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Early stencil makers in Europe

When Fri 19 Sep 1505
Where Museu del Disseny
What
Who Eric Kindel

The faiseur de caractères, or ‘maker of letters’, was the name given to stencil makers in eighteenth-century France. The trade is probably traceable to the seventeenth century, when the use of stencil letters for producing liturgical books was spreading in France and elsewhere in Europe. The trade continued into the nineteenth century, until the individual faiseur de caractères was subsumed into companies providing a wider range of engraving services. While in recent years advances have been made in our understanding of the history of stencilling, information about the early stencil-making trade has remained unassembled. This presentation will review what is presently known. It will take in period references, descriptions, and documents to build a picture of the trade, and will draw on surviving stencils and stencil work to seek out patterns of design, production, and distribution. Special attention will be given to the life and work of Jean Gabriel Bery (d. 1786), the faiseur de caractères about whom most is known. Bery supplied stencils to Benjamin Franklin, trading from a smart address on the Pont Notre-Dame in Paris. There are indications that he was also active in Madrid. Information about Bery will be drawn from an inventory of his professional and personal effects compiled after his death, a document that reveals much about his workshop, his domestic circumstances, his community of fellow stencil makers, and his situation in the Paris metropolis.

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