Back home
Fench version at:
The full English version is available as a TUGBOAT paper (pdf 368 Ko)

Truchet    The Point    Romain du roi   TILING SYSTEMS


Truchet & Types

Le Romain du roi, bitmaps, outlines and hints in 1695

Père Truchet

Sébastien Truchet, 1657-1729.


The 1998 ATypI congress was held in the city of Lyon.
Lyon was the home town of father Sébastien Truchet who was born there in 1657. Few people realise the key role he played in the history of typography.
Here, let us look at what is perhaps the first ever digital font, the Romain du Roi.

Recall of the previous episode: father Sébastien Truchet was appointed by Louis XIV to contribute to the work on the Bignon Commission for the purpose of compiling an encyclopaedia of trades and professions. The first of these that the Bignon Commission examined was printing.




The commission then turned its attention to existing characters used in printing. Three of its members (Truchet, Jaugeon and Des Billettes) undertook to design (sic) "new French letters that we have endeavoured to render as agreeable as possible to the eye". These characters broke with the Garamond tradition. Their originality, explained by Stanley Morison and later by André Jammes, lay in the premise that (sic) "the art of printing is not a branch of writing but of engraving". These three academics produced characters for printing plates (engraved by Simoneau) in the Romain du Roi font that Grandjean later used in Médailles sur les principaux événements du règne de Louis le Grand in 1702. (N.B. This character was recently digitised by Frank Jalleau under the name of Grandjean - IN).

Although usually attributed to Jaugeon (the only member of the Bignon Commission who came ffrom a typographic background), the contribution of a "technician" like Truchet was without doubt decisive. Indeed, all the manuscripts that have been preserved were all signed by Truchet (see Scale of body sizes). Their design is attributable to André Jammes and James Mosley. While Simoneau's printing plates have been reproduced many times, his hand-written notes are little known. Yet these are the equivalent of today's AFMs (Metrics Font ) or hinting instructions.

G Romain du roix

Cartoons of Romain du roi'"G", using outlines with circle arcs (design by Truchet, engraved by Simmoneau).



These researchers who lived three hundred years ago were unquestionable geniuses: Romain du roi typeface includes all the features of today digital typeface except that it is three hundred years old !




Background reading: