L. Llanta, lithographer

Imp. Firmin Didot

Paris, 1801-1805
(or later reprint)

The House of Didot in Paris is one of the most hallowed names in the history of printing. Established in the 18th century by Francois Didot (1689-1757), seven generations of Didots built a reputation as master printers and typographers. They developed the series of modern typefaces that have become standard in France. Individual members invented important tools of the printing trade and became renowned publishers of literature and art books. In the 18th and 19th century printing was considered a fine art, and their royal clients were both patrons and experts with their own presses.
The illustration above is from a series of volumes called Racine, first published between 1801 and1805. The twelve volume series showed all human dress habits across the world. It won prizes in 1806 and at the London Universal Exhibition 1851 was judged the most perfect typographical production of all countries and all times. The name of Firmin Didot (1764-1836) at the bottom of the page refers to the grandson of Francois Didot, under whose banner the firm celebrated its finest days. He became royal printer in 1814, and imposed a style of typefaces across Europe in a busy life that included the translation of many classics. The Didot style was taken to represent the lucidity of the neo-classical age, clean lines that blended the ancient and the mathematical.
The House of Didot was also unusual for the friendly rivalries that existed between relatives, with brothers setting up their own shops, working together when it suited them as well as charting their own directions. Firmin Didot's sons kept his name for the firm, and the above chromolithograph could be a re-print of the original from as late as 1880. The color range suggest perhaps a dozen lithographic stones, although colors could be overprinted to create new tones. It took great skill and many laborious procedures not to mix colors and preserve a fine level of detail.

More Didot lithographs of India


© Harappa 1995-97