NEW YORK, N.Y.- The Grolier Club of New York will devote both its upper and lower galleries to an unprecedented public exhibition on the history of the French national typographic and printing establishment, the Imprimerie Nationale, arguably the most important printing house in Europe. Drawn from the ancient, vast, and comprehensive archives of the Imprimerie Nationale, Printing for Kingdom, Empire, & Republic will document the significant influence of the press, not only on printing and the book arts, but also on French — and therefore European — literary culture from the mid-sixteenth century to the present day. The exhibition has been organized by The Grolier Club and the Groupe Imprimerie Nationale, S.A., with administrative and organizational support from the Institut Mémoires de l’Édition Contemporaine, France’s largest archive of authorial and publishing materials.
The exhibition has been curated by Grolier Club member H. George Fletcher (former Astor Curator of Printed Books and Bindings at the Morgan Library & Museum, and retired Brooke Russell Astor Director for Special Collections at The New York Public Library). It tells the story of the Imprimerie Nationale, from the royal printers established by François I in 1538, to the Imprimerie Royale created by Cardinal Richelieu in 1640, through many generations of development, marked often by artistic innovation and wide cultural influence, but sometimes by distress and neglect, to triumphant survival in the present day. The Grolier Club galleries will be host to over 200 exhibits, comprising several thousand objects, all classified as French monuments historiques, and never before seen outside of France. The items on show encompass artifacts of various printing processes, such as punches, matrices, and typefonts from the days of François I to the present, as well as engraved plates used to produce illustrations for such renowned works as Louis XIV’s Médailles and the Description de l’Égypt commissioned by Napoleon.
The exhibition will also showcase archival copies of the books produced at the Imprimerie Nationale, from the scholarly products of the Renaissance in France through the royal folios of the Sun King to the culture-changing works of the twentieth century, and thus to the work of postwar and present-day generations of French book artists. In many instances, original manuscripts, documents, and artwork will allow the visitor to follow the art, craft, and business of book-making from conception to realization. Video installations are planned to provide visitors with an overview of the history of the Imprimerie Nationale, and its continuing commitment to the art and craft of book production.
Three master artisans from the Imprimerie Nationale will offer demonstrations of punch-cutting, hand composition of Chinese characters, and computerized type design, on December 7-9; tours and lectures, in English and French, are planned for a range of dates in December and January; and a day-long colloquium on the Imprimerie Nationale and the history of printing will be held at the French Institute / Alliance Française, on January 24, 2012.
Location and Time: Printing for Kingdom, Empire, & Republic: Treasures from the Archives of the Imprimerie Nationale will be on public view at the Grolier Club, 47 East 60th Street, New York, from December 7, 2011–February 4, 2012, with the exception of December 24, 26, 31 and January 2, when the Club is closed. The exhibition will be open to the public free of charge, Monday to Saturday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.