A Fun Find: Early Greek Didot (1790)



  • John SavardJohn Savard Posts: 1,086
    Since the paragraph beginning that page didn't give the special or distinctive method used to print this edition, I went to the preceding page, but that did seem to only discuss the accuracy of the figures. So, indeed, he seems to have used the term in a different sense.
  • Aside from displaying an interesting early form of Greek type, is this the origin of the term Stereotype as used in typography?

    ...looking at Wikipedia, the term Stereotype is said to have been coined in its modern sense in 1798, so this does precede the known origin. Having gone to your link, what I glanced at seemed to be saying merely that the reason author called the logarithm tables stereotypes was because they were free from error, and would not be in need of revision.
    I'm currently contributing a chapter on stereotype molds (including flongs) and plates for a book about printing materials, and I thank this thread for giving me the. Firmin Didot is always cited as coining the term stereotype, and the Tables… is its first appearance in print. The original edition was 1795. However, so many further editions (noted as tirage on the title page) appeared and were digitized, it's very difficult to find the original original.

    With this thread's clues, I dug up the original at the Heinrich Heine Universität Düsseldorf, which has a very high-resolution copy. The title page says “1795 AN III (Tirage an XII)”, which seems to indicate a printing number. All editions published in later years have a year following Tirage.

    The following year in England, a journal published a review of the tables, including a reproduction (with missing Greek diacriticals) of Didot’s statement about stereotypes.

    Thus any citation that refers to 1798 is not looking back far enough. The OED has citations for 1799 and 1800 that I believe actually incorrectly distinguish between meanings of the word. I've tried to submit older citations to the OED previously for printing terms I've found verified instances in digitized copies of print books and periodicals, but they have no feedback loop so there's no way to know if they receive them and accept or reject. Why bother?
  • I wasn’t sure what was meant by "polytypage” so I searched “translate ‘polytypage’ French.” The two (1) (2) immediately noticeable links denote it as “polytyping” in number 2 with two sources of its own, or (using our pal Google translate again):
    As far as I can tell from late 1700s and early 1800s early sources,  polytypage or polytyping is a form of dabbing, as described by James Mosley (abklatschen in German). One method is to create a frame in which a cooling layer of lead alloy is poured, and then a locked up portion of type or metal cut is suspended above it and released! It drops hard into the cooling metal—there's apparently a barrier around it so one isn't splashed with lead. Once cooled, the original material can be teased out without ruining it or the mold. The mold can then be cast in the identical manner as a relief plate. The entire process seems to be called polytyping. So a singular polytype could be the mold or the plate.

    You can imagine people being relieved at Didot's plaster-based method. Ostensibly, this was used in a different form in England as early as 1780, but following Didot, the Earl of Stanhope also invested in stereotyping and with partners built an operation from which other stereotyping operations descended. (Including in America, where David Bruce apparently met with Stanhope and others, but was unable to get precise secrets. Stanhope was remarkably liberal with allowing free use of his patents—within the United Kingdom. However, Bruce garnered some tidbits and was apparently given a plate to study.)

    My research continues, but it's a very rich vein of early claims and then those are somewhat forgotten as commercial work ensues in the early 1800s through the end of plaster about 30+ years later, and then the end of wet flongs in the late 1800s/very early 1900s.
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