The first Parisian workshops

In 1469, two university printers, Guillaume Fichet and Johann Heynlin von Stein, set up a printing shop close to the Sorbonne. From Basel, where he had taught, Haynlin recruited three German typographers: Ulrich Gering, Michael Friburger and Martin Krantz. The trio set up shop in a house of the Saint Benoit cloister owned by the Sorbonne, and began fulfilling the publishing programme established by their employers. The twenty-two editions that came off the Sorbonne printing presses between 1470 and 1473 included a number of treatises on Latin rhetoric (by Cicero, Barzizza, Bessarion and Fichet himself) as well as classical texts. Right from the start, the workshop used a roman typeface, which ran completely counter to customary French practice.

The first Parisian printing shop used roman characters as of 1470.

However, in 1473, when Fichet's tenure as librarian came to an end, Gering, Friburger and Krantz left the Sorbonne and opened another workshop in the same street, at the sign of the Soleil d'Or. It was up to them to decide which works would be profitable to print. Treatises on classical rhetoric were replaced by the works of theologians of the Middle Ages, which were very popular among students. They also had to deal with competition from other printers that had recently set up workshops in Paris.

The first of these were from Germany: Peter Wagner and Johann Stoll. Very quickly, however, printing shops operated by French workers opened their doors, proof that the public was familiar with this technology imported from Germany. The first work printed in French, the Grandes chroniques de France was produced in 1476 in the workshop of Pasquier Bonhomme. By 1480, barely a decade after the first printing press appeared in France, six printing shops were operating simultaneously in Paris – proof that the printed book had quickly established a place for itself in French culture.

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