4to (280 x 220 mm). 64 leaves, plus 4 large folding specimen broadsides bound at end. 3 preliminary leaves: title, with Leger’s monogram, 2-page Avis to printers and booksellers, 2-page price list, the latter bearing the official royal inkstamp (Timbre royal); 61 specimen leaves and 4 large folding plates, printed on rectos only. Double rule borders throughout. Thin but fine wove paper. Occasional light spotting, foxing along folds of broadsides, tiny hole in 3rd broadside. Stab-stitched in original printed blue wrappers (soiled, tears to backstrip), untrimmed.***
A finely printed specimen book, containing a complete range of type specimens and an extensive display of decorative and illustrative material from the stock of a master Parisian typefounder with ties to the Didot family. This appears to be the only general stock catalogue to have been issued by this typefounder, of whom little is known other than the fact, stated on the title, that he was a nephew of Pierre-Francois Didot. In advertising this fact Leger probably hoped to borrow a bit of the Didot glory, since he calls himself his uncle’s successor, which seems doubtful, given the fact that Pierre-Francois’s youngest son, Henri Didot, was also a typefounder. Active from ca. 1783 to 1835, Leger’s foundry occupied successively six different addresses. At the time he issued this stock catalogue he had worked since 1818 at no. 28 Place de l’Estrapade in the fifth arrondissement, an address previously occupied by a foundry owned by the Fournier sisters, and which had descended from the 16th-century typefounder Guillaume Le Bé. It is likely that Léger purchased the atelier from the sisters, which would make him part of this illustrious lineage, although Audin did not have sufficient evidence to assert this positively (cf. p. 1 note). Leger, who remained at that address until 1833, has occasionally been incorrectly conflated with one of Pierre-François Didot’s other sons, Léger Didot, or Didot Saint-Léger, who financed construction of the first paper-making machine, invented by Nicholas-Louis Robert.
In his foreword, addressed to potential buyers (printers and publishers), Leger declares that the present specimen is the result of “25 years of hard work, of sacrifices and researches of all kinds, of which the principal goal has always been the improvement and progress of typography.” The first leaf of the typographic portion of the Specimen reproduces medals received by Leger, most recently a patent or Brevet d’invention awarded him at the art exposition held in Douai in 1831, providing a terminus post quem for the catalogue.
24 leaves of type specimens, comprising roman and italic in every size, all in the Didot style, some gothic and Hebrew types, 2 leaves of Greek types, several display and ornamental types, concluding with a leaf showing 93 different “ornamented and non-ornamented” accolades and filets (curly brackets and ornamental rules).
37 leaves of graphic material:
- 11 leaves of Fleurons polytypés sur cuivre (numbers 1-145; ff. 7-11 titled Armes de France);
- 4 leaves of Fleurons polytypés sur bois (nos. 146-197)
- 3 leaves of Fleurons gravés sur acier (nos. 198-219); the last page shows a tomb decorated with skulls, tears, etc.
- 18 leaves of Vignettes gravées sur acier: ornamental bands or part-borders, organized by size, and numbered 1-248.
- 1-leaf sample with bust of Homer above a row of small astronomical symbols, within a double ornamental border.
- 4 large folding broadside type and vignette specimens, various dates and printers, including two unknown to Audin (see below).
The 467 individually priced graphic elements consist of “fleurons” (what we would now call vignettes), and “vignettes” (borders or bandeaux), making this catalogue an unusually comprehensive resource for the study of ornamental and figurative graphic printing material. Included are figurative vignettes, busts, monograms (including Leger’s own, no. 24 of the first series, which also appears on the title), trophies and other emblematic accumulations of objects, religious vignettes of saints, the crucifixion, and armorial or royal insignia, the latter including 22 settings of the Charter of 1830, which had established the July Monarchy. Although these graphic pieces are organized by production process, no such distinction is made in the prices, in which size is the only criteria of different costs. About half are steel engravings, and half were printed from stereotype clichés, known as “polytypages,” cast either from copperplates or from woodblocks (e.g., Fleurons polytypés sur cuivre or sur bois). It is noteworthy that this is the only one of Léger’s specimen catalogues listed by Audin in which Leger is described on the title as having his own stéreotypie (stereotyping studio), presumably used for these polytypages of graphic material rather than for typography, i.e., stereotype plates made from types.
