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Words by Michel Wlassikoff

Deberny Peignot’s “Scribe”

Despite intricate usage requirements, Jacno’s Scribe achieved widespread success.
Despite intricate usage requirements, Jacno’s Scribe achieved widespread success.
Scribe is a typographic prowess, the creation process of which Jacno recounted much later in the magazine L’Immédiate (nº6, 1976), in a double page calligraphed by his hand:
“To type [the] “spoken style”, in France we only had faces of the “English Script” type that we use to print wedding invitations. (…) There did exist at that time abroad some faces responding to these conditions, mainly the German typeface “Signal”. But it was poorly suited to the tastes of the French reader, because of its aggressively angled forms. I tried to draw a script in a specifically Latin form. My program consisted of obtaining a typeface retaining all the spontaneity of the outline of current writing. To be sure to stay true I used my own writing. I wrote hundreds of sentences. Among all the words written by the pen, I noted, for each of the letters of the alphabet, the forms which were found most frequently. I made enlargements of it. Once I found myself faced with the 26 lowercase letters, the 26 uppercase letters, all the numbers and all the punctuation marks, something was still missing to constitute a typographic alphabet. I had to standardize these elements, add certain common points to them: equality of height of full and loose ends, uniformity of inclination. And this while taking care not to make all the irregularities of the manual tracing disappear so as to preserve the spontaneity of the shapes. There remained one last clarification: in ordinary typography the characters are separated from each other; in everyday writing, therefore in typographic writing which claims to resemble it, the letters are linked. It was therefore necessary that the “a”, for example, could be directly linked to any of the 25 other letters; all this being true both for the left side of each letter and for its right side. The result was printed text appearing to have been written by hand in a single stroke, something like a snapshot of modern writing.”
The use of Scribe by printers is not easy. Its specimen mentions the existence of alternative letters for r, s and t, of which a table specifies the use according to occurrences; the choice between the two variants being determined by the connection with the following letter. Despite these imperatives, Scribe enjoyed great success.

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