Romain du Roi revival

brampitoyo's picture

Has anyone made a revival of the Romain du Roi face? When I searched the Typophile forum for it, the closest match that I could find was Dan Reynolds commendation on a book set with RdR in its digital incarnation – at that time, unavailable to the public.

So how has things progressed two years from then?

dan_reynolds's picture

I have always been really struck by RdR, and would love to make a contemporary digital typeface out of it. But it isn't on my plate :-(

I heard a rumor that one of the students who graduated from the Type and Media program in the Hague this year made an RdR revival in his spare time there. Don't know who it was, though. And I haven't seen the actual thing.

ian party's picture


it s not a rumor, i did this revival in type and media program, it was a part of my research project, now i m working on this typeface, i hope that i can release this typeface on my new typefoundry (B&P) in november or december.

i will tell you when the typefoundry will open.

dan_reynolds's picture

Great! I can't wait for your foundry to launch.

brampitoyo's picture

I would love to, as well, had I possess the matrices.

Actually, what I loved about RdR was how it appeared humane, at least from what I've seen on books and papers. I hope that its revival can shine a new light on this much coveted type.

Godspeed, ianp. Godspeed.

Dan Gayle's picture

i hope that i can release this typeface on my new typefoundry (B&P) in november or december.

Any news?

brampitoyo's picture

What about that one rendition from the Hague, Dan? Any juicy bit?

