The Imperial Printing Office occupies the first square behind the music trophies. This State establishment, directed by M. de Saint-George, has executed for the Universal Exhibition a very elegant book, with gold and colour ornaments, the Imitation of Jesus Christ; a book with which this establishment was inaugurated more than two centuries ago (in 1640). This beautiful book is in the middle under glass; but the employee who is there shows with great affability to the visitor this masterpiece of modern typography on which we will give some details.
The volume consists of two parts, the Latin text and the French translation. The first part is the Latin text, whose ornaments printed in gold and colour are done with remarkable luxury and perfection. They consist of a general false title, a title with eight miniature figures, its frame, four false titles, four book heads, one hundred and ten chapter heads, sixty small vignettes, three hundred ornate letters and fifty-six culs-de-lampe.
In order to obtain the matrices and plates necessary for the printing of these various ornaments and to avoid ordinary plates, which do not achieve a sufficient degree of precision and finesse, the Imperial Printing Office employed electroplating. The text ornaments required the engraving of sixty-four plates with a surface area of 6 square metres. The galvanic production of these ornaments resulted in three hundred and fifty plates with a total surface area of 36 square metres and a weight of 310 kilograms. When broken down by the printing process, these copperplates provided three thousand two hundred and forty motifs, many of which occupy more than a quarter of the page.
At the time of printing, the false titles, the book headings and the chapter headings gave rise to seven prints; each of the other pages, to six; the title frame, to eight, and the eight small miniatures, to twenty-four. These miniatures had given the decomposition thirty different shades. This ornamentation is due to the talent of three artists: M. Steinheil, for the miniatures; M. and Mme Toudouze, for the various ornaments.
The second part is the French translation of Corneille. The diversity of the metres which Corneille used in his translation of the Imitation of Jesus Christ added a difficulty to all those which arose from a time too short for the ornamentation of this second part of the book, here, no ornament could be drawn in advance, because the length of the lines was constantly variable, and the margins changed in extent or appearance on almost every page. This must have resulted in unavoidable delays, since the draughtsman, instead of giving himself up to his inspiration, was obliged to walk with the composition, in order to harmonise his drawings with the physiognomy of the page on which they were to appear. Fortunately, this circumstance did not prevent the double combination of the drawing of the ornaments with the composition from continuing without serious inconvenience.
The French translation is decorated with drawings engraved on wood and printed in black. These drawings have the following numbers:
1° A large title and five false titles:
2° Four large plates with the following subjects: The Samaritan woman; - Let the little children come to me; - The adulterous woman; - The Communion, and four frames for these various subjects; 3° One hundred and fourteen chapter headings; 4° One hundred and fourteen ornate letters; 5° And about one hundred endpapers.
The very thick and very nervous paper, adopted for the printing of this book, and which had been specially manufactured by Messrs Blanchet and Kléber, of Rives, was all the more unsuitable for the printing of the vignettes on wood, as the printing had to be done almost dry, and as from the first treadings the reliefs would have been altered by too much pressure. The Imperial Printing Office has overcome this serious disadvantage by using galvanic moulding.
Three artists contributed to the ornamentation of this translation: M. Steinheil for the four main subjects, M. Gaucherel for the design of the other ornaments, and M. Lavoignat for the woodcut. The Imprimerie Impériale also exhibits :
A collection of punches, dies, French and foreign typefaces; Its typographical specimen; A series of specimen-tables; Several volumes of the Oriental collection and a hundred other volumes; Geological and geographical maps engraved on stone and coloured by printing; Various industrial applications of electricity to the production of punches, dies, ornaments, etc. Various types of bookbinding; And finally, small models of apparatus for drying, printing, etc.
Among the punches, one will notice :
A Maghrebian character.
A Telugu typeface.
A Ninivite typeface.
An Ethiopian character, engraved by Mr. Marcellin-Legrand; Hieroglyphic characters, engraved by Messrs. Delafond and Ramé fils -, A Siamese character, A Latin inscription character, engraved by Mr. Lœuillet; A character from the French language, engraved by Mr. Lœuillet. Lœuillet; A modern Greek typeface, A typeface of Greek and Latin inscriptions of the decadence, engraved by M. Ramé père; A Greek typeface, engraved under François 1er by Garamond, and which one designates under the name of Greek of the king; An Arabic typeface, engraved, under Henri IV, by the care of Savary de Brèves;
Among the matrices:
A sample of Chinese groups drawn on wooden engravings; A body of Palmyrene and a body of Phoenician taken from the unique lead alphabet possessed by the Imperial Printing Office.
There are samples of forty oriental languages and of almost all European types. Many of the books printed in this great establishment adorn the display cases, and the geographical cavities around the perimeter of this lodge.
Among them is a fragment of the detailed map of the new France, a topographical map drawn up by the corps d'État-major.
This fragment includes seven departments in the north of France. The assembly tables of the geological maps of France and Belgium, the geological map of the Vosges and that of the Côte-d'Or, present all kinds of difficulties: multiple printings having reached the number fifty-one on the same sheet, and paper formats of the greatest dimension.
Here is an overview of the cost price of these maps coloured by printing:
The Tableau d'assemblage de la carte géologique cost 21 francs per copy for printing and hand-colouring; the expenses of the same nature were 45 francs for the Tableau d'assemblage de la Carte géologique de la Belgique. The minute of the fragment of the detailed geological map of France cost 140 francs.
By the process of colouring by printing, and for a print run of five hundred copies, the assembly table of France costs 3 francs 50 cents, and that of Belgium 8 francs. The cost price of the detailed map of France will follow the same proportion.
The result of this reduction in price is that the sale of the Tableau d'assemblage de la carte géologique de la France has exceeded three thousand copies in the last five years; it had been only two hundred and fifty copies as long as this sheet was hand-coloured. We are therefore entitled to say that this table has now entered the domain of public instruction.
