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You are here: Home / Conferences / Antwerp 2018 / Programme


The French stencil letter
When Sat 15 Sep 0910
Where Arenberg Theater
Who Eric Kindel
The typical French stencil letter, product of a Didot-inflected country and made famous through its use by artists, architects, and designers, exemplifies the panache of much francophone industrial culture. The design remains available as sets of stencils made in France and as typefaces that capture its features more or less faithfully. But how much do we really know about this stencil letter that now seems so familiar? How old is the design, who created it, what was innovative about it, and why has it enjoyed such longevity? This talk will consider these and other questions by tracing the design to four entrepreneurs who in 1852 started a company in Paris to make stencils by mechanical means. It will investigate their backgrounds, their commercial ambitions, and the alphabet and numeral stencils they manufactured in more than three dozen sizes. The talk will look back at stencil-making in France prior to the mid 19th century, to explore how this particular stencil letter was in several respects a continuation of 18th-century stencil-making practices. And it will look forward into the 20th century to reconsider a few of the uses that have marked the design so indelibly on our minds.

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