The Elzevirs and Christoffel Van Dijck

The ascendancy of Dutch printing in the 17th century was connected with an unprecedented economic boom and a remarkable openness to the world – the Dutch were masters of the sea, and their books spread throughout Europe. One family in particular, the Elzevirs, dominated the century through the quality and the diversity of its editions. The family used Garamond, of course, following in Plantin's footsteps, but increasingly made use of a rich and distinguished collection of Dutch typefaces. The pre-eminent type designer was Christoffel Van Dijck (1605–ca. 1670).

The "Dutch fonts" continued to be heavily influenced by Garamond, but heralded the appearance of a new family of typefaces, which differentiated themselves from the forms of the Renaissance.

The use of the term "Dutch font" to qualify the work of Van Dyck and his colleagues Bartholomeaeus and Dirk Voskens began to spread– not because they broke with the secular shape of the garaldes, but because the improvements these punch-cutters made to the Garamond style and the variety that they offered were models of excellence. English printers and type founders in particular sought out and drew inspiration from fonts from the Netherlands, most of all those by Van Dijck. Compared with Garamond, Van Dijck's roman is more refined; its thin strokes were more flexible, its contrasts more pronounced and its triangular serifs were lighter. The letters' axes became more vertical, nearly upright in appearance, and their more geometric shapes became increasingly distant from their calligraphic sources. To make smaller fonts more readable – a specialty of the Elzevirs, who were masters of the small-book format – the lowercase letters were relatively narrow and compact, which meant that more text could be put on a page with no loss in readability. The "Dutch fonts" continued to be heavily influenced by Garamond, but heralded the changes that would take place in the following century in the wake of the appearance of a new family of typefaces, the "Transitionals", which differentiated themselves from the forms of the Renaissance.

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