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Galileo’s invention of the telescope in 1609 revealed an unexpected richness lying, unseen to the naked eye, in the heavens. This one invention radically changed man’s perception of the universe and initiated a phenomenal improvement in many other scientific fields which in turn lead to a number of other important discoveries.
It was at this time that major reform was occurring in the ways that people interpreted the world around them: the traditional forms of looking at the world through religious or magical interpretation were progressively replaced by what we now recognise as modern scientific method. All across Europe, scientific societies and academies began to flourish and with this collaboration and cooperation abounded.
It is under these circumstances that, in 1665, members of the French scientific community—among which the physicist and astronomer Auzout— thought to create a brand new “Company of Sciences and Arts”, a wish that was fulfilled by Louis XIV and Jean-Baptiste Colbert (his finance minister) along with an associated project, the Royal Academy.
On December 22nd, 1666, the first session took place and the decision to create the Royal Observatory was taken. The Royal Observatory was conceived as a huge research centre for academics as well as being a place for astronomical observation.
It is Auzout who suggested including a vast survey of the empire’s artistic crafts in the Academy of Science’s program, so in 1675 Colbert published a decree inviting academics to describe “all the machines in usage in the practice of art”.
A special commission was constituted to take this project further. The first art to be examined was printing, the Art which was to be used in the preservation of all others. The study had to dissect all the techniques used in the making of a book. This included looking at all existing characters used for printing, from the foreign and ancient to those used in chemistry, mathematics, music and those used for text purposes.
In addition to the description and analysis of these pre-existing characters, the commission proposed new ones in the form of general geometric models. The idea was to rationalise lettering and propose a general theory on their structure and proportions.
Taking advantage of the project, Jean Anisson, the royal printer, suggested a renewal of the royal typography by creating le “Romain du Roi ” (“the King’s Roman”) a completely new character, which was to be based on the results of the commission. This new royal type was meant firstly for the publication of “the King’s medals”, a book telling and glorifying King Louis XIV’s achievements, and then for the printing of all subsequent publications by the royal printer. It was this typeface that was to become the first private font.
The execution of the royal character was designated to Philippe Grandjean, royal punch cutter and member of the Commission. His mission was to use his craft to bring a real typographical quality to the commission’s mathematical models.
The Romain du Roi celebrates the marriage of geometric rationality and elegance, of science and craftsmanship. It is a pinnacle of Louis XIV’s glory, a type character that perfectly combines reason with art, showcasing all the essence of the Age of Enlightenment.
To create the Romain BP, it was necessary to study and understand the commission’s models in order to re-interpret them and create a text, just as Philippe Grandjean didin his time. It became clear to us in the process of developing the Romain BP that the theoretical models also contained some much more direct and radical structures that Grandjean had left aside to follow a more ornate style, in the manner of calligraphers like Nicolas Jarry.
The Romain BP Text is actually closer to the Commission’s model than Grandjean’s Romain du Roi. It is more synthetic in its structure, more radical, and thus, more modern. It is a contemporary text typeface based on a structure that was created in 1690, not a revival mimicking Greandjean’s shapes. It is an attempt to imagine the aesthetic choices we should be making in the modern day, based on the universal theoretical model.
The Romain BP Headline is a complementary font, which, free of text constraints, fully exploits the amazing graphic potential of the original model.