Cooper Union Typography

All about Typography, well, mostly about Typography.



Civilité: a type designed by Robert Granjon as a French response to the Italian italic, and based on the cursive Gothic script as used in 1558. “Granjon called the type lettre françoise d’art de main, but because the type was very popular for school books and courtesy books, with ‘De Civilitate morum puerilium libellus’ (A Handbook on Good Manners for Children) by Erasmus serving as prototype, it now is generally known as Civilité type.” — quoted from viaLibri

This entry is still a bit rough; mainly a collection of references, names and images all relating to the Civilité style of type.

Some images are available larger, click on them to see a larger version


Cursive Script (basis for Civilité style)


Recto and Verso pages from Book of Hours (Horæ Beatæ Mariæ Virginis) France; Early XVIth Century.
“This beautiful manuscript leaf was written and illuminated about the year 1535 A.D. At this late date Books of Hours were also being printed in great numbers by such famous French printers as Vostre, de Collins, and Tory. These were elaborately illustrated and frequently hand-colored. The cursive gothic script used in this leaf, with its boldly accented letters and flourished initials, borrowed heavily from the decorative chancery or legal hands of the XIIIth and XIVth centuries. It influenced the type face known as civilité, designed by Granjon, and first used in 1559 A.D.” — info from The University of Minnesota Libraries


General Info


Image from the book: Civilité types, by Harry Carter and H. D. L. Vervliet (The Oxford Bibliographical Society, Oxford Univ. Press, 1966).
Info at Luc Devroye’s site
General Information
Information in Spanish


Robert Granjon


Information on Granjon at Linotype
Information and images (some reproduced below) of Granjon’s Civilité (page in Russian)

Title page from “Dialogue de la Fie et de la Mort”, published by Robert Granjon, Lyon 1557
(first ever use of Civilité type)
Image from Linotype

Spread from Horae in laudem beatissime virginis Mariae ad usum Romanum. Lyon, Robert Granjon, 1558.

Page from Sommaire des Singularitez de Pline. Printed by Breton, Paris, 1559 (Civilité by Granjon)

H&FJ’s St. Augustin Civilité— a digitization of Granjon’s “St. Augustin Lettre Francoise”, circa 1562.
(The numbers and punctuation are from Granjon’s “Courante” from 1567)

Gros texte (16.6 Pica points) by Robert Granjon, 1567. Image from The Golden Compasses. The History of the House of Plantin-Moretus by Leon Voet.

Title page from the Testament of the Twelve Patriarch, Antwerp, printed by Willem Silvius, 1569 (Granjon’s type; the Initial caps were possibly cut Granjon for this book). Image from Antiquariaat Forum


Jan van de Velde (Dutch, 1568–1623)



‘Nachtelijk banket’ from J.J. Starter, “Friesche Lusthof”, Amsterdam, 1621

Spieghel der Schrijfkonste (“Mirror of the Art of Writing”) by Jan van de Velde, 1605; in the Columbia University Libraries, New York City.


Ameet Tavernier


Les Caracteres de Civilité de Robert Granjon et les Imfirimeurs Flamands, Antwerp, 1921, by Maurits Sabbe (of the Musée Plantin) and Marius Audin. It contains twelve reproductions of civilité fonts by Granjon, Tavernier, etc.

Translation of the bottom line of text: “This latest Written Script [Dutch name for Civilité] was cut for the famous printer Christopher Plantin of Antwerp, by Ameet Tavernier, punchcutter”

Civilité, cut by Ameet Tavernier [punchcutter (ca.1522-1570)], second half of sixteenth century.
“A civilité letter (a Gothic script type, originating in France, hence the name written ‘in the old way’) in great primer and cicero type,cut by Ameet Tavernier for Christopher Plantin in Antwerp. Tavernier was a Frenchman who had settled in Antwerp in 1557. In the second half of the 16th century many new letters with a strong French influence were cut in the Southern Netherlands. Hereby Christopher Plantin played a significant role.” —from Bibliopolis

