Help Preserve Type History

Written by Jonathan Hoefler on October 20, 2004

Your signature is needed to help save the Imprimerie Nationale, one of the greatest repositories of typographic material in the world. (If you have ever used a Garamond revival, or a Didot, or a Fournier, you are perhaps indebted to the Imprimerie.) Their collection, which spans four centuries, is scheduled to be dissolved in the next twelve months.

The petition, in seventeen languages, is here. Please step up!


  1. Incidentally, if I catch any of you in an especially generous mood, you can also help protect the ever-imperiled St Bride Printing Library by making a donation to the Friends of St Bride. Thanks.

  2. Fazal Majid says:

    Your blurb is slightly overstated – the collection is not going to be dissolved, but the building holding it will be sold and the artifacts put in storage (think of the scene in “Raiders of the Lost Ark” where the Ark is put in a crate deep inside some government warehouse). The issue is more about how the punches and vintage tools will be displayed.

    Amateurs of type will be interested in their amazing book “Les Caractères de l’Imprimerie Nationale”, which has specimen pages and detailed descriptions of the various typefaces developed for their use, including typefaces for ancient or oriental languages hard to come by otherwise.

    I have a copy, and highly recommend it, as it gives an amazing taste of the French typographical tradition (and no, it’s not just Garamonds and Didots). It’s a softcover, unfortunately, unlike the beautiful (and incredibly expensive) hardcover art books they also print, but comes in a hard slip case.

    Just go to the book arts page and click on the “Caracteres de l’Imprimerie nationale” link (5th link in the book list). It costs 60 euros direct from the publisher, when Amazon charges $107 for it…

  3. Thanks for the clarification, Fazal, and also for suggesting Les Caractčres — it’s a marvelous resource. If I recall, most of its illustrations are reproductions of the Imprimerie’s earlier Cabinet des Poinçons (1948), which has the advantage of being printed from type rather than plates, but the disadvantage of being increasingly hard to come by.

  4. Thanks for that Monsieur Jonathan! Frenchs will not only appreciate your HTF Didot, but also your help to save the original Didots.

  5. Reminiscor says:

    I think Mr Hoefler you will find that St. Brides Printing library is now called St Brides Library; the words Printing scare away the young, I ve been told. Soon words like typography and typeface will disappear as being ‘boring’, ‘frightening’, etc, etc.

    Seriously though the plight of the Imprimerie National and the future of the collections of St Brides should make all those who have a serious interest in typography decide to actively support these establishments when they are not in danger; both financially and with our times and efforts. Those who have used there resources, yet never thought how they are funded, should think that perhaps we cannot rely on public funding for evermore.

  6. si says:

    Web site says ‘St Bride Printing Library’ –


  7. Reminiscor says:

    I think you will find that will change in good time…

  8. Jef Tombeur says:

    Thank you so much for mentioning this petition.
    Year 2005 started with 14.000 signatures, of which 4.000 from various countries (80) other than France.
    Below is the detail for the over 100 signatures count:
    France 9293
    USA 1194
    U.K. 317
    Spain 310
    Canada 309
    Belgium 292
    Germany 279
    Italy 182
    Switz. 177
    Argent. 174
    Nether. 124

    We are sorry not to be able to translate into English (or other languages) all the documentation that the Initiative Garamonpatrimoine has put on line.
    This is also a site you can visit to visualize pictures of punches and machinery.

    What else can you do after you have signed via ?

    1) Maybe e-mail the “regional press” (i.e. if you live in the U.S. of A., this means, for ex., the Boston Globe or the L.A. Times). This is not only a French thing as the collections have, for many, no match elsewhere ;
    2) You can protest by e-mail to the local French consulate or embassy, just voice your discontent (it will be forwarded to the Quai d’Orsay, i.e. the French Foreign Office) ;
    3) You have an Alliance française outlet or « Centre culturel français » nearby ? Maybe print the « dossier de presse » (22 PDF pages, in French) as it can make some good pedagogical support for the teachers.

    You can also indeed exchange links with the site (see the soutiens.html page, scroll down and find the e-mail address, someone writing in English will answer).

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