Typeface Review


Reviewed by Alice Savoie on March 11, 2014

For a type designer, reviving a typeface from a previous era raises some interesting questions: which designs should be brought back to life in the first place? How faithful should one be to the original, and what makes the difference between a revival, a re-creation, and a tribute?

In that respect, the Augustaux types by the 19th-century French printer Louis Perrin are the subject of a fascinating story. Created between 1846 and 1855, they are believed to be the first attempt at reviving the Elzevirean style in France, in reaction to the widespread use of Didot-style faces at the same period.

More than 150 years after Perrin brought back into fashion the work of the Elzevirs, Matthieu Cortat set himself the challenge, in turn, to revive Perrin’s Augustaux types, of which his typeface Louize is a distinctive and lively interpretation. Yet with Louize, Matthieu Cortat goes beyond proposing “a revival of a revival”, and successfully brings the design into the 21st century by offering a versatile family of text and display faces.

The text variants (designed in three weights with accompanying italics) remain discreet and under­stated, but successfully convey the distinctive flavor of Perrin’s types, offering a warm, bookish feel. The display version of Louize brings a more daring touch to the family. Its chiseled finish refers to Perrin’s admir­ation for Roman inscriptions, as do the overall proportions of Louize’s capital letters.

While I am not usually keen on all-cap ligatures, the ones included in the display variants of Louize blend amazingly well with the rest of the family, yet contrib­ute to the distinct­ive­ness of the design. I am par­tic­ularly fond of the italics in Louize Display, which encapsulate a wonderful combination of fluidity and sharpness, and also include a range of elegant swash alternates. The family is remarkably crafted, with special care provided to the design of numerals and ligatures, the availability of a wide character set, and the inclusion of the comprehensive range of OpenType features one would expect from a high-quality type family fit for editorial purposes.

If, like me, you have ever had an opportunity to wonder around the beautiful streets of Lyon in eastern France, there is little doubt that Louize’s strong connection with the city has a special resonance. Indeed, Perrin was a key figure of Lyon’s publishing scene in the nineteenth century, where Cortat himself has established his Nonpareille type foundry. The typeface’s name is also tribute to one of Lyon’s great literary figures: the sixteenth-century poet Louise Labé, whose texts were published by Perrin in 1824.

Alice Savoie is an independent type designer, teacher, and researcher. She holds an MA in Typeface Design from the University of Reading, where she is currently completing her PhD. Her typeface Capucine is distributed by Process Type Foundry.

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