Diderot & d'Alembert on Typefounding

From the Encyclopédie, 1752 & 1763

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1. The Encyclopédie and Its Availability

Although the subject of typefounding is treated in the Encyclopédie of Denis Diderot and Jean le Rond d'Alembert, the state of the availability of this material to the anglophone typefounder is unsatisfactory. In part this is due to the way in which the subject was addressed in the original text, but primarily it is due to issues in the way that the Encyclopédie has been reprinted and translated in both the print and digital eras. This Notebook is an attempt to lay out for the English-speaking typefounder what is presently available.

For a more detailed look at the available versions of the Encyclopédie, in general, see the general CircuitousRoot Notebook Artifice -> Preliminary Studies -> Research Sources and Artificers' ResourcesResources -> Important Texts -> The Encyclopédie of Diderot and d'Alembert .

2. Typefounding in the Encyclopédie

The primary two articles related to the making of printing types are:

"Caracteres d'imprimerie." Vol. 2, pp. 650-666.

"Poinçons a lettre, gravure des, pour les caracteres d'Imprimerie." Vol. 12, p. 867. This makes reference to the illustrations under "Gravure" in the plates.

Confusingly, however, the plates illustrating this do not appear in an article of the same name in the volumes of plates. Rather, they appear in a section which bears the title:

"Fonderie en caracteres d'imprimerie, précédée de la gravure des poinçons, Les deux Arts contenant huit Planches."

In English, this corresponds approximately to:

"The type foundry, preceded by punchcutting (both arts contained within eight plates)"

This section appears within volume two, part one. (The volumes of plates do not have an overall pagination.) There are indeed eight plates (and three pages of captions to these plates).

Additional material appears in several smaller sections (often these are just definitions, without substantial technical content):

The article "Contre-Poinçon" (Vol. 4, p. 139), which is illustrated in Fig. 52 of Plate III of "de la Gravure." This article makes reference to the article "Gravure des poinçons à lettre," but no such article exists.

"Gravure de Caracteres d'Imprimerie," Vol. 7, p. 903. This is just a brief entry. It makes reference to the articles "Poinçons de Fonderie" and "Caractere." No article "Poinçons de Fonderie" exists. Presumably "Caractere" refers to "Caracteres d'imprimerie."

One of the sections within the article on punches ("Poinçons"), Vol. 12, p. 868, does define it as a "en terme de Fondeur de caracteres." This entry refers to the set of plates for "Poinçons" (which does not exist) and to the article "Gravure des poinçons a lettre" (which does not exist).

The article "Matrice, (fondur de caracteres d'Imprimerie)." Vol. 10, p. 206.

In addition there are several articles and sets of plates more or less related to typefounding:

"Caracteres et alphabets de langues mortes et vivantes." Plates, Vol. 2a.

"Gravure en lettres, en geographie et en musique." Plate vol. 3 (ARTF vol. 22). [OR IS IT Plate Vol. 4? gallica PDF 190ff] This is really on engraving for intaglio printing. Similarly, see "Gravure en metailles et en cachets" in the same volume.

Finally, the basic article on printing is at:

"Imprimerie," Vol. 8, p. 607. Illustrated by the set of plates "Imprimerie en caractères," Plates Vol. 7 (with substantial captions).

3. Extracts

Extracts of material related to type founding from various scans of the original (or at least 18th century) editions.

[click image to read]

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"Caracteres d'Imprimerie" & "Fonderie..."

This is an extract, in PDF format, of one article and one set of plates (with captions) from the Encyclopédie. Together, these contain the bulk of the material on typefounding. The article is "Caracteres d'Imprimerie," from Vol. 2, pp. 650-666. (1752). The set of plates is "Fonderie en caracteres d'imprimerie, précédée de la gravure des poinçons, Les deux Arts contenant huit Planches" from the second volume (first part) of plates (1763). This volume of plates has no overall pagination; there are three pages of captions followed by eight plates.

The source for the page images gathered here is the scan presented by the ARTFL Encyclopédie Project of the University of Chicago. These page images are in the public domain.

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