Page of a book printed in civilité type; ‘Den uutersten wille van Lowijs Porquin’.
“The first civilité-letter was cut in 1557 by the Frenchman Robert Granjon. Afterwards, he established himself for a couple of years in Antwerp, where his typefaces were used by Antwerp printers such as Willem Silvius and Christopher Plantin. In 1558, the type cutter Ameet Tavernier produced his own civilité, and that was the first in a list of Dutch variations on the typeface which was frequently used up to well into the eighteenth century. In general, this typeface was used for works in the vernacular; such as devotional works, instructions for the young or pamphlets and proclamations.”—from Bibliopolis

Spelen van sinne (I). Antwerpen, [Chr. Plantin for] Willem Silvius, 1562 — Amsterdam UB.
A possible Tavernier print (from Secret activities of Plantin, 1555–1583).


Other forms

“A typical page by the great English Writing Master, Peter Bales, who had come to London in 1590, to start his own business teaching handwriting. He published his book, The Writing Schoolmaster in that year. He was celebrated for his extraordinary ability to write in a minute/tiny hand.” (from

Title page from La Plaisante Histoire du noble et vaillant Chevalier Pierre de Provence, & de la belle Maguelonne, fille du Roi de Naples. 1587, Antwerp. (the Dutch is set in Civilité and Blackletter, while French is set in Antiqua)

Danfrie, Philippe (1531–c.1606). Declaration de l’usage du Graphometre. -Traicte de l’usage du Trigometre. Paris: P. Danfrie, 1597.
“One of only two books printed with these civilité types. An instrument maker, fine metal worker, and engraver (including of bookbinding tools), Danfrie was appointed ‘graveur général des monnaies de France’ in 1582. His was the second civilité fount, following Robert Granjon’s, which was modelled on a different French hand. Danfrie’s early civilité types were used in books printed by Danfrie and Richard Breton or by Breton alone. The civilité types used here ‘represent the native French handwriting at a stage of development later’ than his and Granjon’s types produced at mid-century.” — (from Christies

Christeliicken Waerseggher. Inde Plantijnsche Druckerije, Jan Moerentorf, Antwerp, 1603.
A Jesuit educational emblem book, with Dutch set in civilité; Latin and French are set in two other distinct faces. (from Antiquariaat Forum)

Two images below from: “Den Nieuwen verbeterden Lust-hof. Den derden druck gebetert en veel vermeerdert. t’Amstelredam, by Dirck Pietersz. in die witte Persse. Anno 1607” (found at

Title page of a Dutch songbook from 1607: Oorlof liedt, de Iaght van Cupido en Dedicatie.
Image of page 94 from ‘Den nievwen improved Lust-hof’, with a portion of Vondel” poem Oorlof Liedts, in civilité.

A book on navigation, Leeuwarden, published by Abraham vanden Rade, 1615.
The civilité type is that used by the Antwerp printer Soolmans. (from Antiquariaat Forum)

City of Leyden pamphlet on the behaviour of medical doctors, barbers, etc., printed at the municipal press by S. van Baersdorp, January 28th, 1637. (from Antiquariaat Forum)

Poem from the first edition of the Journaal by IW Paeuw, published by Deutel, 1646

La Civilite
La civilité puerile & honneste. Nicolas Oudot, Troyes, (before 1672?). A schoolbook teaching children to read and write French.

La civilité qui se pratique en France … pour l’éducation de la jeunesse (Blois, 1740)

Gilles Le Corre’s 1742 Civilite. (based on “Fournier Le jeune ”, in his catalogue “Modèles des caractères de l’imprimerie et des autres choses nécessaires au dit art nouvellement gravés par Simon-Pierre Fournier le jeune” published in 1742 in Paris)

Old Civilité from Claude Lamesle’s Épreuves Générales des Caractères [qui se trouvent chez Lamesle], Paris, 1742

Folio 140 from Pierre-Simon Fournier’s, Manuel Typographique, (tome II, Article III : caractères particuliers), 1766.
Image by wasianed.

