Inspired by François Guyot's work

Martin SilvertantMartin Silvertant Posts: 166
edited November 2014 in History of Typography
I was doing research in historic type designers and I created a folder system on my computer where I have every type designer categorized with information on when the person lived and from what country they are, and the folders in turn are filled with pictures of their work. This is not only to satisfy my obsessive need to collect and categorize but also to get more insight into the history of typefaces; who might have inspired who?

During my research I landed on a few names I had never seen before. One of the names that piqued my interest was François Guyot. I can't find a lot of information, but I saw one of his specimen sheets and read about the typeface Tribute by Emigre, which is based on Guyot's works. I read John Downer's criticism on the typeface, and before I get to the main reason why I'm posting this I want to ask something about that. Why is Tribute such a bad typeface? I fully understand Downer's criticism within the context of a revival though. Perhaps it was a really bad choice to call this typeface Tribute, but my interpretation was that Tribute is a tribute to the unusual shapes of Guyot's work and not a strict revival. It seems letter forms have been exaggerated in Tribute, such as the /g with the small top counter and the huge loop, the double-serif N (a feature I see in the pica M while the canon M only has a serif on the left side just like in Tribute), the unusual serifs in T, the condensed A with the flat apex and the condensed U. One point of criticism on Tribute was the Q which has the tail emanating from the inside, similar to the Q in Century. Historically that seems to be a ludicrous idea, but then again, I don't see Tribute as a typeface that wants to be historically correct. It doesn't seem to have to pretend to do that.

I guess you could call Tribute somewhat of a monstrosity, but that's why I like it. It's unconventional but not bad, and I feel deviations like the Q were very conscious decisions rather than coming from ignorance or a historical misunderstand. With the dark color and simplified forms (the straight tail in /y and the lack of proper terminals in letters like /c and /s) I don't know exactly where this comes from or if it's a justified association, but it makes me think of 20th century German design. I think it would be a very nice typeface to see in letterpress. What do others think of Tribute and how it relates to Guyot's work?

Here's a quote on the typeface:
He has challenged many traditional assumptions that we ‘connoisseurs’ of hand-cut type have maintained in our attitude toward the historical accuracy sought and loved and expected in ‘revivals.’ The result is a unique combination of caricature, homage, alchemy, and fanciful reinterpretation. Tribute, I think, recalls Guyot’s native French-learned style, primarily as a point of departure for an original — albeit implausible — work of historical fiction, with merits and faults of its own.
Also, I read that Fred Nader made a typeface based on Guyot's work called Day Roman. I suppose this could be considered a revival whereas Tribute is as the name suggests, a tribute. I had a look at Day Roman and I like the design, but I guess that's Guyot. If I would have made a revival of this typeface, it would be a lot more refined. I like how Day Roman stays true to the original (as far as I can judge from the small pictures I've seen of the original) but Tribute is a lot more refined. I guess the point was to keep the warmth of the prints by Guyot though. I like Guyot's work a lot from what I've seen, so perhaps I will let myself get inspired by it sometime in the future. Does anyone have higher resolution pictures, or has anyone been inspired by Guyot? I find it somewhat surprising to not see Guyot characteristics in more typefaces, or am I just overlooking them?

This finally brings me to why I actually wanted to post about Guyot's work. I read the following quote:
Also interesting is Frank Blokland's use of the Guyot italic. This of course was suggested by van Krimpen, who at the end of his career asked himself whether his approach to italics was not entirely incorrect, and whether he might not have been better following the models of Guyot, had he only been familiar with them when he was young.
So now I'm wondering if anyone (hopefully Frank himself as well) could offer more insight into this issue. What's this use of the Guyot italic and how may van Krimpen's approach to italics be perceived to be entirely incorrect? Do other type designers have insight into this issue or is it one of those obscurities that is being forgotten?


  • My post was too long, so here's another quote I wanted to post:
    The task van Krimpen poses to the generation to come is not at all easy. It is much harder to make a usable italic out of Guyot for 20th/21st century technology than it is to use one of the chancery models that were so successfully revived throughout the 20th century, most particularly by van Krimpen. The problem is that they sorted so ill with his romans; while the Guyot italics are much more harmonious with post-Aldine forms.
  • PabloImpallariPabloImpallari Posts: 544
    edited November 2014
    I will also love to read what's Frank's explanation.
    Mi humble guess is that JvK's italics are a bit slow, while Guyot's are more fluid.
    See my grossly exaggerated sketch in the attached image
  • Martin SilvertantMartin Silvertant Posts: 166
    edited November 2014
    So it's just about the flow of the cursive form? I agree van Krimpen's italics contrast more with the roman. I don't know if that's a bad thing. I definitely don't see it working by default though and so I think the cursive form is indeed the preferred choice. In some typefaces I like quite a high contrast between roman and italic though. I haven't seen all of his types in context but I like how the italic and roman work together in Haarlemmer.

    I believe Sjoerd Hendrik De Roos also had a tendency to use the chancery model. It probably fits better with his designs though.

