Garamont Imprimerie Nationale

Stefan Seifert's picture

I just made a scan of this old Garamont specimen page for someone.
And I thought by myself: I still like it a lot.
Someone who shares my opinion?
I put it here just for the joy of it.


AndrewSipe's picture

Look at how sharp that A is. That's a dangerous looking A.

raph's picture

Yeah, it's nice. I have the "Debuts de l'imprimerie en France" book from the Imprimerie Nationale 1905, and it's one of my favorite treasures. Many samples of all their signature fonts, including the "Garamont" (Jannon), the Jaugeon, and more. Plus, it has a stunning range of samples of their foreign language fonts.

You can buy a copy for as little as $25 if you don't care about the condition. Well worth it for any scholar of fine old printing.

Stefan Seifert's picture

Yeah Raph!

Now I know this is the way to make you come up to the surface again!
I was missing your comments and wonderful fonts here.

Sounds interesting this book. Where could I buy it? I didn’t understand.

Love your Zeno, and Centaur.
What did you make with them?
Would it be possible to see one letter with curves?
I suspect there are some secrets behind your way to design. ;-)

Stefan Seifert's picture

>Look at how sharp that A is. That’s a dangerous looking A.

If you find this A dangerous you’ll have to see the minor a! ;-)) and g ;-)

But I understand your comment. Normally I am also terrfied by sharp angular letters as in the Futura (once had to do a fashion magazine logo with a Futura version...outch..but they wanted it..the A is like a knife)


Antonio Cavedoni's picture

Stefan, thanks for the scans! You can buy Debuts de l’imprimerie en France from many vendors: some are listed in the Google Books page linked by Raph, although a character encoding problem prevents the links from actually working. Apparently Abebooks seems to list the widest number of sources, that’s probably where the $25 copy Raph was mentioning comes from. Unfortunately I’ll have to restrain from buying it now unless I want to go bankrupt.

As for the Garamont type: it’s a very successful and beautiful design, but I am not quite fond of its K, R, and T at the moment, they look somewhat unbalanced. But I’m surely missing something, I can’t claim any authority in this critique at all.

raph's picture

Stefan: yep, posting scans of beautiful samples is one of the best ways to get my attention.

You can buy the book at abebooks; try this search.

I used mostly my Spiro tools to make the Centaur and Zeno digitizations. I've made an interim release, but they're still too rough edged to be used by anyone other than their creator. I'm reluctant to release any outlines for the Zeno, because I don't want to irritate Martino Mardersteig, who I feel has some moral claim to the font. However, my digitizations from the Centaur originals (Museum) come with full Spiro plate files and processed images of the letterforms from the high-res 2400 dpi scans. I'm not at my main font computer now, but I'll try to make png images of both the scan and the screenshot this evening after dinner.

The reason that my design techniques are so secret has more to do with people not paying them much attention than me trying to hide them. People generally seem happy with their existing Bezier tools, but I personally can't imagine going back to them after tasting the Spiro curves.

crossgrove's picture

Some of those caps remind me of Vendome, which is also French. Surely Ganeau was aware of these large caps? The K in this scan reminds me especially of Vendome, with its urgent slope to the right.

raph's picture

As promised, here's a picture illustrating the steps of producing the 'a' from Zeno, from averaged scan to finished glyph.

Note also how much clearer and more detailed the averaged 'a' image is than the raw scan of any one given impression. Common glyphs like 'a' were produced from dozens and dozens of impressions. Also note how the averaging process removes the halftone screen from the tint, and the paper texture. The gamma of the averaged image has also been lightened to show more detail, but that's optional.

Florian Hardwig's picture

Wow, I’ve never seen such an ‘Œ’ before … Nice!
And it seems that there are not a lot of fonts that feature an ‘Œ’ with those overlapping parts (Actually, I found only one, Garamond BE).

