still appreciate the touch of the letters impact on the paper and accept to pay lots of money for high-end luxury editions), and maybe that's even not a big loss in itself. But should it disappear from collective memory? BTW: who prints British £ bills and stamps? Who U.S. ones? Really dunno, but I think it's not impossible it's still governmental offices.

And by the way, I don't think you intended to convey what is widely understood by anglophones when you say, 'And their funds shall disappear soon in unknown places'. (The distinction between 'shall' and 'will' is tricky, for it doesn't exist in German or French.)

Sorry, you're right, of course. And there are still people who imagine and believe that English was easy and simple <LOL>.

Christoph

Christoph
06-26-2005, 12:06 PM
Christoph:

consider that name in French and you'll be mort de rire

Not really, Christoph, though it would have raised a laugh once (when I was a schoolboy).

But there's also a subtlety that maybe didn't strike you: in contemporary French argot, "con" also simply could mean "stupid" or "bad" (that shows, BTW, a strange perception of the female counterpart of the bite by males).

Frenchies, on the other hand, don't seem to much know about English, especially when they pretend to go "à la fac" if they want to say that they go to University instead of making love <vbg>.

Christoph

Michael Rowley
06-26-2005, 01:50 PM
Christoph:

who prints British £ bills and stamps?

I can answer that one: British currency notes (and lots of foreign ones) are printed by old-established specialists in 'security printing'; they never were printed by HMSO. Notes are issued by the Bank of England, and as far as I know that is the only bank left that issues notes. 'Real' money (as opposed to promissory notes) is of course minted by the national mint. Stamps are printed by the same companies that print notes, but there may be others too, since the need for security is not quite sob great.

Old-established firms making type have been going to the wall for years, and many of them have found a home for their punches. There are, I believe, some notable collections in the Netherlands, London, and presumably in some of the French printing colleges.

By the way, letterpress printing is not dead: there were some notable innovations in that field, e.g. Nyloprint, and presumably there'll be more.

Shall & will: the English understanding of s. & w. is that 'shall' is used for the first person to state a simple future; the equivalent word in the third person is 'will'. However, for stating an intention, the position of s. & w. is reversed: 'will' is used in the first person, 'shall' in the third. A simple story (very old) illustrates this:

A Sotsman in London fell into a lake, and despairingly called out, 'I will drown, no one shall save me!' Accordingly, no one did, and the man drowned.

This story will probably not be understood by Scotsmen, Irishment, or Americans; it may not be understood by many Englishmen nowadays.

Hugh Wyn Griffith
06-26-2005, 06:04 PM
<< the only bank left that issues notes. >>

Banks in Scotland? Or has that changed since I left 11 years ago?

Stephen Owades
06-27-2005, 08:33 AM
All US currency and postage is printed by the Bureau of Engraving and Printing, a government department. Coins are produced by the US mint, also a branch of the federal government. The special paper used for US currency is made by Crane's in Dalton, Massachusetts, which also produces security papers for other customers including American Express (traveler's checks) and foreign currency printers.

I remember being confused by English and Scottish pound notes when I was singing on tour with the Boston Symphony in 2001: continental currency exchanges would apparently not always accept the Scottish variety. As an American, I'm not accustomed to currency that doesn't originate with the national government itself.

Michael Rowley
06-27-2005, 09:00 AM
Hugh:

Banks in Scotland?

I should have said 'the only bank left in England & Wales'; I've never seen a Scottish note (though I'd heard of them), and don't know if they are still issued.

Michael Rowley
06-27-2005, 09:10 AM
Stephen:

As an American, I'm not accustomed to currency that doesn't originate with the national government itself

I believe there were British 'Treasury notes', but they were never popular, for it was at a time when people preferred gold sovereigns. The Scottish notes were (are?) I believe legal currency in Scotland and England & Wales, but often wouldn't be accepted in England and elewhere.

Perhaps US treasury notes were not popular in the Confederate states?

Mike
06-28-2005, 08:18 AM
Hugh:

Banks in Scotland?

I should have said 'the only bank left in England & Wales'; I've never seen a Scottish note (though I'd heard of them), and don't know if they are still issued.

They're still in circulation. I saw one last week. Unfortunately is wasn't travelling in my direction.