James Mosley's picture

I have some answers to queries about the romain du roi that have appeared in several recent threads. Maybe it will be helpful to set them out here, even if it means a rather long post.
So far as I know, no full printed character set has ever been formally published of any of the sizes of the romain du roi , the type which is currently known at the Imprimerie nationale as Le Grandjean,, from the name of the first punchcutter, Philippe Grandjean.
There are 21 sizes of capitals and lower case for this type, for bodies from 4 to 56 points IN. (The ‘point IN’ of the Imprimerie nationale is a unique system of bodies, being just under 0.4 mm. It is the result of a new set of ‘millimetric’ type bodies introduced in 1812 in order to link directly to the metric system. The Didot point is 0.376 mm and the US point 0.351 mm)
There are also complete sets of small capitals, in roman and italic, and also figures in roman and italic too (perhaps the first instance of the addition of italic forms in both cases). And there is a complete and distinct set of ‘titling’ or ‘two-line’ capitals, the largest of which are for casting on a body of 112 points. They are very fine types.
The romain du roi was cut from 1696 to about 1745, by Grandjean and his two successors as official punchcutters (Jean Alexandre and Louis Luce), and some design features vary considerably from size to size as they do in any hand-cut type of the period. (The thick strokes of the larger sizes have a relatively heavier weight, which was often normal in the 18th century.)
The romain du roi was still used for some time during the early years of the 19th century, and was used to set the big Description de l’Égypte, begun in 1809, that was referred to recently in another thread. Perhaps because he did not want to go on using the old type, Napoleon had a new one specially made by Firmin Didot in 1811, which is known at the IN as the Didot millimétrique. It might have become known as the romain de l’empereur if Napoleon had lasted. At the return of the monarchy it went under a cloud, but some sizes were recast and used for fine printing in the 1970s. The romain du roi was recast from original matrices in 1900 and has been used for fine hand printing at the IN ever since, and for some quite long texts.
So much for the type. There are two main questions to answer. What has happened at the Imprimerie nationale? And what sources are there for the romain du roi ?
The Imprimerie nationale, or IN (which was privatized in 1994, with the state as a majority shareholder) was restructured in 2003 and sold its building in central Paris. The main industrial plants are now at Douai and other sites in France. For basic information see
The craft-based activities, which include intaglio and direct lithographic print-making as well as typefounding, hand typesetting and punchcutting, were moved to a modern building just outside Paris, at Ivry sur Seine. This division of the IN is known as the Atelier du livre or ‘book workshop’, and concentrates on fine printing and print-making. Christian Paput, chief punchcutter for many years, took his retirement in 2005. The moving of the hundreds of thousands of punches and matrices that make up the Cabinet des poinçons and their installation at Ivry was organized by Madame Nelly Gable, who is now the official punchcutter. (She is the first woman ever known to have entered the profession.) To answer one question straight away: no, visitors are not permitted there, for the time being anyway.
Sources for the romain du roi.
The last type specimen published by the IN was issued in 1990 under the title Les caractères de l’Imprimerie Nationale. I do not know if copies are still available from the IN, but secondhand ones should be findable online. It shows specimens of many sizes of le Grandjean, but (whether by accident or design I don’t know) does not provide character sets of any of them. It does, however, show a full character set of the 36 point Didot millimétrique, and in answer to another recent thread, my impression is that this may just possibly be the source of the unnamed heading font that can be seen at Le Typographe (, a blog that stems from the operation of Jean-François Porchez.
The plates of alphabets that were engraved from 1695 onwards have been reproduced several times. A small edition (with an excellent introductory essay) was reprinted from the original plates in André Jammes, La réforme de la typographie royale sous Louis XIV: le Grandjean. Paris, 1961. A more affordable reduced facsimile of this publication (A4 format) was published in 1985 under a confusingly different title, La naissance d’un caractère: le Grandjean. Paris: Promodis, 1985. This ought to be findable secondhand. (There is also a set of very reduced, and frankly not very good, reproductions of the plates, along with an English translation of the essay by Jammes, in the first issue of the Journal of the Printing Historical Society, 1965.) I hardly need to say that these alphabets are not ‘type designs’. Maybe ‘explorations of the possibilities for new forms of letters’ would be a better term. The idea (promoted by Fournier le jeune, who had his own axe to grind) that Grandjean in some way rescued an unreal academic exercise with his practical punchcutter’s skills is more than a bit naïf. (I looked at it in a piece in the Reading University journal Typography papers, no. 2. His first set of punches was so bad that it was rejected and dumped.
The most recent source of images and information (in French) relating to the whole project is the exhibition catalogue, Le romain du roi: la typographie au service de l’état. Lyon: Musée de l’imprimerie, 2002. This is available from Frits Knuf antiquarian books at Vendôme in France ( at 30 euros. There are reproductions of some of the plates of roman and italic alphabets, and also of a complete and very rare specimen of the original types, issued in 1760.
By the by. That sloped roman italic was intended experimentally as a distinct third type, and not as a replacement for the normal cursive italic. It was rejected at the time as too like the roman, but Benjamin Franklin had a version of his own made. See the catalogue.
Having been much involved in its making, I can’t be objective about the catalogue, but I think it may be worth having, if only for the quality of the images of the original punches and matrices. (We did a shoot at the IN, and had a good budget for colour printing.) But it does not include a complete character set of the romain du roi.
Some points to conclude with.
Copyright. Everybody seems to know that it was forbidden (under pain of death, wrote Philip Meggs) to copy the romain du roi. But that is just not true, or was not in the 18th century. (A quite close copy of one size came out within a few years and was on sale in France for decades.) However, during the Revolution when it was found that the English were faking official posters and sowing confusion with them in order to destabilize the régime, it was decided to use the old royal type, with its distinctive letter l, for all official publications, and the design of this ‘National type’ (as they now called it) was protected by law. At the restoration of the monarchy, this protection was retained, and extended to all the special types made for the state printing operation. I have a feeling that, despite all the many changes of régime, this law may still operate in France. So be careful. The digital Grandjean currently in use by the IN (and used for the 2002 catalogue) was made for them by Frank Jalleau. I have made one of my own, for purely personal use.
The future of the Atelier du livre. The present setup is frankly provisional, and not intended to be permanent. Two representatives of the French ministries responsible for keeping an eye on the ‘heritage’ side of the IN have drawn up a report with a recommended course of action – but nobody has seen it or knows what is in it. For developments as they take place it is worth checking the site of the effective watchdog and support group at
Lastly, there is a project under consideration at the Atelier du livre for reprinting some of the alphabet plates. I’ll post details when I know them.
I hope that there is useful material somewhere in all this.

brampitoyo's picture

I'm at loss for words. Very useful stuff that I'll have to take time to read again to digress fully. The 2002 edition that you mentioned was also exactly the one that I'm looking for. Thanks for giving me the direct source and shining more light into this matter!

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