Geoffroy Tory

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Initial by Tory from his book Champ-fleury

Geoffroy Tory, born in Bourges around 1480 and died in Paris before 14 October 1533, was a French humanist and an engraver, best known for adding accents on letters in French. His life's work has heavily influenced French publishing to this day.


Geoffroy Tory was born in Bourges in 1480, a decade after the first printing press arrived in Paris. He attended the local university, where he developed an interest in Latin literature. After completing his studies, Tory left Bourges for Italy, where he studied at two additional universities: first, the Sapenzia at Rome, and then Bologna, where he studied under Philip Beroaldus, a well-known Latinist.[1]

Around 1505, when Tory completed his studies in Italy, he left for Paris. There Tory worked as a bookbinder, editor of texts, and corrector for the press, serving such clients as Jean Grolier de Servières.[2]

The first book Tory is known to have worked on is the Pomponius Mela, in 1508. Despite his young age, Tory's work on the Pomponius Mela allowed him to develop a rather large reputation. In 1509, he became one of the youngest professors to teach at the Collège du Plessis.[3] While Tory taught, he continued to work on his passion of bookbinding and editing.

Tory was known to be an extremely hard worker, often taking on large workloads. Some time around 1511, Tory became a professor at Collège de Coqueret, and soon after at the college de Bourgogne, which at the time was a principal unit in the university of Paris. His lectures were said to draw large audiences.[4]

Tory's interest in this period turned to the arts, especially painting and engraving. Several years after joining the College de Bourgogne, he resigned his post and made a move to Italy so as to better study these arts. Beyond Tory's passing references to his travels in Champ Fleury, there is not much known of Tory at this time. He returned to Paris in 1518 and began regularly producing woodcuts, for which he gained a reputation among Parisian editors. It was during this same period that Tory took up selling books himself.[5]

In 1514 Tory married the widow of a friend of his, fathering a daughter named Agnès. Tory doted on her, teaching her Latin and all of his life's work. Unfortunately, when Agnes was nine, she died from unknown reasons. When Tory printed for the first time, his printers mark was that of the urn that he kept his daughter's ashes in. Tory spent much of his time depressed over the death of his daughter. In the months following her death, Tory wrote several pieces of poetry, claiming how lucky he was to have had a daughter like his, and how her life influenced him. At the time, it was not uncommon for children to die at a young age, so it was unusual for Tory to have taken her death as hard as he did. It is said that her death influenced the creativity in his later works.

It wasn't until 1524 that he discovered The Book of Hours. The most famous copy of which is still dedicated to Tory. In 1525 Geoffroy published a copy of 'The Book of Hours' Introduced type design that was free from the idea of handwriting based print. It also started the idea of book designing as an art in France.[6]

In 1529 Tory published his own book, Champfleury, one of the most important and influential works of the time. It set the standard of French publishing, a standard that in many ways is still used today. In the introduction of Champfleury, Tory is quoted as saying that there are three different kinds of men who corrupt the French language; the "skimmers of Latin", the "jokers", and the "slangers".[7]

Gradually, he managed to get on hands on French texts, which he wanted to put into print, at a time when that was only done to texts in Latin. For that purpose, he introduced the apostrophe, the accent, and the cedilla. He wanted to reform French spelling towards its Latin roots.

In 1530 he became official printer to King Francis I,[8] and in 1532 he was made a librarian at the University of Paris. One of his apprentices was Claude Garamond, who became printer to the King after him.

The exact date of Tory's death is unknown, however it is said in a lease that in 1533 his wife was a widow.[9]


Published in 1529, Champfleury was written by Geoffroy Tory. It is divided into three books, and is heavily about the proper use of the French language, from elegance to the alphabet to the proper use of grammar, and subtitled "The Art and Science of the Proportion of the Attic or Ancient Roman Letters, According to the Human Body and Face".[10] The Champfleury was not as stylized as 'The Book of Hours', however it did give great insight into the mind of Tory; his pedantic attitude and his meticulous devotion to the French Language.[11] Tory used a grid that was in a square shape, that eerily predicts the use of pixelation in modern day typefaces. Although "Champfleury" roughly translates to "flowery fields", it is also a French idiom for "paradise".[10]

The Book of Hours[edit]

The Book of Hours, Tory's most famous work, contained sixteen full page borders and thirteen large woodcuts. This version of The Book of Hours is the most famous to this day. It is famous for breaking all the traditions of the time. The illustrations in the book are not the greatest, as Tory did them all himself, and despite a passion for art, he didn't have the talent. It is printed with a light roman type. There are 17 known copies of the 1531 'Book of Hours', which is the year that Tory published it. The Book of Hours granted Tory specific privileges with King François I to publish his own works.[6]

Major works[edit]

Livre d'heures

Tory completed the Livre d'heures in 1525.

Champ Fleury

Champ Fleury, 1529


  1. ^ Ivans, William M., Jr. (April 1920). "Geoffroy Tory". The Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin 15 (4): 79–86. JSTOR 3253359. 
  2. ^ "Geoffrey Tory (1480-1533)". Columbia University. 
  3. ^ "Geoffroy Tory Summary". 
  4. ^ "Exhibition: Geoffroy Tory - the official printer to King François 1er". 
  5. ^ Bernard, Auguste. "Geoffroy Tory, peintre et graveur, premier imprimeur royal, réformateur de l'orthographe et de la typographie sous François Ier (2e édition, entièrement refondue)". E. Toss. Retrieved 9 February 2014. 
  6. ^ a b Maddocks, Hilary (Autumn 2007). "Geofroy Tory's 1531 Book of Hours". La Trobe Journal (79). 
  7. ^ [1]
  8. ^ Le Petit Robert des Noms Propres
  9. ^ The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1920, page 86
  10. ^ a b "Geofroy Torey: Champ Fleury". Octavo. 
  11. ^ The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1920, page 84

Secondary works[edit]

  • Auguste Bernard. Geofroy Tory, peintre et graveur, premier imprimeur royal, réformateur de l'orthographie et de la typographie sous François Ier... Deuxième édition. Paris : Tross, 1865.
  • Claude Mediavilla. Histoire de la calligraphie française. Paris : 2006; p. 134-136

External links[edit]