From the manuscript to the print workshop

Garamont's creation would not have been possible without the invention of moveable type a half-century before his birth. Since ancient times, the act and art of writing has been evolving, using such tools as quills, reed pens, and parchment. The first printers made use of this rich repertoire, and copied the graphic shapes produced by these tools. For example, the thick and thin ink strokes produced by the quill pen made their way into moveable type. By Garamont's time, the connection with handwriting began to be forgotten, but it still can be seen today in many contemporary characters. Through its large-scale production of characters, the technique perfected by Gutenberg and his associates Fust and Schoeffer gave new shapes to handwriting, most of which are still familiar to us today.

The new technology allowed one to produce a series of typefaces, to give a new form to writing – in a spirit of continuity rather than one of interruption.

To create moveable type, one must start with engraving the mirror-image outline of a letter onto one end of a heated steel bar, or punch. The punch is then plunged into cold water; after this, it is suitable to be struck into a softer metal (generally copper). The matrix thus obtained has a hollow image of the character, into which a mixture of lead, tin and antinomy are poured, producing a piece of type. Although pieces of type tend to wear out fairly quickly, others can be made from the matrices. The punches are carefully preserved, as they constitute the original type designs. Following this invention, in the second half of the 15th century, type designers gradually replaced copyists. However, in a spirit of continuity rather than of upheaval, medieval lettering and page layout were taken up, completed and improved.

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