The Romantic Printer


(View the original post at the Notes for Bibliophiles blog.)

If you were to glance at the image above without its title, you might think you were looking at portrait of a Romantic poet or a fiery philosopher: unkempt hair, an intense look in the eyes and all against a backdrop of wild, untamed nature.

In fact, this is a portrait of a Firmin Didot, a member of the important Didot family of typographers and printers. Here's a glimpse of the generations of the family business — from Les Didot: trois siècles de typographie et de bibliophilie, 1698-1998an exhibition catalog of Didot materials* — that demonstrates the long tradition of the Didots in the book trades:

The portrait is part of the Updike Ephemera Collection, newly-organized by volunteer Amanda Thackray and described online in a guide to the collection, available at (pdf). There's also a brief description on the collection page which includes a list of the individuals and organizations who are part of the collection. Many of the important names in the history of printing — people like John Baskerville, William Caslon and Isaiah Thomas — are represented, either by printed ephemera or manuscript items, such as this letter from Didot regarding proofs he'd prepared for the Depot general de la guerre. The letter is dated 1 April 1810.



* 926 D557j SpecColP: Compiled by Andrè Jammes, Paris: Agence culturelle de Paris, 1998.

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Jordan Goffin

Special Collections Librarian Jordan Goffin has been mining the wonders in the Library’s Special Collections since early 2011. If you’d like to stop in and spend some time with the historic and noteworthy books, manuscripts and ephemera at PPL, contact him by email at or by phone at 401.455.8021. Also, visit the Notes for Bibliophiles blog ( to read more about the exciting materials in Special Collections and to keep up with events and announcements.


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