The career of a punch-cutter

It is more likely that 1510, which up to now has been given as the year of Claude Garamont's apprenticeship to Antoine Augereau as the year that Garamont was born. The first works to emerge from the punch-cutting tools of Claude Garamont date to the 1530s. In particular, it was in the years 1532–33 that he drew inspiration from the characters created by Francesco Griffo for Aldus Manutius's 1495 edition of De Aetna by the young humanist Pietro Bembo. Recent research has revealed that Garamont was not a student of Geoffroy Tory, but rather of Antoine Augereau.

According to certain sources, which still need to be verified, Claude Garamont worked for Claude Chevallon and then for his widow, Charlotte Guillard, after Claude Chevallon's death in 1537. After years spent as an apprentice and journeyman, he became a master in 1538.

"I earn really very little from my work, which is punch-cutting and letter-founding (…); those who merely cut types and go no further, are only making honey for the publishers."

In 1543, Claude Garamont left his workshop in the Rue Saint-Jacques for one in the Rue des Augustins, close to his brother-in-law, the printer Pierre Gaultier. There, between 1543 and 1550, he created punches for three fonts. Sometime after 1543, Jean de Gagny, chaplain to François I, encouraged him to cut punches of the new italic characters, following Aldus Manutius's Venetian models. Garamont supplied type to Robert Estienne, and his clients included André Wechel, a Parisian printer-bookseller and Christophe Plantin who commissioned work from him in 1556. Other booksellers and printers sought him out, including Mathurin Du Puys in 1541, Etienne Mesvière in 1543 and Denis Du Vau prior to 1556 in Paris.

In the late 1540s, a roman cicero cut by the hand of Claude Garamont was used by Conrad Neobar, royal printer for Greek. After moving several times, Garamont set up his own punchcutting workshop and type foundry in the Rue des Carmes, at the sign of the Ball. For the first time, these operations were separate from an actual printer's workshop. There he produced for Robert I Estienne, royal printer, a series of very handsome fonts of various sizes (Gros Canon 40-44 points and Saint-Augustin 12-13 points), to be used for composing religious works.

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