Be Italic

by manuel

Here, in Bologna, just 300 meters from my home Francesco Griffo was living 500 years ago. He was one of the most important and influencing punchcutter and typeface designer in the Reinassance period and in the two following centuries. He worked for Aldus Manutius, designing that printer’s the Greek and the Roman types, including Bembo, and the first italic type.  Just as Manutius had achieved a monopoly on italic printing and Greek publishing with the permission of the Venetian government, he had a falling-out with Griffo.

“…Aldus was not greatly interested in typographic decoration. His work is, in the main, without ornament. His reputation largely rests upon the cursive of italic letter of Francesco Griffo, with he was the first to employ, and the octavo class set in this letter.”

Stanley Morison. Four Centuries of Fine Printing (fourth edition), 1960. p. 26

Despite Griffo’s importance in the history of typography, the fame he deserved arrived only after his death. Though, you can’t find any mention of it here in his hometown, not even on the house he used to live in, which was and still is S. Giuliano Church.

I imagine that if Griffo was an English, French or German, those countries would have already valorized his contribute to the world culture, and probably his house could have been by now a museum with a long que of visitors.
I wish Bologna, where there are treasures like the oldest university in Europe, would give the right attention and value to such things.

Images of the S. Giuliano Church, Bologna, Italy. Nothing inthe wall can testify that Francesco Griffo has lived here.

More about Francesco Griffo:

(via Wiki) Griffo’s typefaces have been very influential. Typefaces based on his work include Monotype Poliphilus roman, Bembo Book roman, and Bembo Titling, Morris Fuller Benton‘s Cloister Old Style italic, Jack Yan‘s JY Aetna roman, Bitstream Aldine 401 roman, and Franko Luin‘s Griffo Classico roman and italic; more distant descendants include the romans of Claude GaramondGiovanni Mardersteig‘s DanteRobert Slimbach‘s Minion and Matthew Carter‘s Yale Typeface.

HIS LEGACY

“The connoisseu, up to and including Bruce Roers, thought that the roman types of Jenson were the best model to follow. Little was known about italic types, and it was hardly appreciated that Claud Garamound had take as a model not Jenson’s types, but those of the punch-cutter Francesco Griffo, who worked for Aldus.”

James Moran. Stanley Morison. His Typographic Achievement, 1971- p.139

“In light of Mr. Morison’s researches I am inclined to tie a little less credit to Jenson’s types and more to the roman type used by Aldus in the Hynerotomachia Poliphili than formerly. He is right in thinking that the Aldine roman capitals, with are not so tall as the lower-case ascending letters (following the tradition of earlier MSS), give a more harmonious effect to the type in mass than Jenson’s capitals from with our modern usage i derived.”

D.B: Updike. Printing Types, Vol. 1 (from the Supplementary Notes added to the second edition), 1937. p. 280.

“Early in the seventeenth century Jean Jannon, a type-founder and printer of Sedan, brought out a design with, through a strange series of accidents, has until recently been attributed to Garamond… Although at first sight the heavy Dutch types of the seventeenth century may seem to have little in common with the sharp, brilliant design of their French contemporary, careful analysis shows they also are descend from Griffo’s roman.”

D. Pottinger. Printers and Printing, 1941. p.76

“In the early part of the sixteenth century the leading French type-cutter was Claude Gramond, who worked in close touch with the artist Geofroy Tory and with the Estienne Family of printers. For the latter Garamond cut a roman that eventually came into possession of Christopher Plantin…. No on evan mistake the close resemblance between this (the modern version of Garamond’d design, called Plantin) A, M, and T and those in Bembo.”

D. Pttinger. Printers and Printing, 1941. p.75

“…a lighter and more condensed roman appeared, in Du Bois, Isogoge, printed in january 1532 (n.s.) by Robert Estienne: the lower-case of French book designers for two centuries to come, as far as general design goes, though modified in the course of time by imitation. The source of this distinctive roman design has already been identified beyond reasonable doubt (ad Aldus’ Hypnerotomachia Poliphilus), not only by the general form of the lower case but buy certain “earmarks” in the shape of the capitals.

” Paul Beaujon (pseud. Beatrice Warde). The “Garamond” Types, Sixteenth / Seventeenth Century Sources Considered. In Fluron Anthology, 1973. p. 192

“Francesco da Bologna is one of the most illustrious figure of the most illustrious figures in the history of printing, but it was only in the last century that something of his story was pieced together from scattered documents and from the prefaces of books with with he Had been concerned.”

