April 28

“Take it, therefore, in good part, and it please you, O devoted and worthy lovers of well-made letters, and believe that what I have done has been done with zeal and hearty good-will. Praying our Lord JESUS to give you all increase in well-made letters and excellent virtues, withall sound health of body and soul. At Paris this XXVIII day of April on the Petit Pont at the sign of the Pot Cassé.”

And so did Geofroy Tory, man of the Renaissance, professor proofreader, engraver, publisher, bookseller and first of a long line of Printers du Roi in France, close the introduction to his book, Champ Fleury, published in 1528. In Champ Fleury, Tory attempted three things: he wished to bring rules of good taste and sound diction to the French language; he next treated the proportion of roman letters “compared with the natural body and face of the perfect man,” and finally gave directions for the construction of fine roman letters. Altogether, a tall order and one which had already been attempted by such earlier writers as Feliciano, de Pacioli, Verini, and Dürer. Tory’s great contribution was to bring to the study of typography sound scholarship, and the ability of a fine teacher to inspire his contemporaries to look to his ideals. His typographic skill is evident in the construction of his magnificent roman initials with floriated backgrounds to match the other decorative materials of a book.

Tory began his introduction to Champ Fleury with sonorous phrases: “Geofroy Tory of Bourges offers humble greetings to all true and devoted Lovers of well-formed Letters. Poets, Orators, and others learned in Letters and Sciences, when they have made their studious diligence and toil, are wont to present it to some great lord of the Court or the Church, lifting him up by letters and laudation to the knowledge of other men; and this to flatter him and to the end that they may be always so welcome about him, that he seems to be bound and obliged to give them some great gift, some benefice, or some office, as reward for the labours and vigils they have put to the making and composition of their said works and offerings. I could easily do the like with this little book; but considering that, if I should present it to one rather than to another, some feeling of envious despite might be caused, I have thought that it would be well of me to make of it a present to you all, O devoted Lovers of well-made Letters, without placing the great before the lowly, unless it be so far as he loves letters more, and is more at home in virtuous things. Thus the Prelates and great Lords, who are eminent, all in goodly virtues, will have their part therein, whilst you will not lose yours.”

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