    But I wonder, is this merely a coincidence that two Dutch type designers who were born around the same time seem to have had a preference for chancery italics or is there more going on?
  • A lot can be written on this subject, but I will keep it brief here. At the risk of simplifying matters, one could state that there are two archetypal models for italics, the Italian Renaissance one and the French Renaissance one. The construction of the first model is described by Gerrit Noordzij as hybrid, i.e., interrupted, and the construction of the second one as uninterrupted, i.e, a ‘real’ cursive. Noordzij mentions: ‘Designers are always apt to suppress upstrokes for the sake of neatness. The majority of printers’ italics are hybrids;’ (1)

    The italics produced by Francesco Griffo were not meant to combine with roman type. (2) This mixture is from a later date: ‘Garamond came late to the consideration of the necessity to mix roman with italic and he represents transition between Arrighi and Granjon, between the Rome of 1525 and the Lyon of 1550. The root question was the extent to which the italic should be assimilated to roman; or vice versa.’ (3)

    As we all know, Monotype Garamond was accompanied by a cursive based on the Granjon model from 1530. Also Adobe Garamond has a Granjon-based cursive. Vervliet writes about Garamont’s and Granjon’s italics/cursives: ‘Italic seems have been a less than congenial type for Garamont. He chiefly made copies of the Aldine model (with upright capitals) and the ‘Old-face’ italics which he cut often show strain. Those of Granjon, on the other hand, are extremely elegant; they were decisive in determining the subsequent form of these letters.

    So, François Guyot (†1570) basically made cursives in line with these of Robert Granjon (1513–1589/1590), although he clearly had his own idiom. Vervliet: ‘The Romans are slightly provincial French-style Old Face, moderately well cut. The Italics […] are handsome, well formed cursive letters, as good as any italics of the 16th century. They seem to be influenced by the models shown in the earliest writing-book printed in the Netherlands, the Literarum latinarum quasi Italicas cursoriasque vocant scribendarum ratio, by the famous geographer Gerard Mercator (Louvain, 1540).’ (5)

    I adapted Guyot’s Ascendonica Cursief from around 1557 for combining it with Hendrik van den Keere’s Parangon Romein. Considering the relationship of both punch cutters with Plantin, this seemed to me a logical combination.

    Van Krimpen’s italics always have been a inexhaustible source of debate. Some are considered too narrow (Lutetia, Spectrum, Sheldon), too black (Lutetia, Spectrum), not at all an italic (Romulus), et cetera. We are all familiar with Morison’s article ‘Towards An Ideal Italic’ in The Fleuron Number 5, and the effect it had on Romulus. Dreyfuss writes on the italic of Lutetia: ‘Now it is quite evident that the inspiration for Lutetia italic came from the essentially calligraphic chancery types of the sixteenth century […]’ (6) That is basically the case with JvK’s other italics too, although as a typographer and as type designer he knew the other models very well. After all, Romanée was meant to accompany Van Dyck’s Kleine Text Curcyf No.2. The condensed italic (and small figures) of Spectrum can be explained by the need of lateral economy in a type designed for printing the Bible. (7)

    TBH, De Roos’ Cabinet of Curiosities can’t be compared with JvK’s œuvre. The only (more or less) serious italic he made was De Roos Italic IMHO. I have always considered this an attempt by De Roos to make a distinguished and sophisticated type a la JvK. I could be wrong though.

    I wrote some stuff about (DTL) Haarlemmer and its italic here:

    (1) Gerrit Noordzij, The stroke of the pen (The Hague, 1982) p.33
    (2) Stanley Morison, A Tally of Types (Cambridge, 1953) p.70
    (3) ibid p.68
    (4) Hendrik D.L. Vervliet The Palaeotypography of the French Renaissance: Selected Papers on Sixteenth-century Typefaces (2008) p.427
    (5) H.D.L. Vervliet Sixteenth-Century Printing Types of the Low Countries (Amsterdam, 1968) p.27
    (6) John Dreyfus, The work of Jan van Krimpen, (Haarlem, Utrecht, 1952) p.26
    (7) ibid p.46
  • Thanks a lot for all the information!
    They [Guyot's italics] seem to be influenced by the models shown in the earliest writing-book printed in the Netherlands, the Literarum latinarum quasi Italicas cursoriasque vocant scribendarum ratio,
    How do they seem to be? Has there something been written about this relationship or is this a conclusion we can draw ourselves? Did this work inspire other typefaces directly?
    Van Krimpen’s italics always have been a inexhaustible source of debate. Some are considered too narrow (Lutetia, Spectrum, Sheldon), too black (Lutetia, Spectrum), not at all an italic (Romulus), et cetera.
    Is there no desire to fix these or would that be unethical?
    I have always considered this an attempt by De Roos to make a distinguished and sophisticated type a la JvK.
    In your opinion, did he succeed at this?

    Also, this is quite off-topic but you mention some books. The only one of those I've read is 'The stroke of the pen'. I'm looking for books with a lot of information and images on old book typography. I'm interested more in the typefaces than type setting. Any recommendations?
  • By the way, I can't find François Guyot's date of birth anywhere. Is there no estimate?
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