F.J. Norton, Italian Printers 1501-1520, 1958. p.9

“A most important member of the Aldie staff was Francesco da Bologna, surnamed Griffo (1450-1518). Manutius called this brilliant typeface designer and punch cutter to Venice, where Griffo cut Roman, Greek, Hebrew and the first italic types for Aldine editions.”

Philip B. Meggs. A History of Graphic Design, 1983. p. 113 

THE FEUD

“It is known that Griffo was the designer not only of the first italic, but also of the Greek and roman types of Aldus, and consequently he takes his place in typographical history in the ranks of the leading designers.”

A. F. Johnson. Selected Essay on Books and Printing, 1970. p.41

“it is quite clear that Aldus here (in the Virgil of 1501) says his Latin type was engraved by Francesco of Bologna, and it is difficult to find any solid justification for the complaint that Aldus robbed Francesco of his due honor and renown.”

Horatio F. Brown. The Venetian Printing Press, 1891. p.47

“On 14 November 1502, Manutius was granted a monopoly on Greek publishing and italic printing by the Venetian government, and shortly thereafter Griffo and Manutius quarreled and separated. Manutius wished to protect his huge investment in type design and production; Griffo found that he could not sell his original and popular typeface design to other printers. With the parting of ways of this printer-publisher and his brilliant staff designer, graphic-design innovation in Venice ended.”

Philip B. Meggs. A History of Graphic Design, 1983. p. 114

“…Aldus was not greatly interested in typographic decoration. His work is, in the main, without ornament. His reputation largely rests upon the cursive of italic letter of Francesco Griffo, with he was the first to employ, and the octavo class set in this letter.”

Stanley Morison. Four Centuries of Fine Printing (fourth edition), 1960. p. 26 

“This Francesco, who was an engraver of type and the inventor of this cursive, or italic, or cancelleresco type, wich made Aldus’ fortune, was named Griffi, according to the recent discovery of the librarian A. Ross, thus settling the long debate between Panizz, who identified this Francesco da Bologna with the painter and goldsmith Francesco Raibolini, also know as Francia, and Jacques (Giacomo) Manzoni who disagreed.”

G. Fumagalli. Lexicon Typographicum Italiae, 1966 (second edition). p. 164

“There are two persistent errors relating to the origin of italic, wich have been many times exposed, but wich are still repeated… The second error is the identification of Aldus’s type-cutter, Francesco Raibolini. This identification was shown to be impossible by Giacomo Manzoni in his Studii di bibliografia analitica, 1881, and further in 1883 Adamo Rossi published a document from with it appears that the type cutter’s surname was Griffo.”

A.F. Johnson. Selected Essay on Books and Printing. 1970 p.41

“I must confess to feeling a great disappointment with William Morris, Em. Walker, Cob. Sanderson, Hornby, yea & even A. W. Pollard. You know that Aldine Hypnerotomachia type & the 1501 italic wh. Pollard (Fine Books), G.C. Williamson (Francia), Updike (P.T.) say were cut by Francesco da Bologna detto Il Francia? It seem that the tie was cut by another Francesco da Bologna. Of course I have no excuse because I actually saw the paragraph in Fumagalli (Lexicon Typ. Italiae, Florence 1905, p. 42) setting that the man in the case is another Francesco, one of the family of Friffi or Griffo. I concluded that as our B. Mus. Guide was issued in 1913 & that it still credits Francia with this work and in addition that a printed label is attached to the 1501 Vergil exhibited in the Kings’s Library having the same statement, I could ignore Fumagalli. My prospectus of the Hypnerotomachia type & I there in attribute it to Francia. This afternoon A. W. Pollard tells me that Fumagalli is quite right!!! This crippled me because I have spent more than a week reading up the wrong Francesco & have spent sunday afternoons (oh what a sacred time this is to the English man!) at the National Gallery looking at the Bolognese school! I must now cancel all this but… the misleading description to the 1501 Vergil will remain until the present catalogue is exhausted. Can such a thing happen in yr country? I doubt it.”

Letter from Stanley Morison to D.B. Updike, 19 November 1923. Stanley Morison & D.B. Updike Selected Corrispondence, 1979. p. 80
From the book: Francesco Griffo da Bologna: fragments & glimpses : a compendium of information & opinions about his life and workHeavenly Monkey, 1999.