Firmin was born in Paris, 14th
April, 1764, and died 24th April, 1836. He was distinguished by his
literary taste and his excellence as a printer. The types for several of his father’s editions were engraved by him, and his script founts were greatly superior to any that had previously been executed. His Roman characters especially were of great excellence. In 1795 he conceived the plan of consolidating the types which he employed in printing his logarithmic tables, and in pursuing this object he arrived gradually at the stereotyping process. The word steriotypie was, in fact, invented by him. A patent was granted for the invention in 1797.
Another patent was granted to him in 1805 for an improved mode of forming script types, and in 1823 a further patent was granted for a new system of executing, in typography, various kinds of maps and charts. After having travelled in Italy, Greece, and Spain, Firmin retired in 1827 from the active super-intendence of his great establishment. In 1830 the Government offered him the position of director of the Royal Printing office, which, however, he declined. He was decorated with the medal of the Legion of Honour, and appointed Printer to the King and to the French Institute. The Government had his bust in marble placed in one of the halls of the Imperial Printing-office, and a medal in his honour was struck after his death. His portrait, painted by his friend Girodet, is hung in the gallery of the Louvre. A medal was struck at Paris in honour of Firmin Didot in 1839. On the obverse is a bust, nearly full face ; to the right, in modem costume, with the name on either side in bold letters : “Firmin Didot.” On the reverse is a heavy wreath of laurel-leaves, tied at foot with a ribbon, within which is the inscription “Stephanonim Aemulus musarum cultor.” In 1806 he published a translation, of which he was the author, of the Bucolics of Virgil. The book is interesting from a typographical point of view, not only because of its being translated by the printer, but because the latter also engraved and cast the types. It is also remarkable for the use of the character called “Anglaise,” which appeared for the first time in the dedication of the book to Pierre Didot, the author’s elder brother. The volume concludes with a long bibliographical and typographical note. He also printed M. Brun’s “ Manuel de Typographie Francaise “ (Paris, 1825), a masterpiece of printing, and possessing the peculiarity of not containing a single divided word.
These days, Didot is a typeface known for its bold stems and delicate hairlines, for its prominent ball terminals and decorative italic. These are the showy traits that made the typeface synonymous with glossy fashion magazines and luxury brands. Yet Didot’s family and history are much more complex and varied than our narrow contemporary view. What we’re missing begins with the small stuff — the metal fonts that were cut for sizes as small as 6 pt.
It is that small stuff that is also at the root of Loïc Sander’s exploration for Trianon. He plunged into sources from Firmin Didot’s later work as well as other type from the late 19th and early 20th centuries based on the Rational or pointed pen form model. There he discovered the qualities that are even more essential to Didot than its high contrast: its verticality, its rhythmic spacing, its ability to set readable text — one that encourages and rewards a relaxed pace. A memorable read is not necessarily the fastest, most invisible one. Trianon proves that a Didone can be much more versatile than it is usually assumed to be. Returning to the pre-digital wisdom of size-specific cuts, the family offers four optical sizes: Caption and Text built broad and sturdy for long passages of small type, and Display and Grande which imbue all of the sparkling contrast and sharp, sculpted bracketing of a familiar Didot.
Each subfamily has five weights with matching italics. The Text size comes with one extra weight for those who want paragraphs with a slightly lighter color. And ExtraLight styles bring an entirely fresh effect to Didot with their nearly monolinear weight capped by slab serifs and subtle teardrops. These inventions emphasize the fact that Trianon is not only a restoration of Didot (especially in the large sizes) but very much its own thing.
For Trianon, Sander focused on editorial publishing, where type is primarily a tool for serving content, and where he feels the call to build his own tools. The fonts are replete with useful function for editorial design, including oldstyle figures (based on the classic Didot) and lining figures (cued by vernacular street signs in France), ornaments which fit each font’s contrast and weight, and a large range of weights for building harmony and contrast into a publication’s complex hierarchy.
Awards & distinctions
Communication Arts Type Design award 2016
ATypI Typo365 best of 2015
Typefacts Best of 2015
Club des Directeurs Artistiques Prix 2015
Typographica's favorite 2015
Design: Loic Sander. Team: Sandra Carrera, Roxane Gataud, Yoann Minet.