• dannysomoza
  • 07/31/2012 11:58

Geoffroy Tory – Illustrator and Typographer

Publisher, printer, author, orthographic reformer, and prolific engraver who was mainly responsible for the French Renaissance style of book decoration and who played a leading part in popularizing in France the Roman letter against the prevailing Gothic.

Geoffroy Tory was born in Bourges in 1480, about ten years after the advent of printing in France. He attended the local university, where he developed an interest in Latin literature. When he finished his studies, he left Bourges for Italy, where he studied at two more universities, Sapenzia at Rome and then Bologna.


Around 1505, when Tory completed his studies, he went Paris where Tory worked as a bookbinder, editor of texts, and corrector for the press. Then he became one of the youngest professors to teach at the College du Plessis, and in 1509 he already had a large reputation. Afterwards, Tory spend a few more years in Italy, studying and working more as an artist, until he moved again to Paris in 1518, where his work became recognized again.

The book of Hours

It wasn’t until 1524 that he discovered The Book of Hours. The most famous copy of which is still dedicated to Tory. In 1525, Geoffroy published a copy of “The Book of Hours” Introduced type design that was free from the idea of handwriting based print. It also started the idea of book designing as an art in France.

The book of Hours contained sixteen full page borders and thirteen large woodcuts. It is famous for breaking all the traditions of the time. The illustrations in the book are not the greatest, as Tory did them all himself, and despite a passion for art, he didn’t have the talent. It is printed with a light roman type. There are 17 known copies of the 1531 ‘Book of Hours’, which is the year that Tory published it. The Book of Hours granted Tory specific privileges with King François I to publish his own works.

[The book of Hours preview]

The Champfleury

Published in 1529, Champfleury was written by Geoffroy Tory. It is divided into three books, and is heavily about the proper use of the French language, from elegance to the alphabet to the proper use of grammar, and subtitled “The Art and Science of the Proportion of the Attic or Ancient Roman Letters, According to the Human Body and Face”.


The Champfleury was not as stylized as ‘The Book of Hours’, however it did give great insight into the mind of Tory; his pedantic attitude and his meticulous devotion to the French Language. Tory used a grid that was in a square shape, that eerily predicts the use of pixelation in modern day typefaces. Although “Champfleury” roughly translates to “flowery fields”, it is also a French idiom for “paradise”.

[The Champfleury preview]


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