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Words by Michel Wlassikoff

Specimen Général de la fonderie G. Peignot & Fils, 1903–1904

It took 35 years for Gustave Peignot to transform the typographic blanks foundry he acquired into a leading type foundry, renowned for Art Nouveau typefaces.
It took 35 years for Gustave Peignot to transform the typographic blanks foundry he acquired into a leading type foundry, renowned for Art Nouveau typefaces.
René Leclerc’s foundry, created around 1840 in Paris, specializing in typographic blanks, lines, frames and vignettes, was put up for auction in 1868 and acquired by Gustave Peignot (1839-1899), who is working to transform it into a type foundry. He pursued a policy of acquiring small foundries and their funds, Longien, successor to Petitbon, in 1881, Cochard and David, in 1892, etc. In 1898, the foundry became a family business, bringing together Gustave’s five sons. Among these, Georges Peignot (1872-1915) presented himself as the true leader of the company and infused it with a ”modern” state of mind, developing the creation of typefaces in the spirit of Art Nouveau. He thus called on Eugène Grasset (1841-1917) to design a work of great aesthetic quality presented at the Universal Exhibition of 1900 under the surname ”Grasset”. Georges Peignot also asked the illustrator and typographer George Auriol (1863-1938) to draw a series of types even more marked by the Belle Époque, published under the names of Auriol Labeur, of Française Légère, Française allongée, and Auriol Champlevée, later completed by Robur.
In 1903 and 1904, the foundry published a Spécimen Général in two volumes, listing all of its materials and typefaces, including the numerous creations arising from the initiatives of Georges Peignot. In Volume 1, the materials and nets, many inherited from previous decades, are presented, the ”Fantaisies classiques avec bas de casse”, including a wide range of Égyptiennes, Normandes and Antiques. These latter are completed by the ”Initiales classiques et de fantaisie” as well as the ”Ecritures et lettrines”. The ”Fantaisies modernes” bring together Grasset and Auriol as well as Polyphème and Cyclopéen. The part devoted to ”Vignettes et ornements modernes” is illustrated with numerous examples of ”créations françaises en typographie moderne”, i.e. the implementation of the principles of ”group typography”by Francis Thibaudeau, official advisor to the Peignot foundry, The volume concludes with ”Coins et vignettes classiques”.
The second volume of the Spécimen Général of the Peignot foundry, published in 1904, lists the jobbing and newspaper typefaces, the Didot typefaces, as well as the Néo-Elzévir typefaces and Vieux-Style available at the foundry. This impressive collection intended for publishing and the press, constituted in the last decades of the 19th century, represents a model for industrial typography in France until the 1930s. The rest of the Specimen again includes Grasset Romain and italics and the Auriol types, although already presented in Volume 1. The volume concludes with the material installation and general supplies for printing.
Document : library of the Estienne school

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