September 5

A great and controversial historical figure was this day born in France in the year 1585. Armand Jean du Plessis de Richelieu lived to be a Prince of the Church and First Statesman of France under Louis XIII. Cast as a sinister character by many novelists and not a few historians, Richelieu thought first of France and was enemy only to those whom he believed interfered with her destiny. “Reason must be the rule and guide of all things,” he stated, and as a step towards the full realization of that concept he founded in 1640 L’lmprimerie Royale, a national printing office now well into its fourth century of service to the French nation.

Its original dedication, given by Louis XIII, “to the glory of France and the Honour of letters,” has been mightily fulfilled during those years. Beginning with the Grecs du Roi, of which the punches were cut by Claude Garamond about 1550, the establishment presently owns over 300,000 punches and matrices for the composition of some seventy-four languages, both ancient and modern. After the Revolution, the office was renamed in 1795 the Imprimerie Nationale, and then under Napoleon became the Imprimerie L’Imperiale. In 1848 the name was changed to Imprimerie de la République. This name was altered during the reign of Napoleon II, again becoming the Imprimerie Imperiale. Finally in 1870 the famous printing office assumed its present title, the Imprimerie Nationale.

Richelieu’s pursuit of heretical Protestant sects resulted in the capture of Sedan in 1642. In this location he acquired the typefounding tools, punches and matrices of a printer named Jean Jannon. These were quickly removed to the new royal printing office in time to be of use in the setting of the dying Richelieu’s memoirs, Principaux de la Foi, the second book to be printed there. The first book had been a splendid De Imitations Christi, composed in a commonly used Parisian type of the period. The Jannon types were not used again until they appeared in a specimen book issued by the office in 1845 in which they were called Caractères de l’Université, and ascribed to Claude Garamond. When these types were revived in 1900 they became the model for many of the present-day types which bear the name Garamond.

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