Louis Pouchée

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Louis John (or Jean) Pouchée (1782 – 15 March 1845),[1] was a London type founder and entrepreneur.[2][3]


Pouchée is first recorded as the proprietor of Alamode Beef and Veal House (1811–1812) and Pouchée & Co Coal Merchants (1811–22),[4] both in Holborn, but it was in 1818 that Pouchée established his type foundry in Lincoln's Inn Fields. He imported Henri Didot's mechanical typefounding machine, the machine polyamatype, in 1823[5] which could cast 200 types at once and repeat the process two or three times a minute.[6] Pouchée also paid Didot 48,000 Francs for the patent rights of a planing and cross-cutting machine. Pouchée soon became a major manufacturer of pictorial stock-blocks and printers' ornaments. Type from Pouchée's foundry was used to print the Evening Times newspaper.[7]

Pouchée recruited skilled staff and paid high wages, but sold his type more cheaply than other foundries. He was forced out of business in 1830 by the other typefounders, whose prices he undercut.[8] Pouchée sold his typecasting machine to Mr Reed, Covent Garden printer, for £100,[9] however Reed was frontman for a syndicate of type founders, who arranged to have the machine taken out to sea and dumped over board.[10]

Pouchée was a Freemason (he was initiated into the Egyptian Lodge in October 1811) and owned numerous hare coursing greyhounds. Little is known about the later years of Pouchée's life although he is recorded as being in Paris during the July Revolution;[11] giving money to the widow of a workman who had taken up arms with his employer, an English printer.

The discovery and reproduction of Pouchée's Alphabets[edit]

Some 23 of Pouchée's decorated alphabets have survived and are now held at the St Bride Library. They were discovered at the sale of the H. W. Caslon & Co foundry in 1936, at that time identified simply as "Victorian" curiosities; and after spending the World War II in a store in London were transferred for a time to Oxford University Press. It wasn't until 1966 that they were identified, by St Bride Librarian James Mosley, as being from the foundry of L. J. Pouchée. This finding was afterwards corroborated by the discovery of a type catalogue, Specimens of Stereotype Casting, from the Foundry of L J Pouchée.

These original wooden blocks have since been used by Ian Mortimer for reproduction sets using iron hand presses. Published by I. M. Imprint and St Bride Library, 200 sets were produced over a period of two and a half years.

Characters from one of Pouchée's alphabets are used on the cover artwork for the Pulp album We Love Life,[12] designed by Peter Saville. Another of Pouchée's alphabets was used by the street artist Ben Eine to cover shop shutters in London's East End.[13]

Description of the alphabets[edit]

Working with the most richly ornamented letters ever to have been made for letterpress printing,[14] Pouchée's staff created fat-face style letters featuring flowers, fruit, animals, agricultural implements, musical instruments and Masonic symbols. Up to 26 lines in cap height and made from single blocks of end-grain boxwood, they were intended as eye-catching elements for printed posters.[15] They were described in one of the extra scenes of the documentary film Typeface as the most ambitious and most beautiful types created in wood in any period.[16]


  1. ^ Neil Macmillan, An A–Z of Type Designers, p. 154
  2. ^ "Ornamented types: a prospectus" (PDF). imimprimit. Retrieved 12 December 2015. 
  3. ^ Coles, Stephen. "We Love Life by Pulp". Fonts In Use. Retrieved 12 March 2016. 
  4. ^ Mosley, J. The Ornamental Types of L. J. Pouchée, introduction. London: St Bride Printing Library and I. M. Imprimit, 1993
  5. ^ (1823) "List of new patents", Philosophical Magazine Series 1, 62:304, p. 158
  6. ^ Luke Hebert, The Engineer's And Mechanic's Encyclopaedia Vol. 1, 1849, section entitled 'Founding of Iron'
  7. ^ The Proceedings of the Old Bailey Ref: t18281023-55 - John Osborne, Theft: Simple Grand Larceny 23 October 1828.
  8. ^ Andrew Murphy, Shakespeare in Print: A History and Chronology of Shakespeare Publishing, 2003, p.172
  9. ^ John Squair, Reports by the juries on the subjects in the thirty classes into which the exhibition was divided, Volume 1, 1852, p. 408
  10. ^ John Southward, Progress in Printing and the Graphic Arts during the Victorian Era, 1897, p. 60
  11. ^ William Hone, Full Annals of the Revolution in France, 1830, p. 46
  12. ^ Emily King, "Everyday Exotics" in Frieze Magazine, issue 68, 2002
  13. ^ "L. J. Pouchée Has Mad Ups in the East End: Eine's Victorian Graffiti in London", Typographica, 13 January 2006
  14. ^ Ornamented Types Prospectus
  15. ^ Mike Daines, "Pouchée's Lost Alphabets" in Eye Vol. 4 No. 15, 1994
  16. ^ Video on YouTube

External links[edit]

Works by Louis Pouchée at Open Library