Stefan Seifert's picture


Wow Raph,

very fastly a comment, even if I have to read your comments a few times again before getting everything (English problem;-):
I AM THE ONE in the world who understands what you mean (at least hope so to understand you well) according to beziér curves. I am convinced that they change natural organic forms into something new and different and NOT DESIRABLE. I design typefaces now for more than 15 years and still I can’t rid of my feeling that these curves don’t really work with analogic forms. I mean maybe there is a difference between an oval and a mathematical ellipse. I often feel forced to introduce more and more points into a curve when I wish to make it soft and natural which I know in fact weakens every beziér design, I think also because the choice that the computer has to do, actually setting the points into the rough grid, is too unprecise and therefore curves become shaky. And to draw the tangents more to the outside from the maximum point distorts the area next to the point.
Seems that everyone in the world works fine with Beziér and look what they have done to the classics as Jenson for example!
They changed even our own way today of seeing forms. It’s my believe at least.
Am I totally wrong? Crazy? Foolish?

I have seen that in your types there is something different. I felt it.
To me they look more “passive” in its curves which is a great compliment because this means you did catch the nature of the forms of the original form without changing them!! Maybe I am wrong and didn’t understand you well.
But if you have something different please go out and tell it to the world even if noone seems to hear you!!!


Stefan Seifert's picture

An oval from Garamont Imprimerie with two different Beziér methods ( I don’t have anything else and please noone tell me about this spline thing)


Stefan Seifert's picture

Hi Florian!

I also like the french ligature a lot!


Stefan Seifert's picture

Hi again,

seems that in fact I didn’t understand well.
In the end those Spiro curves are different to Beziér curves? Because you showed Beziér curves, too, in the (beautiful) designs you made from Zeno. I am confused.
I did understand that you made an average image of more than one scan of the same letter, right? But then, is there something different in actually translating them digitally? Is it in FontLab you did the work?
Next time I will wait before answering too quick ;-)
But still there is some truth in what I say, isn’t it? But maybe its only my personal design problem.
Anyhow love your fonts!
And you are probably right with Mardersteig.
Did you get the originals for the scan from him? I am astonished then.
For what I heard he wasn’t keen on translating digitally Officina stuff.
Do you know Jane Patterson and Sebastiano Castiglioni, by the way?


Stefan Seifert's picture

Apparently I will never get to know about the secrets of those Spiro thing..:-(
But in the end I have to say its nice to discuss with oneself ;-)))

Sorry just kidding..

Antonio Cavedoni's picture

Stefan: Spiro curves are indeed different from beziers, they are called Cornu curves and they make it easier to get smooth connections. Spiro is also able to convert from its own Cornu plate format to beziers, so you can draw glyphs in Spiro then import then into your font editor for complete font production. Raph made an initial release of Spiro, 0.01. It’s very rough around the edges but gives you a feel for how Cornu curves work.

In the Typophile thread announcing the first release Raph and others discussed Spiro at length, including future plans and how it can be used today to get work done (because that’s what Raph uses, actually).

Hope this helps.

Stefan Seifert's picture


Thanks for your intervention! Sounds very interesting to me.
I will take me some time to study what I will find there.
Great help!


PS What are you into when it comes to letter design?

Stefan Seifert's picture

Ciao Raph,

I only wanted to say that I tried to install your Spiro tool and it seems doesn’t work on my 10.3.9 system
as you predicted. The icon appears, everything seems normal, but I can’t find a way to open any kind
of document or something else. Maybe I didn’t catch something right also?

So long, nevertheless this thing seems very interesting to me.
I attach a file of an a that I am working on to explain what I mean with my feeling about Beziér curves.
Specially in the near by zones to the points curves for my eyes lack roundness - seem to be to steep (correct word?)
Sure one can change point relations but if one likes to keep curves as they are and is not willing to add new points
(which weakens the lines)..
I don’t know, just feelings..

So far


quadibloc's picture

I'll have to admit that one of the things I dislike about the use of Bézier curves in current digital type standards is perhaps the opposite of what a poster here noted.

While Bézier curves may act as a passable mathematical substitute for a draughtsman's French curve (one very early digital typesetting system, by Purdy, used an Archimedian spiral instead), for some typefaces one wants an exact mathematical description of the curves in a character. For many Roman alphabets, plain old conic sections are what one would like. And there's Melior, a typeface by Hermann Zapf which is based on Piet Hein's superellipse.

Stefan Seifert's picture


Explain yourself more exactly, sounds interesting what you have to say!

Looking forward

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