The Romantic Printer

If you were to glance at the image above without its title, you might think you were looking at portrait of a Romantic poet or a fiery philosopher: unkempt hair, an intense look in the eyes and all against a backdrop of wild, untamed nature.

In fact, this is a portrait of a Firmin Didot, a member of the important Didot family of typographers and printers. Here’s a glimpse of the generations of the family business — from Les Didot: trois siècles de typographie et de bibliophilie, 1698-1998an exhibition catalog of Didot materials* — that demonstrates the long tradition of the Didots in the book trades:

The portrait is part of the Updike Ephemera Collection, newly-organized by volunteer Amanda Thackray and described online in a guide to the collection, available at (pdf). There’s also a brief description on the collection page which includes a list of the individuals and organizations who are part of the collection. Many of the important names in the history of printing — people like John Baskerville, William Caslon and Isaiah Thomas — are represented, either by printed ephemera or manuscript items, such as this letter from Didot regarding proofs he’d prepared for the Depot general de la guerre. The letter is dated 1 April 1810.



* 926 D557j SpecColP: Compiled by Andrè Jammes, Paris: Agence culturelle de Paris, 1998.

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