Item #4332 Épreuves Des Caracteres, Vignettes, Fleurons, Filets, etc. De l’Imprimerie du Citoyen Vincent Cappon. Vincent CAPPON.
Épreuves Des Caracteres, Vignettes, Fleurons, Filets, etc. De l’Imprimerie du Citoyen Vincent Cappon.
Épreuves Des Caracteres, Vignettes, Fleurons, Filets, etc. De l’Imprimerie du Citoyen Vincent Cappon.
Épreuves Des Caracteres, Vignettes, Fleurons, Filets, etc. De l’Imprimerie du Citoyen Vincent Cappon.
Épreuves Des Caracteres, Vignettes, Fleurons, Filets, etc. De l’Imprimerie du Citoyen Vincent Cappon.
Épreuves Des Caracteres, Vignettes, Fleurons, Filets, etc. De l’Imprimerie du Citoyen Vincent Cappon.
Épreuves Des Caracteres, Vignettes, Fleurons, Filets, etc. De l’Imprimerie du Citoyen Vincent Cappon.
Épreuves Des Caracteres, Vignettes, Fleurons, Filets, etc. De l’Imprimerie du Citoyen Vincent Cappon.
Unique? French Revolutionary type and woodcut specimen book

Épreuves Des Caracteres, Vignettes, Fleurons, Filets, etc. De l’Imprimerie du Citoyen Vincent Cappon. La Rochelle: Vincent Cappon, An 4 [1795 /1796].

4to (244 x 193 mm). [36] pp. Printer’s woodcut monogram on title within wreath and the words République française, 19 numbered text fonts, of which 8 accompanied by title types, two more numbered groups of typographic symbols (mathematical and astrological), braces and filets, and a final group (no. XXI) of approximately 160 variously sized ornaments, 22 typographic and the rest woodcut, including 11 woodcut initials and several passepartout initials. Title slightly soiled, small marginal stain to first four leaves. Bound in modern marbled boards (slight wear to backstrip); holes from original stab-stitching. An early paraph on title (?C.D.?).***

An unrecorded French provincial printer’s type specimen book, including an abundance of woodcut (and polytyped?) ornaments, many with revolutionary content.

Active from 1789 to 1824, the libraire-imprimeur Vincent Cappon married into the Mesnier family of La Rochelle printers, and he used the name Cappon-Mesnier until the death of his father-in-law in 1789, which initials appear on the title monogram device of this edition. A freemason and member of the La Rochelle lodge “l’Union parfaite,” Cappon printed and sold official ordinances, decrees, documents and placards, some relating to his port city’s maritime activities, as well as pamphlets and periodicals. Imprimeur du Roi before the Revolution, he was a loyal servant of the Revolution after it. He seems to have produced only one full-length book (Lequinio de Kerblay, Les préjugés détruits, 1794). His widow is thought to have taken over the press after his death in 1824.

A slightly romanticized account of the origin of printing introduces the specimens, which appear to encompass the entirety of Cappon’s printing stock, of which this booklet is the only known record. From Gros Canon to Petit Texte, fonts I to VIII are identified and displayed, in short texts or poems, mottoes, even a riddle (“Enigme: Je fus demain, je serai hier” [answer: the present]). The smaller types are more traditional old-style romans, but the larger types, especially the Petit Canon, show the influence of the Didots’ modern style. Specimens IX and X are civilité-like italic types borrowed from Pierre-Simon Fournier (La Financière and La Batarde). The rest are decorative or very large display types.

Most interesting is the illustrative material. The woodcut ornaments are in many different styles and were clearly accumulated from different sources. Some (e.g., the initials) appear old, but most given their content, are clearly recent. A few may have been produced by the method of stereotype printing known as polytypage, used by Pierre Durouchail in Bordeaux starting in 1795. Included are head-pieces of various sizes, small culs-de-lampe, empty cartouches for typographic inserts, one woodcut title-page (for an Almanach de l’amour et de la fortune, of which OCLC records two editions, from 1792 and 1800, under a fictive imprint, and a third printed in Lille), and a few diagrams and paraphs. Fifty vignettes include revolutionary imagery or text (I count 41 Phrygian caps). A handful are Masonic symbols; and several show ships or port scenes, including one with a label of the Republican Marine. One vignette is signed P. M., two (an allegorical vignette and a headpiece, both of the République française) are signed by Ambacher (briefly mentioned by Thieme-Becker, I:386) and dated 1792[?] and 1793, and two by Laroche, otherwise unknown.

Unrecorded pre-1850 printers’ specimen books with this quantity and quality of woodcut ornamental material are exceedingly rare. On Cappon, cf. Mellot & Quéval, Répertoire d'imprimeurs / libraires (Paris, 2004), no. 975; Répertoire bibliographique des livres imprimés en France au XVIIIe siècle III: 2071-88 (covering the years 1795-1796), this specimen unlisted. On Durouchail and polytypage, see Jammes, Collection de Specimens de Caractères 1517-2004, (2006), no. 52.
Item #4332

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