TYPE DESIGN INFORMATION PAGE last updated on Fri May 24 12:55:20 EDT 2024






Madame De Berny

The Deberny foundry traces its origins to three men, Jean-Louis Duplat (1757-1833), Jean-Fran&cccedil;ois Laurent (1818-1823) and Joseph Gillé (1748-1789), who came together in the late eighteenth or early nineteenth century to start a typefounding enterprise. This business eventually passed to Laurent by 1827. In 1826, French writer Honoré de Balzac (1799-1850), incorporated with typesetter André Barbier (b. 1793), in a printing and publishing business on the Rue des Marais-Saint-Germain in Paris. Balzac wished to have a printing press at his disposal for his own oeuvre. At one time, thirty workers were employed at Imprimerie H. Balzac which was funded with 70,000 Francs in borrowed money from Balzac's mother, as well as from his mistress, Mme De Berny. Business started well for Balzac and Barbier who showed no discrimination in the kinds of literature that they printed. By 1827, Balzac bought Laurent's typesetting firm in order to extend his immediate control over all aspects of the printing business. If Balzac had been a prudent entrepreneur instead of a spendthrift, his venture may have succeeded. Instead, Balzac lavished much of his profits on extravagant clothing that was needed to access the social circles of another patron and mistress, the Duchess d'Abrantes. As a result of his financial neglect, his Imprimerie sank into debt. Keen to its demise, Barbier left the business in 1828. Balzac was left with approximately 100,000 Francs in debts and equipment. Fortunately, Balzac had aligned himself with a powerful ally. Louise-Antoinette-Laure De Berny (1777-1836), Balzac's first mistress whom he described as more than a friend, more than a sister, almost a mother and even more than that a sort of visible divinity, forgave her loan and took over the print shop. As the wife of a high-ranking official in the French royal court and god-child of Queen Marie-Antoinette, Mme De Berny had financial options at her disposal. She entrusted the business to her 19 year-old son, Alexandre De Berny, (1809-1881). Balzac abandoned his attempt at free-enterprise and went on to profit from his literary talents instead.

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History of type ⦿ Type design in France ⦿ Foundries of the 19th century ⦿

Luc Devroye ⦿ School of Computer Science ⦿ McGill University Montreal, Canada H3A 2K6 ⦿ lucdevroye@gmail.com ⦿ http://luc.devroye.org ⦿ http://luc.devroye.org/fonts.html