Our readers will not read without interest the following details on this establishment, which we borrowed from a brochure distributed at the Palais de l'Industrie to visitors, and which provided us with all these curious details:
"The Imperial Printing Office occupies ninety-four hand typographic presses, fourteen mechanical presses driven by steam, twenty lithographic presses, one for intaglio, and two hydraulic presses for satin-finishing, one with a pressure of 300,000 kilograms, and the other of 150,000. It uses about 804,500 kilograms of type, and keeps annually in its reserve more than 15,000 forms, composed in all dimensions, for the instantaneous needs of the various general administrations. These forms represent a weight of approximately 450,000 kilograms of type.
"His punch cabinet possesses, for foreign typography, 1° one hundred and forty different typefaces or alphabets, forming 18,412 punches and 29,937 matrices; 2° 217,786 Chinese punches, among which are two typefaces, engraved in the past, numbering 126,590 wooden groups.
"As for French typography, it is composed of 85 bodies of Roman characters, of which 28 are new engravings, giving a total of 27,014 punches and 48,728 dies.
"The value of the equipment of the Imperial Printing House was estimated, on 1 January 1854, at more than 3,000,000 francs. The workshops are vast, healthy and well distributed. They are divided into foundry, composition, printing, drying, satin finishing, assembly, adjustment, folding, booklet, binding, lithography, reserve, etc. They occupy a permanent number of approximately 1,000 people. They occupy a permanent number of about 1,000 workers, who, after thirty years of service, are entitled to a pension paid by the pension fund of the Imperial Printing Office, whose creation is due to the Emperor Napoleon I."
The main printers and booksellers of France are lined up around the Imprimerie Impériale. Opposite it, we see Mame, from Tours. In its window, we notice a beautiful quarto book, La Touraine, a unique copy on vellum skin, printed with a mechanical press.
Firmin Didot frères have displayed their beautiful editions next to it, among which the Latin classics are noteworthy.
Claye has in its display case specimens of beautiful mechanically printed woodcuts, which are part of its fine publications, the Museum of Rome and the History of Painting.
Continuing on our right, we pass M. Furne, who has exhibited, among other things, a beautiful folio book, entitled Raphael's Virgins, with engravings representing the paintings of this master. The elegant box next to it belongs to Mr. Paul Dupont. In the middle, there is a remarkable piece. It is Guttenberg, the inventor of printing, after the well-known statue of David d'Angers, executed by Victor Moulinet with simple printing nets.
Two other curiosities flank this masterpiece of skill and patience; they are the lithographic reproductions of two charters on papyrus, preserved in the Archives, of which the one on the left hand is from Clotaire III (658), concerning a concession of some villages to the monastery of Saint-Denis; the one on the right is a bull from Nicholas I (865), for the confirmation of the privileges of Saint-Denis, addressed to Charles the Bald. At the bottom, there is a model of a press and a paper trimming machine, invented by workers from the Dupont company.
Beautiful ivory, silver, wood and mother-of-pearl bindings by M. Belin-Leprieur are next to it. The mother-of-pearl one, with the portrait of Our Lord, is noteworthy. The publishers J. Renouard et Cie are next to us with their editions, among which the Histoire des Peintres de toutes les Écoles, illustrated with magnificent woodcuts, stands out.
In these volumes, we admire the beauty of the character and the printing of the plates. However, it seems to us that next to the names of the publishers, one should also find the names of the engravers and printers by whom the book was made, who seem to us to have at least equal merit to that of the publishers. This applies in general to all those who display and boast of the works of others, without even naming the latter.
Mr. Lehuby, on the other hand, shows some rather arlequine bindings, which probably hide the editions of this house.
M. Didier has displayed in the next window the editions of the works of the first contemporary writers of France, such as MM. Cousin, Villemain, Guizot, Salvandy, etc.
The corner is occupied by MM. Lorilleux père et fils, who have exhibited specimens of the typographic inks they manufacture. Mr. Derriez shows us beside some beautiful proofs of typographic characters, vignettes, and types of printing.
We pass in front of a door, and arrive at M. Silbermann, of Strasbourg, who shows us some very beautiful colour prints; the old banner, in the middle, and the stained glass windows of the cathedral of Strasbourg, at the sides, are of great perfection.
The type founders Laurent and Deberny, of Paris, have placed samples of their work alongside. Next come M. Leclere, the printer of the Pope and the Archbishopric of Paris; M. Langlois, with beautiful plates of natural history and botany; M. Dalmont, with engravings of architecture and mechanics; and M. Lortie, with luxury bindings, which are distinguished by simplicity and good taste.
M. Masson exhibits next to it his edition of the Animal Kingdom, by Cuvier, the separate plates of which are around. His anatomical plates, on the right hand side, are very remarkable, and those in relief or superimposed should facilitate the study of anatomy. Mr. Daly shows some beautiful engravings from the Revue de L'architecture. MM. Roret, Maison, Garnier, Delalain, Guillaumin and Amyot, exhibit books published by them. Then came the music publishers: Schonenberger and Heugel. The latter has, among others, a very elegantly bound album bearing the inscription: Album artistique de la reine Hortense.
Amongst the bindings of M. Lenègre, next to it, one will notice at the bottom a red in-folio with a steel closure of a beautiful effect. M. Levrault, next to it, has beautiful geographical maps, and M. Curmer, completes the circle of luxury bindings, among which one will notice that of the Family Book of Madame the Dowager Countess of Sainte-Aldegonde, decorated with small porcelain medallions with painting, and that, above, of the Natural History by Cap. Two angels adorn the middle of the gilded arabesques that cover the two covers.
©Promenades dans l'exposition de 1855