Theodore Low De Vinne

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Theodore Low De Vinne
Chester Beach - Bust of Theodore Low De Vinne.jpg
Bust of Theodore Low De Vinne by Chester Beach
BornDecember 25, 1828
DiedFebruary 16, 1914(1914-02-16) (aged 85)
OccupationPrinter, typographer
EmployerDe Vinne Press
OrganizationGrolier Club

Theodore Low De Vinne (December 25, 1828 – February 16, 1914) was an American printer and scholarly author on typography. De Vinne did much for the improvement of American printing.

Life and career[edit]

The De Vinne Press printers mark, Thomas Jefferson Building, Library of Congress

De Vinne was born at Stamford, Connecticut, and educated in the common schools of the various towns where his father had pastorates. He developed the ability to be a printer while employed in a shop at Fishkill, New York. He worked at the Newburgh, New York Gazette, then moved to New York City. In 1849 he entered the establishment of Francis Hart, and worked there until 1883 when the business was renamed Theodore L. De Vinne & Co. In 1886, he moved to a model plant designed by him on Lafayette Place, which still stands.

De Vinne either commissioned Linn Boyd Benton, or co-designed in conjunction with Benton, the hugely popular Century Roman typeface for use by The Century Magazine, which his firm printed.[1] For use at his own press, he also commissioned Linotype to produce De Vinne, an updated Elzevir (or French Oldstyle) type, and the Bruce Typefoundry to produce Renner, a Venetian face.[2] However, his biographer Irene Tichenor notes that De Vinne's private correspondence shows he was not closely involved with the design of "De Vinne" and he ultimately was somewhat unhappy with the type.[3]

He was one of nine men who founded the Grolier Club, and he was printer to the Club for the first two decades of its existence and designed and printed most of its publications during his lifetime.[4] He was also a founder and the first president of the United Typothetae of America, a predecessor of the Printing Industries of America.


A prolific author in the periodical printing trade press, De Vinne was also responsible for a number of books on the history and practice of printing. For years his publications ranked at the head of American presswork. His works include:

  • The Invention of Printing (1876)
    • An investigation of the claims of Laurens Coster to be inventor of printing with movable type, and awarding the honor to Gutenberg
  • Historic Printing Types (1886)
  • Plain Printing Types (1900) (The Practice of Typography, v.1)
  • Correct Composition (1901) (The Practice of Typography, v. 2)
  • A Treatise on Title-Pages (1902) (The Practice of Typography, v.3)
    • A revision of his earlier Title Pages as seen by a Printer, published by the Grolier Club in 1901
  • Modern Methods of Book Composition (1904) (The Practice of Typography, v.4)
  • Notable Printers of Italy during the Fifteenth Century (1910)

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Irene Tichenor, No Art without Craft: The Life of Theodore Low De Vinne. (Boston: David R. Godine, 2002), pp. 106-109. ISBN 1567922864
  2. ^ Mac MacGrew, "American Metal Typefaces of the Twentieth Century, Oak Knoll Books, New Castle Delaware, 1993. ISBN 0938768344
  3. ^ Tichenor, No Art without Craft, pp. 125-126.
  4. ^ "The De Vinne Centennial - American Printing History Association". American Printing History Association. 2014-02-16. Retrieved 2016-12-07.

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