Pages from Libro nuovo d’imparare a scrivere (a writing manual) by Giovanni Battista Palatino, 1545. Not civilité but these scripts are related.
Image by wasianed.


Contemporary Designs

Ryan Frisk’s Punkt. See more images at (page in Russian)

Givry typeface by Tom Grace. Technically a bâtarde, but a relative of civilité


Filed under: Assignments, Links, Reference, Typography,

7 Responses

  1. Rachael says:

    I realize this was posted in March but I’ve been won over by the types. I keep coming back to this page to look again at the reasearch presented! I’m astounded at the elegance of the grids and the calligraphic swashes and the fine lines!

    I am the least of all novices in typography but I just love what I find! Thankyou for this wealth. I hope to do it justice.

    xx Ray

  2. Ted says:

    We’d like to use one of these illustrations in a typography poster we’re designing. Who should we ask for permission?

    • Sasha says:

      Hi Ted, which illustration(s) did you have in mind? All of these images were culled from online sources, and if they are not sourced below the image I can certainly track down where I got these from.

  3. Jean-Marie says:

    An embarrassment of riches on this typeface: thanks for the good work.

    I do have a question. Does the technical term “Civilité” refer only to the typeface, and not to the script(s) it was inspired from? If there was a specific (as opposed to generic) model for this type, what was it called?

    Thanks for any answer!

    • Sasha says:

      You are quite welcome. It’s nice to see that it is useful.

      Yes, the name refers only to the typefaces and not the scripts. As far as I know there was no formal name specifically attached to this script style. In various texts it is simply referred to as Gothic Cursive Handwriting (See D. B. Updike’s “Printing Types”, vol 1, p. 201).

      There were many varieties popular at the time Granjon made his type, and he was mainly following a trend in creating type based on popular scripts. He intended for his to be the new “lettre française”. It didn’t really work out in France, but his type became quite popular in the Netherlands as you can tell by the images above.

      The name Civilité, or more specifically “caracteres de civilité”, began to be used around the late 1550’s after Granjon’s type was used in two popular books for children: Louveaus’s translation from Erasmus “Le Civilité Puérile distribué par petitz chapitres et sommaires” (1559) and Gilbert de Calviac’s “Civile Honesteté pour les Enfants, etc” (1560), (both are essentially handbooks on good manners for children). Granjon originally called this type style: “lettre françoise d’art de main”.

      Hope this helps.

      • Ryan Pescatore Frisk says:

        I hate to pull this out, but Civilité is a form of script. This was, and I’m paraphrasing my hardcore French teachers of typography, a form of writing made for the people – thus the nomenclature. Nothing this ornate in a traditional style could have ever taken form in metal first. Granjon compiled.

  4. Sasha Tochilovsky says:

    Ryan, you are absolutely correct. The original was indeed a script, and I do point that out in the reply above, as well as in the article itself. And you are precisely right—there was no way something like this could have ever come from metal. However, when it comes to the exact naming of the script I think it’s a little gray, and I think would be hard to say precisely where it comes from with any certainty. All of the sources I have come across point to the name “civilité” being attached (at a later date) to that style of type, (not the handwriting style), as coming from the printed uses of it in the “Civilité” books. Hence, supposedly, the use of the same name as in the titles of the books. When Granjon cut that type he called it the “lettres françaises”, in an attempt at creating an national French type style. I have not seen anything that would suggest that the cursive handwriting itself (pre-Granjon) having a specific name. It is possible that it did, but I think these are typically grouped under the Bâtarde umbrella, albeit this one being specific to France and the low countries in the 15th century. I haven’t been able to get my hands on a copy of “Civilité Types” by Harry Carter and H. D. L. Vervliet; perhaps there is something in it that might explain if the script had a name.

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