The Scythe and the Rabbit: Simon de Colines and the Culture of the Book in Renaissance Paris

by Fred Showker

Fred Showker writes about 16th Century France Book review Simon de Colines (1480-1546) and his contributions to the modernization of book design was underappreciated -- until master typographer and historian Kay Amert conducted research on the Parisian printer who experimented with dynamic page layouts and pioneered the use of italic types in France during the Renaissance.

Although Amert died in 2008 and left her published and unpublished writings unfinished, Robert Bringhurst has brought them all together in The Scythe and the Rabbit: Simon de Colines and the Culture of the Book in Renaissance Paris, published by Cary Graphic Arts Press at Rochester Institute of Technology.

16th Century Paris

sampleSimon de Colines was one of the greatest typographers, printers and publishers of the Renaissance. He has nevertheless been unfairly neglected. Apart from a pair of scholarly bibliographies, published a century apart, this is the first book-length study of his work.

As Robert Bringhurst writes in his introduction to this volume,

Quoting  begins Colines as much as anyone built the semiotic structure of the book as we now know it, with its chapter headings and subheads, page numbers and running heads, tables of contents, indices, and source notes. He also cut lucid and beautiful type at a crucial moment: when the Latin and Greek alphabets were still engaged in their historic metamorphosis from manuscript to metal.... Quoting  ends

But Colines was a great publisher as well as a fine technician.

Quoting  begins He printed authors and texts that were central to his idea of civilization – Aristotle, Cicero, Sophocles, Hesiod, Horace, Ovid, Virgil, Statius, Martial, Terence, Euclid, Hippocrates, Galen – along with the best of their Renaissance followers and interpreters. Reading his books, these five centuries later, is a serious education not in typography alone but in philosophy, poetry, astronomy, medicine, law, and mathematics. Quoting  ends

This book is about the high-art of typography and publishing, as it unfolded in Redaissance Europe. It sets the stage for the expansion of the art all over the world! For the true lover of typography, or this book fills in all those gaps left behind undiscovered.

GO coverThe Scythe and the Rabbit: Simon de Colines and the Culture of the Book in Renaissance Paris
Kay Amert (Author), Robert Bringhurst (Editor)
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Publisher: RIT Cary Graphic Arts Press (November, 2012) ~ Paperback: 292 pages ~ Language: English

Kay Amert was a master typographer, a master printer, and a meticulous, insightful typographic historian, particularly knowledgeable in the field of French Renaissance printing and publishing. She was the director of the Typography Laboratory at the University of Iowa. She died in 2008, leaving her work unfinished. Her published and unpublished writings on de Colines have been carefully edited by Robert Bringhurst.

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Fred Showker

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  1. Introduction
  2. Parisian Printing in the Early Sixteenth Century: Establishing an Internation Idiom
  3. Origins of the French Old-Style: The Roman and Italic Types of Simon de Colines
  4. Medicine, Typography, and Renaissance Ideals in Early Sixteenth-Century Paris
  5. Sculpture under the Microscope: A Closer Look at Some Sixteenth-Century Letterforms
  6. Duet for the Design of Letters: The Work of Simon de Colines and Geofroy Tory
  7. The Humanization of a Medieval Form: Geofroy Tory's and Simon de Coline's Books of Hours
  8. The Phenomenon of the Gros Canon: The Birth of Roman Display Type in Renaissance Paris
  9. The Intertwining Strengths of Simon de Colines and His Stepson Robert Estienne
  10. The Aldine Hypothesis: Appraising and Reviving Early Italian and French Printing Types
  11. Afterword
  12. Appendix I: Provisional Census of Types Cut by Simon de Colines
  13. Apendix II: Outline of the Typographic Dialogue between Colines and Robert Estienne
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