Thursdays August 4th–Sept. 1st

19:30–21:00 CEST


Register from July 21st

More images below

My work. Informal demo piece.
Robert Granjon’s Civilité

Civilité is the popularised name of a script and a font which Robert Granjon (1,2) made famous in France during the 1500s. It has its origins in French calligraphy preceding it, and while the terms used for these handwriting scripts or styles may be confusing, we should note that handwriting and calligraphy will always be subject to change and that the terms we use are rarely solid and dogmatic (3).


The famous writing master Pierre Hamon (4) include a written version of it in his handbook.


Civilité has an almost Arabic feel to it, and although it is pure speculation on my part, I wonder if it is at influenced by the alternating widths of strokes of letters we find in the Arabic. What we do know is that Arabic patterns emerge in European typography at the same time.


The Civilité is a true hybrid script, with traits from Gothic cursive hands as well as italic. It is characterised by sweeping calligraphic strokes and extensions, special characters creating variety on the page, and many ligatures.


Learning to truly master the Civilité may take a long time, especially for the beginner. In this workshop we will start by looking at the basic shapes of different scripts leading up to the more advanced Civilité, so beginners and intermediate students may also profit from this workshop. I have also expanded from four to five sessions so students may gain more skill and understanding from a natural progress.


The workshop will cover


– Basic minuscule shapes and their differences
– Deciding on basic form relationships
– Minuscule variations
– Minuscule flourishes and extensions
– Civilité capitals; demonstration


As usual there will be a mix of historical lectures, demonstrations, Q & A sessions and corrections in Slack between sessions.




1. The popular name for the type came from the titles of two early books in which it was used: Erasmus’s La Civilité puerile, Jean Bellère, Antwerp, 1559, and La Civile honesteté pour les enfans, R. Breton, Paris, 1560. “Civilité” meant “good manners” and it was thought an advantage that children should learn to read from a book printed in a type resembling current handwriting.


2. Robert Granjon (1513–1590) printed the first book in the new type: Dialogue de la vie et de la mort by Ringhieri (1557). Granjon meant for the type to be a ‘national type’, and printed about 20 books in the type. In hindsight perhaps we should remember Jan Tschichold’s words ‘I don’t believe in a national typography’, as it wasn’t a widespread success – perhaps due to the many special characters needed.


3. Granjon’s type was based on French calligraphic styles at the time, like the lettre batarde and lettre Francoise, a gothic cursive with traits from handwriting. The latter has similarities with the Flemish cursives and so called English secretary hand.


4. Odd facts: Pierre Hamon was secretary to King Charles IX, and was hung for treason, possibly due to the envy of his peers and false allegations. Another theory is that he had written derogatory sonnets (!) about the king. [“The Bureau Academique d’Ecriture: A Footnote to the History of French Calligraphy* By James M. Wells]

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