Le Romain du Roi

In 1693, under the aegis of Colbert's newly-created Academy of Sciences, the Bignon Committee began to draw up a compendium of trades and professions, starting with printing and the creation of type: "the art that will preserve all others." This vast project was intended to satisfy Louis XIV's wish to establish a style for his reign and to have a set of royal typefaces , as François I had done. In an effort to take stock of the best of what appeared since the invention of moveable type, the three members of the committee consulted the finest printed books, the leading theoretical works and countless typeface collections and proofs. Their goal was to determine how the most celebrated characters had been "constructed", and they obviously examined Garamond very closely.

The romain du roi is a new kind of typeface intended to restore French typography to its former glory.

Nevertheless, the goal was not to simply reproduce or even to interpret it, but rather to "scientifically" perfect it – to offer a new style of letter that would be equally harmonious but more rigorous. The committee drew up many type models that were reproduced on copper plates. Using these, the punch-cutters at the Imprimerie Royale, Philippe Grandjean first among them, created a type that became to known as the romain du roi. The characters' more vertical emphasis, their more geometrical construction and the unprecedented contrast between thick and thin strokes set it apart from all of its predecessors. Maximilien Vox saw this typeface as the origin of a new family: the Transitional. It was used for the first time in the printing of Mémoires des principaux événements du règne de Louis le Grand, and remained the exclusive property of the Imprimerie Royale. However, those who designed the romain du roi offered it as an example of a new kind of typeface that would restore French typography to its former glory.

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