Pierre Simon Fournier

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Pierre-Simon Fournier (15 September 1712 – 8 October 1768) was a French mid-18th century punch-cutter, typefounder and typographic theoretician. He was both a collector and originator of types. Fournier's contributions to printing were his creation of initials and ornaments, his design of letters, and his standardization of type sizes. He worked in the rococo form, and designed typefaces including Fournier and Narcissus.[1] He was known for incorporating ‘decorative typographic ornaments’[2] into his typefaces. Fournier's main accomplishment is that he ‘created a standardized measuring system that would revolutionize the typography industry forever’.[3]

He was known as Fournier le Jeune (the younger); his father Jean Claude was also in the type-setting industry. In his early life, Fournier studied watercolour with J. B. G. Colson, and later wood engraving. In 1737, Fournier published his first theoretical work, on the minimum spacing between letters while still retaining readability.


Fournier's type construction

In 1723, the French government agreed that types should be subject to standards. By 1737, Fournier le Jeune decided to begin creating his punches to a scale of 72 points to the Paris inch, instead of the standard height-to-paper method. Thirty-eight years after Fournier took up this practice, François-Ambroise Didot based his own system on the pied du roi, the French foot. Didot preserved his subdivisions, making 72 Didot points or 6 Ciceros to the Paris inch. Based on the Paris foot (=0.298 m). A foot was divided in 12 inches. Each inch or better "thumb" was divided in 12 stripes, a stripe was divided in 6 points. This point is smaller than the Didot-point, from F. A. Didot, that was based in 1770 on the legal "kings-foot". (~ 0.325 m). 12 point Fournier is approximately 11 point Didot.[4][5] With all of that, the traditional terms Parisienne, nonpareile, galliarde, petit romain went out the window.


Two years after developing the point system, Fournier decided to create his own type foundry.

When the Netherlands was seized by France, Louis XIV commissioned new types for use during his reign. The King kept the font as a monopoly to himself, with penalties against unauthorized reproduction. In the following century, Fournier's Modèles des Caractères (1742) continued the Romain du Roi style, but adapted it for his own new age. The typefaces that Fournier and successors created had such extreme contrast between thick and thin strokes, that there was a constant risk of the letters shattering.

Upon publishing Modèles des Caractères, filled with rococo and fleurons, Fournier's publication helped revive the 16th century concept of type ornaments. The revival spawned imitations, including some by Johann Michael Fleischmann and J. Enschedé.

By the 1750s, Fournier le Jeune was still riding high as a major player in the industry. Fournier acted as advisor to Sweden and Sardinia in the creation of their royal printing works, and helped Madame de Pompadour establish her own printing works.

On his wave of relative success, Fournier's interest in music had a chance to finally flourish. Working with J. G. I. Breitkopf in 1756, Fournier developed a new musical typestyle that made the notes round, more elegant, and easier to read. They quickly gained popularity in the music world. Ballard had previously had a monopoly in the printing of music, using Haultin's comparatively crude 1525 cuts.

Patenting his invention in 1762, he surprisingly was frowned upon by other printers, who initially didn't recognise the practice as legitimate. He published a historical and critical treatise on the origins and process of cast iron characters for music, in which he pled for acceptance of his own works, while blasting Ballard.

In 1764 and 1768 Fournier published "Manuel Typographique", his formal and systematic exposition on the history of French types and printing, and on type founding in all its details; including the measurement of type by the point system.

After death[edit]

Fournier's company remained open until the 19th century.

Interest in type design was stimulated in 1922 by D. B. Updike's Printing Types. This led to the newly appointed advisor to the Monotype Corporation, Stanley Morison, initiating a program of recutting past faces. Among them was Fournier's self-named font.

Fournier on others' type[edit]

"[Baskerville's italic is] the best found in any type-foundry in Europe." Baskerville taught calligraphy for four years, before discovering type. Both Fournier and Baskerville's italics originated with copperplate hand.


  1. ^ MyFonts entry for Pierre Simon Fournier le jeune
  2. ^ http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/215166/Pierre-Simon-Fournier
  3. ^ http://www.academia.edu/4070546/Fournier_le_Jeune
  4. ^ Ronner, L. (1915). Van Leerling tot Zetter: Met een Hoofdstuk over het Drukken (in Dutch). Amsterdam: N. V. Drukkerij de Nieuwe Tijd. p. 30. OCLC 65484295. 
  5. ^ Elliott, R. C. (1933). "The development if the 'point' unit of type measurement". Monotype Recorder (London: The Monotype Corporation) 30 (241). OCLC 11494675. 

Further reading[edit]

  • Fournier, Pierre Simon, Traité historique et critique [...]. Minkoff Reprint, Genève 1972 [avec le traité des Gando]
  • Lepreux G., Gallia typographica, série parisienne. Paris 1911
  • Beaujon P., Pierre Simon Fournier 1712–1768, and 18th century French Typography. London 1926
  • Carter H. (éditeur), Fournier on Typefounding. London 1930 [traduciton de P.-S. Fournier, «Manuel typographique» Paris 1764–1768
  • Hutt, A. (1972). Fournier the Compleat Typographer. London. 
  • Gando, N.; Gando, F. (1766). Observations sur le Traité historique et critique de Monsieur Fournier le jeune sur l'origine et les progrès des caractères de fonte pour l'impression de la musique. Berne. 
  • Steinberg, S. H. (1996). Five Hundred Years of Printing (New ed.). New Castle, Delaware: Oak Knoll Press. ISBN 1884718191. 
  • Warszawski, Jean-Marc (February 6, 2005). "Pierre Simon Fournier". Musicologie (in French). 

External links[edit]