1569, Granjon: quote, prime or apostrophe?

Matthijs Sluiter
Matthijs Sluiter Posts: 14
edited June 2020 in History of Typography
Hello all, 

For our group research project for the Expert Class Type Design at the Plantin Insitute in Antwerp, Belgium, we currently study and revive a typeface cut by Robert Granjon in 1569–70: Ascendonica Romaine. Below you will find four images photographed with a microscope camera, as found in the MA08 set at the MPM.

The top two images clearly show a semicolon and a comma.
But what is shown in the bottom two images? 

Both characters are positioned high, near cap height. 
Our first guest is that the bottom right image shows a double quote, and consequently the different-looking character on the bottom left could be an apostrophe, but:

Are they an apostrophe and a double right quote?
Were apostrophes in use in 1569, and if so in the same way as we use them now?
Where can we find more information on this peripheral subject?

The character set does not include any reversed or mirrored quotes, or single quotes (provided the bottom-left character is not a single quote), or other similar characters such as straight quotes or primes (or characters looking like those). If it is helpful, this type was extensively used for bibles, missals, etcetera.

Thank you for any answers, especially if backed up with resources!


  • John Hudson
    John Hudson Posts: 3,054
    Yes, the apostrophe was in use by 1569. To find examples of it from that period, look for books in French rather than Latin. This Gryphius’ Gros-Romain (Great Primer Roman), in use in an edition of Belon’s Histoire de la nature des oyseaux of 1555 (a copy is in the Plantin Moretus Museum).

  • John Savard
    John Savard Posts: 1,104
    This web page
    gives information on the earliest known use of quotation marks. It turns out that as early as 1516, a symbol having the shape of the closing double quotation mark was used to indicate quotes - but instead of being placed around the quoted text, it was placed next to it, just over the left margin.

  • Thomas Linard
    Gradually, he managed to acquire French texts to put into print, at a time when that was only done for Latin texts. For that purpose, he introduced the apostrophe, the accent, and the cedilla.
  • Matthijs Sluiter
    Hello John & John, thank you for your helpful answers. I will see if I can find a(n image of) a French-language page containing his apostrophe and quotes. That explains why there are nog revrersed / right hand side quote glyphs!

    I had never before seen the use of quotes as shown in the post on Aphelis. 
    The second image  in the post (screenshot below) shows both quotes, commas and an apostrophe (5th line, “d’equité), which all have their own typical size and shape, just like in Granjon’s set from 15 years later.

  • Matthijs Sluiter
    Matthijs Sluiter Posts: 14
    edited June 2020
    And Thomas, yes, of course I should’ve remembered Geoffroy de Tory! He is also shown as the oldest resource for quotes in the Aphelis article. (Image from the article shown below). It looks like there even might be an apostrophe in use here, in the tenth line: “quũ’eiusmodi”. But maybe this is wishful watching, it could also be a stain. 

    The fifth line ends with what looks like a superscript 9, but this is an abbreviation for -us, as we discovered when we tried to figure out why we had a superscript numeral in our character set.