Fonderie Générale

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August 14, 2014 at 12:11 AM #14723


Fonderie Générale
The early history of Fonderie Générale [FG] of Paris, a significant ancestor of the Peignot TF, is told by its catalogs and related records. Some of them are available for download:

  • Digital specimens are indicated by orange type.
  • Years link to title page images tracing cumulative acquisitions.
  • Owners’ names link to PDF downloads.
  • Medal awards are documented in FG specimen books.
  • Additional information is deduced from records of addresses and catalogs not available as eBooks.

flickr imagesBrowse narrated images and specimens.

By the 1830s, differentiation between book- and job-font specialization was beginning to characterize type producers. While such French TFs as Molé and Didot offered conservative ornamented romans and scripts for title pages of academic, religious and literary volumes, many new entrepreneurs emerged and prospered as they fanned and fueled an ever-escalating worldwide demand for eye-catching display faces.

Independent Parisian Type Foundries Acquired by Tarbé

Since little history of this TF is available elsewhere on the www, Updike’s account is summarized below:

  • Joseph Molé jeune [Jr.] was first a painter; he designed magnificent specimens.
  • 1819   At the 21st-annual Exposition du Louvre, Molé exhibited a set of 14 highly praised tableaux [broadsides] representing 27 years of personal work to produce 206 roman and scholarly language fonts plus 468 ornamental borders, etc.
  • 1819   Molé issued a folio specimen printed by Didot

See also Molé Foliate.


  • Established in c1774, this famous four-generation publishing dynasty (well documented elsewhere) maintained a type foundry as part of its production process.
  • At age 19, Firmin Didot [1765–1836], youngest Didot grandson, designed and cut the first “modern” book face style in 1783.³
  • 1801   The Didot TF wins Gold Medal at the French Industrial Exposition.
  • 1834–1837 Matrices and typefounding equipment acquired² by Tarbé.

Fonderie Générale, 1834–1912


  • 1835  E. Tarbé|Successor to Molé, 4 Rue de Madame. Title page dated October 1835.
  • 1839   The Tarbé TF wins Gold Medal at the French Industrial Exposition.
  • 1839  E. Tarbé|Successor to Didot, Molé, Crosnier et Éverat, 22 Rue de Madame (new address). First FG catalog; Éverat is named as printer. Many new display type designs, presumably former Didot properties.
  • Tarbé dubs the TF “Fonderie Générale.” Thereafter, successors retain the FG “umbrella” while distinguishing proprietary identities.

Laboulaye et Cie

  • 1838   Lion et Laboulaye Frères, 33 Rue Saint-Hyacinthe-Saint-Michel (242 pages).
  • 1839–1841 Charles Laboulaye and one or more brothers [frères] acquire Tarbé’s interests in FG; Laboulaye later partners with Biesta. Brother Édouard was a noted author of children’s literature.
  • 1839   Biesta & Laboulaye TF wins Gold Medal at the French Industrial Exposition.
  • 1841/1842   Biesta & cie, 22 Rue de Madame (148 pages).
  • 1843   Biesta, Laboulaye & Cie: Successors to Tarbé and Laboulaye Frères (500 pages).
  • 1844   Biesta & Laboulaye TF wins Gold Medal at the French Industrial Exposition.
  • 1848   Biesta, Laboulaye & Cie.
  • 1849   Biesta & Laboulaye TF wins Gold Medal at the French Industrial Exposition.
  • 1851? Thompson, Laboulaye et Cie.
  • 1851   Laboulaye wins prize medal at the Great Exhibition of the Works of Industry of all Nations (London), later called the “Crystal Palace” World’s Fair.

†This catalog is dated 1871 by Google Books.
Charles Thompson was an English engraver who designed ornamental cuts for Parisian TFs.¹
‡Date 1851 per The British Library (2013); 1853, per Bibliothèque Nationale de France (2012). Contents are very similar if not identical, possibly a reissue. The BNF version is superior quality.

René et Cie


†The surface of René’s “signature typeface” is the same as William Thorowgood’s Sans Surryphs Shaded# (1839).³ The shading angle is different, and a surrounding outline is added. No other specimen of this variation has been observed by THP.
‡This catalog is dated 1851 by Google Books.

  • 1871   Owner not identified|Fonderie Générale, supplement (334 pages).

*Date reckoned by THP per 1897 calendars offered for sale to TF clientele.

Fonderie Générale was acquired by the Peignot TF in 1912.
The Peignot TF merged with the Deberny TF in 1923.²


In the 1896 Beaudoire catalog, there are some striking “chicken ‘n’ egg” comparisons with US faces. The source of the specimen is not (necessarily) the source of the design! Earlier ones illustrated in unavailable publications may have “inspired” imitations. Examples [US left, FG right]—click the thumbnails below for full specimens:

Samoa vs BabyloniennesBabyloniennes. In his biography of Julius Herriet Jr. [b 1861], William E. Loy writes that this young man designed Samoa# for the Boston TF, where he was employed in 1886–c1891.⁴ It was reviewed in the June 1889 issue of The American Bookmaker, and additional sizes were reported in the August edition. His clever “upside-down sorts” strategy for setting alternate letterforms is not exhibited by the very similar French design.†

Acantha vs PompeïnnesPompeïnnes. This face, marked déposé [patent pending?], resembles Acantha✴, which was patented by Linn B. Benton (father of Morris F. Benton) in July 1888–August 1890 [USPTO D20120]. Mr. Benton was a partner in the Benton Waldo TF (Milwaukee), which joined ATF in 1892. One wonders why his application (claiming invention) was considered for 25 months!

Touraine vs CouleéCouleé Italique Elzevirienne looks exactly like ATF Touraine Old Style Italic, which was introduced in The Inland Printer of July 1898 noting that additional sizes were in preparation. The specimen text reads (in both languages), “modeled by Jean Goujon, a celebrated French artist” of the early 15th-century.‡

Application for an unassigned US design patent was submitted by Joseph W. Phinney, Inventor of Record, in August 1898 and approved in February 1899 [USPTO D30295]. The design was registered in England as of the 1900 ATF catalog. This evidence suggests that matrices of corresponding international sizes were purchased from FG.

†The specimen of Samoa# shown in the Boston|Central 1892 catalog (after joining ATF) displays a “beware of the [non-existent] dog” patent pending notice. Only BTF designs documented by THP were patented.
‡Goujon was a sculptor and architect of the early 16th century (1500s)—not the 15th (which preceded Gutenberg!). Compare with ATF’s marketing claim that many of the characters of Florentine (originated by Binner Engraving Co.) were “transcripts of the lettering of a famous Italian monument of the sixth century.”

¹Updike, D.B. (1937): Printing Types|Their History, Forms and Use (Second Edition), pages 182–185. Harvard University Press, Cambridge.
²Hugill-Fontanel, A. (2002): Appendix A, History of the Fonderie Deberny et Peignot, 1748–1972. Thesis, Master of Science in the School of Printing Management and Sciences|College of Imaging Arts and Sciences, Rochester Institute of Technology.
³Lieberman, J.B. Ph.D. (1967): Types of Typefaces and How to Recognize Them, pages 42-43, 117. Sterling Publishing Co., Inc., New York.
⁴Loy, W.E. (1898–1900): Designers and Engravers of Type. In The Inland Printer, July 1899.


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