Garamond’s Typography

January 9, 2019 0 Comment


             The world today enjoys developed forms of typography. One of the developments is the digital printing system. The printing market would not have reached where it currently is without the foundation laid by people and societies in history. Ancient Europe is seen to be an innovator of the printing criterion where different forms of print were used. The forms that can be dated back to the thirteenth century include Gutenberg’s printing press, which was later developed in the fifteenth century as type-casting from metal. The print industry has had significant developments dependent on several factors that include religious, political, aesthetical, economic, social, and technological. This paper seeks to predominantly evaluate how the religious factors engaged other factors to influence change in the manuscript style by following the footsteps of Claude Garamond who was the most distinguished type designer of his time and maybe the entire renaissance period for the significance of his revolutionary ideas that obtained potential in the economical aspects of typography that lead the world today through mass production.

            Claude Garamond invented his distinct typeface in the sixteenth century. Precisely, in 1541 Garamond had his three of his typefaces noted and requested for use in a royal book series by an author named Robert Estienne. The three typefaces were Italic, Roman and Greek. The Roman typeface was distinct and more appealing compared to the other typefaces. This would see the King Francois make Garamond’s typeface his personal font. Garamond would further develop his Roman typeface drawing inspiration from the Aldine italic typeface. After Garamond was convinced he had developed the Roman typeface he moved to form a publishing trade partnership with a Parisian seller by the name Jean Barbe. The partnership published its first book called “Pio et Religiosa Meditatio” and was authored by David Chambellan. The publishing was an economical need that sparked revelation of a print industry where people became publishers using Garamond’s font. The publishers were able to make profits from book sales and saw the print industry grow more as the roman typeface experienced development.

            The first book Garamond and his partner published sold widely because of its religious touch. At the same time, the masses were starting to embrace the Roman typefaces due to their aesthetic appeal. On Garamond’s death, the French National Printing Service admitted to using his roman typeface for years after he had started publishing. This meant that the roman typeface had been distributed to the French and general European population. Ironically, many people did not give credit to Garamond as his roman typeface had become very popular without any reference to him. Today, people use extensions of Garamond’s’ force for improved forms of calligraphy. These are seen in product branding. The tattooing industry also uses the font extensions to stress design and beauty on the intended body parts of a person. Graphic design has also embraced the font extensions in poster designs as well as illustration that can be seen in fonts like the one used in the signature “The New York Times.”

Notably, writing has seen rapid growth since Gutenberg’s press in the thirteenth century. Before Gutenberg had established his printing press, the societies in Europe had strong religious beliefs. The faithful needed reading material that they could refer and recite their prayers. At that time, only scribes were allowed to write in closed and silent rooms called scriptoriums. No one was supposed to disturb them, as it was believed superior beings in their work inspired the scribes. The scribes would take measurements of necessary pages and copy text from one script to a new page. This was meant to provide the population with enough religious literature. The Hussite crisis would of the 1400’s have 200 manuscripts burned. A void in the religious literature was created since trained scribes were hard to find.

Gutenberg saw this as a business opportunity. He was believed to be an entrepreneurial mind and chose to produce in mass form the Bibles that the scribes produced. The first 200 Bibles by Gutenberg were sold even before their completion. Religion was valued at the time to extents of causing economic ripples such as increased demand and reduced supply. Protestants started spreading their word through pamphlets and outnumbered the Catholics. The two religious groups were competing for dominance of religious territories by gaining more followers from the masses (Kennedy). Garamond however was the first to receive a commission on the design of a roman typeface that was drawn by Aldus Manutius for a 1455 edition of de Aetna, asked by King Francois I of France

Obviously Garamond came after Gutenberg with his Roman typefaces that were still used 200 years after its initial landing in the world of typography. Lithographic offset printing followed in the twentieth century, while digital printing was realized in the twenty first century (Hargrave 226). Time and cost were the initial main factors for the writing industry. The disruptive technologies ensured that rival print institutions found them unreliable. These institutions strived to make profits from making and selling Bibles and other religious literature to the masses. Protestants were versatile in their push for dominating the religious world. This made the available publishers strive much to work hard to impress the Protestants in a bid to secure business. Lithographic offset printing was then considered below the market standards.

            The users of the writing materials opted for paper, as it was more reliable and convenient. More papers were needed, and this called for the adoption of a device that would transform paper mill’s rotary action into reciprocal movements by means of levers. That was meant to substitute grindstones and mallets that were used by the Arab adage to transform rags into papers (Sablonniere, Bourgeois, and Najih 49). The agricultural culture extended the cultivation of raw materials that made rags. The raw materials were flax and hemp. The production of paper was hence increased, which meant typography was getting shape and more religious literature would spread. It is noted that the Muslim world would later receive forms of printing that made it possible for their religious work too. That was initiated by the European Protestant push for religious work.

