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Words by Michel Wlassikoff

Deberny et Peignot’s “Divertissements typographiques”, 1928–1930

Charles Peignot and Maximilien Vox prioritized the creation of modern typefaces at Deberny et Peignot in the late 1920s. It lead to the introduction of typefaces such as ‘Europe’ (Futura) and ’Pharaon’, to align with contemporary advertising needs and trends. These publications aimed at actively promoting the foundry’s novelties.
Charles Peignot and Maximilien Vox prioritized the creation of modern typefaces at Deberny et Peignot in the late 1920s. It lead to the introduction of typefaces such as ‘Europe’ (Futura) and ’Pharaon’, to align with contemporary advertising needs and trends. These publications aimed at actively promoting the foundry’s novelties.
Maximilien Vox (1894-1974), awarded Blumenthal prize in the decorative art section in 1926, for his covers at Grasset — an award for the first time granted to a typographer –— became advisor to the Deberny et Peignot foundry from 1927.

Volumes 1, 2, and 3

Vox takes charge of the Divertissements typographiques which ”aim to show printers that imagination in the layout and in the unexpected rapprochement of certain characters can, to a certain extent, compensate for the temporary absence of a new series”. Distributed free of charge to printers, agencies, and workshops, the first three issues of Divertissements typographiques (“Typographic Entertainments”) present the range of available founts, expunged of all Art Nouveau types. They include numerous examples of applications allowing one to appreciate the productions of the largest French foundry. Deberny and Peignot also supports the journal Arts et Métiers Graphiques, founded in 1927, which also presents its new types, as well as selected pieces from Divertissements Typographiques.

Volume 4: Europe

Since 1928, Draeger Frères, one of the most famous French printers and publishers, has been sourcing Futura, purchased directly from the Bauer foundry. Known for its high-quality prints and for its creative studio which notably designs prestige albums for major automobile brands, Draeger, by offering Futura to an informed public, lead many printers to follow its example. Until then, Draeger had worked almost exclusively with Deberny & Peignot. But the absence of a modern typeface offering from the main French foundry undoubtedly contributed to this choice. Within the foundry itself, Maximilien Vox was concerned about the absence of a type that would respond to new advertising needs. Vox spoke about the future of typography in France in the journal Art et Décoration, in July 1929, and was concerned about the few type designers capable of proposing types corresponding to their era. To remedy this, Vox submitted the idea of acquiring Futura from the Bauer foundry. He does not hesitate to offer his resignation to the board of directors of the foundry “in case Deberny & Peignot does not immediately adopt my suggestion to immediately acquire the typeface…
It is established that the decision to buy Futura came from Charles Peignot himself, who supported Vox. Rights are acquired according to a principle of “franchise”. Deberny and Peignot will distribute Futura under the name “Europe”, this new name being due to Charles Peignot. But this diffusion is limited to France and the French colonies, as well as to the following countries: Egypt, Syria, Turkey, Greece, to which is included French-speaking Switzerland. The launch of Europe is announced in the delivery of number 3 of Divertissements typographies, in the spring of 1930: “We are launching a typeface destined for considerable success, EUROPE, antique in three weights, the most beautiful, the best developed and the most “usable” of modern sans-serif typefaces”. Furthermore, Arts & Métiers Graphiques is starting to use it in titling.
In March 1931, the Deberny and Peignot foundry published number 4 of Divertissements typographies, entitled “Europe et le Studio” with the following subtitle : “Europe — 3 weights — essential complement to advertising photography”. A series of examples of the use of Europe is then shown, which come either from the work of Deberny and Peignot studio, or from fantaisies designed by Vox. In the presentation text, it is stated: “Europe is the face of our time. […] It’s an antique: but an antique that is varied enough, flexible enough, to suit compact texts: “editorial” compositions, catalogs with important text, circulars, etc.” It is specified that this typeface “has been specially designed to perfectly accompany photography”. Europe/Futura occupies a special status in the minds of Charles Peignot and Maximilien Vox, it constitutes an excellent titling face and is recommended for short texts, but it is not considered as a workhorse face. Peignot and Vox, in fact, believe that French creation must ensure the emergence of a type which represents the “face of our time” and which will impose itself in all fields of typography, from titles to current text for book use. In their eyes, Europe must serve as a link between the modern trends of the 1920s and a more elaborate production which should flourish as soon as possible. This is the reason why Deberny and Peignot do not include the Futura Buchschrift, published by Bauer in 1932, in the Europe range.

Volume 5: Pharaon

Divertissements Typographiques nº5 is dedicated to Pharaon, an Slab/Egyptian face intended for titling and advertising, which is completed by Pharaon Blanc, an “open-face” existing only in initials. The Deberny and Peignot foundry highlights the novelty of this new type: “the only modern Slab of French creation”. It associates it with Europe/Futura, indicating: “We designed it with three weights, the success of Europe having verified the excellence of this formula…” Europe having been the subject of the previous Divertissement Typographiques. With this initiative, Deberny and Peignot align themselves with the German foundries which, based on the geometric shapes and low-contrast of antiques like Futura or Elegant, designed Slab-serif faces which achieved notable success: Beton or Memphis.

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