The history of decorated letters--from the lapidary inscriptions of the fourth century up to the present day--has been traced in some detail by Mr Stanley Morison in his article on decorated types.1 Here it win be sufficient to note that decorated capitals were first used in printing during the 1450's. In those early days they were used singly, i.e. as initial letters only. Had tide-pages then been part of the book it is possible that decorated letters might have been used on them for the composition of complete words or lines.
From about the middle of the sixteenth century French writing masters were showing specimens of a variety of ornamented or decorated letters in their writing manuals (some of these books were printed from wood-engravings, others from copper plates) and French scribes continued to produce all kinds of ornamented letters during the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. Mr Morison refers readers to 'A remarkably various collection of lettres fleuragées of a most delicate kind'.2 intended for the use of goldsmiths and jewellers which was published in M. Pouget fils: Dictionnaire de Chifres et de lettres ornées a l'usage de tous les artistes. ( Paris 1767).What may have been the first French decorated capitals in type form date from 1680, but the real pioneer of decorated letters in typography was Pierre Simon Fournier whose first ornamented types appeared circa 1749. By the time Fournier had published his Manuel Typographique ( 1764- 1766) he had cut nine different decorated and shaded letters in sizes ranging from 6 point to approximately 108 pt and shows specimens of them therein.____________________
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Publication information: Book title: An Introduction to the History of Printing Types:An Illustrated Summary of the Main Stages in the Development of Type Design from 1440 up to the Present Day: an Aid to Type Face Identification. Contributors: Geoffrey Dowding - Author. Publisher: British Library/Oak Knoll Press. Place of publication: London. Publication year: 1961. Page number: 145.
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