            Religion continued to play a crucial factor in the development of typography. In the early years of the fifteenth century, Gutenberg wrote a 42-line Bible using his printing press. This is the Bible Gutenberg had promised himself he would rake in profits from. It had no title or cover page. Paradoxically, that was what Gutenberg and his customers wanted.






The Gutenberg Bible

            The Scandinavian countries such as Norway, Sweden, and Denmark saw an aesthetic value in typography. Aesthetics was therefore a motivating factor for improving typography (Eyporsdottir). The Protestants saw the need to pass on information to the masses in an organized an appealing manner. Calligraphy and fonts would be modified to bring forth a feel that was rare among many literary works. In fact, graphic design resulted from typography where people wanted to have impressions of what was being talked about. The twentieth century brought magazines that incorporated colors to both texts and images. It was noted that when newspapers adopted the colors mass consumption was triggered. That affirmed to the countries that making texts and attaching colorful images to the then print press meant more consumers, which helped manufacturers to achieve economic value and start raking in profits and providing employment for the socially elite.

            According to Eisenstein, cultural factors played a crucial role in the development of typography (77). The elements that defined the cultural factors were psychology and communications. People were becoming more civilized and wanted to veer away to the old ways. A good example is when festivities would be held, communication in the nineteenth century as well as twentieth century was done through invitations (Eisenstein 78). Protestantism was aware of social needs such as civilization. That would necessitate the creation of mission schools that would be equipped by literature. Religion was mandatory in such schools. Since the Catholic fraternity had also gained ground at the time, the two started competing for dominance over people. Educational institutions cropped up, and Gutenberg’s printing press would become more needed to author books that the universities and other educational institutions required.

            Conclusively, Garamond initiated the development and spread of the roman typeface across Europe which created publishing jobs and brought in revenue. Aesthetic factor played a lead role in changing typography to what it is now. Protestants played a vital role in the growth of the print industry. In particular, their efforts helped to distribute the Bibles to various parts of Europe and the world, which eventually boosted literacy levels. The literacy levels then thirsted for knowledge and hence a market for print work was created. Protestants pushed their religion to an extent of setting up institutions where religion would be taught alongside other things. The need for print work increased, which developed typography.


Works Cited

Eisenstein, L. Elizabeth. The Printing Press as an Agent of Change: Communications and Cultural Transformations in Early Modern Europe. New York: Cambridge University Press, 1980. Document.

Elizabeth Eisenstein, a prolific writer and a lecturer at the Cambridge University, describes the print industry as revolutionary. People had need for knowledge, which was always based on religion. The Bible was a common initiating factor for the development of the roman typography, Eisenstein infers.

Eyporsdottir, Katrin. “The Story of Scandinavian Design.” Smashing Magazine. 13 June 2011. Web. 26 November 2015. <>.

Katrin Eyporsdottir is a reporter and columnist with the Smashing Magazine. Eyporsdottir has been in the journalistic field for slightly over ten years. The author talks about how religion would influence the Scandinavian art. She argues Scandinavia’s piece of art is inherently unique thanks to religion.

Hargrave, Jocelyne. “Disruptive Technological History: Papermaking to Digital Printing.” Journal of Scholarly Publishing 44.3 (2013): 221-230. Print.

Jocelyne Hargarve is an author of several historical books and has been able to sell them internationally. That adds to her credibility. In this book, offset lithography and Gutenberg printing press find themselves out of technology and new ways have to be adopted for making papers such as through using rags. The papers made were used to make more Bibles that Protestants wished spread their religion to more people, hence the creation of more print work.

Kennedy, Rita . “What Impact Did the Invention of the Printing Press Have on the Spread of Religion?” Synonym. 19 March 2013. Web. 30 November 2015. <>.

            Rita Kennedy has been doing research work for over 12 years now. She is based in the United Kingdom and has been able to write several journals. Kennedy brings religion and the press where the two are seen to develop each other.

Sablonniere, Roxane, Laura French Bourgeois, and Mariam Najih. “Dramatic Social Change: A Social Psychological Perspective.” Journal of Spocial and Political Psychology 1.1 (2013): 45-56. Print.

Sablonniere, Bourgeois, and Najuh are doctorate degree holders who incorporate social and political psychology in their quest to know how religion affected the change in typography. The authors agree that if it were not for the ancient times, human literacy would be underachieved.


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