Some of the vignettes are white-on-black, and resemble wood engravings. At least a few may have originated with the Didot family: the last leaf contains an oval cartouche enclosing a steel-engraved bust portrait of Homer, signed by Andrieu, which is also specimen no. 206 in the section Fleurons gravés sur acier, and the bust alone appears as specimen no. 7 in the first section, Fleurons polytypés sur cuivre. Bertrand Andrieu (1761-1822) was a celebrated medal engraver during the Revolution and Napoleonic period. In 1798 Pierre and Firmin Didot had employed him to produce a series of vignettes, for their stereotype edition of Virgil. These were widely dispersed through polytypage in the 19th century (cf. Jammes catalogue no. 53).
In the preface to his invaluable catalogue, Marius Audin explains that, besides their periodic general catalogues, typefounders often issued special specimens, on the occasion of a new font or ornament; these could be in the form of broadsides, some copies of which were kept back for later inclusion in the general catalogues. Thus the present specimen book includes at the end four large folded broadside specimens by Leger, comprising:
1) Caractères d’Ecritures De la Fonderie de Leger, Graveur, Quai des Augustins, No. 17, à Paris. De l’Imprimerie de Mame, rue du Pot-de-Fer, [between 1809 and 1815]. 588 x 440 mm.
A selection of 17 italic and other cursive types within an ornamental border. The date is based on the address (cf. Audin, p. 154, note 29: Leger’s second sojourn at the quai des Augustins lasted from 1809 to 1817), and the activity dates of the short-lived Mame press in Paris, from 1807 to 1815: cf. N. Dinzart, La Maison Mame: Histoire d’une imprimerie-librairie au XIXe siècle, mémoire de diplome, ENSIB, 1988-89, pp. 18-21 (digitized). Audin 206.
2) Caractères d’Ecriture Gravés et Fondus par Leger, Graveur, Place de l’Estrapade, No. 28, à Paris. Imprimerie de Jules Didot aîné, [not before 1819]. 567 x 408 mm. Shows two cursive types, ornamental border, reproduction at top of two medals received in 1819. Not in Audin.
3) Audin 203 Caractères d’Ecriture De la Fonderie de Leger, Graveur, Place de l’Estrapade, à Paris. Imprimerie de C. F. L. Panckoucke, [between 1818 and 1833]. 568 x 394 mm. Title in 3 different fonts, specimen of one large upright cursive font, ornamental border. Audin 203.
4) vignettes gravées sur acier de la fonderie de m. leger, graveur breveté du roi, place de l’Estrapade, no. 28. Imprimerie de C. F. L. Panckoucke, [between 1818 and 1833]. 537 x 394 mm. The above title in very small capitals at center of six concentric progressively smaller ornamental borders. Not in Audin.
I locate 4 other copies of this specimen book, at Houghton Library, Cambridge Univ. Library, and the BnF, and a copy offered by the Librairie Jammes in 2006. The BnF includes three folding specimens, and the 3 other copies appear to each have two. The Jammes copy also differs from this one in having a leaf of musique grecque at the end instead of the sample leaf with the Homer portrait, and beige instead of blue wrappers (inset in a later binding in that copy).
Audin, Les Livrets Typographiques des Fonderies Françaises créés avant 1800, nos. 207 (this catalogue, not seen, citing Updike), 203 and 206; pp. 154, note 29 & pp. 161-162. All the other Leger specimens recorded by Audin are single sheets. Updike, Printing Types II: 183-4; Jammes, Collection de Specimens de Caracteres 1517-2004, 90 (conflating Leger with his cousin Didot Saint-Léger); Birrell and Garnett, Catalogue of ... Typefounders' Specimens, 63: the typographic portion of this catalogue only, without title, erroneously attributed to Panckoucke. Item #4009