Graphê, association pour la promotion de l'art typographique.
Pétition pour sauver le patrimoine de l'Imprimerie nationale (cabinet des poinçons, presses à imprimer, bibliothèque historique)


The latest news concerning the patrimony of the French “Imprimerie Nationale”
(March, 19th 2007)

This page updates the last one, dated March 2006.

The situation today

Before moving its historical Parisian premises from Paris to two other sites (Douai and Choisy-le-Roi), the former Imprimerie nationale has renamed the patrimonial sector as “Atelier du livre d'art et de l'estampe” (workshop for art printing and engraving) and, during the summer 2005, has moved it to an industrial area in a Paris suburb (at Ivry-sur-Seine).

The building covering 1400 square metres houses the punch cutting workshop, the historical library and the traditional printing office. The casting machines, still in working order, continue to maintain the complete typographical production line. Around 20 skilled workers cover all the activities. Lead stock, various printing machines as well as a part of the library are kept on the Douai site.

This situation is only temporary. There is no real project for the future. From a strictly commercial point of view, the production is low and in deficit. Note that there is no more editorial activity.

Management of the dossier by the ministries

• The Imprimerie Nationale is still under the administrative supervision of the Finance Ministry. A study has been commissioned to be carried out jointly by the Ministries of Finance and Cultural Affairs. Their report has been delivered to the concerned Ministers during the Autumn 2006. However, this study is still private and we have not been authorized to access it.

• At the Cultural Affairs ministry the dossier of the “Imprimeraie Nationale” is being followed up by the the Book and Reading Department and in the cabinet of the Culture minister by advisors in charge of the book and patronimy.

• The mission for the arts professions of the Culture Ministry give support by financing a number of training courses organised within the Imprimerie Nationale: punch engraving, character casting, phototyping, orientalist composition.

Projects of IN Headers and Culture Ministries

A project, initaly conceived by the cabinet of the minister of Culture in concertation with the administration of the Imprimerie Nationale, was related to the rehabilitation of the Arsenal Library, which is part of the BnF (the French National Library). The patronimy of the IN, the library and the punch collection were to be regrouped on this site. Such a solution would give priority to the conservation of the patrimony as archives with the objective of keeping the budget to a minimum, probably managed by the BnF. The cost of the renovations would have been enormous and this was the reason why it has been achieved.

Another project, promoted by the head of the Imprimerie Nationale, is concerning the basement of Palais de Tokyo (formerly the National Museum of Modern Art). No details are available.

The Garamonpatrimoine group's propositions

The project that the group Garamonpatrimoine has been promoting for nearly three years is dynamic and looks ahead to the future where the production in the workshop will be maintained and linked to teaching, training and research. We have outlined this project for the creation of the “Conservatoire de l'imprimerie, de la typographie et de l'écrit” (CITÉ; see note 3). Two realistic solutions appear possible:

The Estienne School project

The “École supérieure Estienne des arts et industries graphiques” is the national reference for excellence for the teaching of graphic arts and professional training of people involved in the making of books (“les métiers du livre”). It's status has recently been modified to an EPLE (Établissement Public Local d'Enseignement, Public Teaching Institution depending of Local administration, here the City of Paris) and it has gained in autonomie.

The director and the teaching staff of this school would like to accomodate the patrimony of the “Imprimerie nationale” and keep the book workshop alive by associating it closely to the pedagogie. The three key words in this approach are : training, creation and research.

The Estienne school project could materialise on condition that larger premises be found (either by building an extension or moving to a bigger site) and also that the City of Paris commits itself alongside the school.

La Maison internationale de L'Illustration à Bobignyt

The original site where L'Illustration was printed has been saved from demolition. The huge industrial buildings dating from the 1930's are being renovated progressively. (architects : Paul Chemetov et Borja Huidobro). It is now part of the campus “l'Université Paris 13” and is a competive sector which is bound to expand. The project for the “Maison internationale de L'Illustration” is being promoted by the “Conseil général of Seine-Saint-Denis”, the town of Bobigny and the Ile-de-France region. It backs onto the “Université Paris 13” The partners in this project would like to include the CITÉ project in their proposition. A preliminary study is being done to see how this hypothesis can be taken into account.

About the historical site of Imprimerie nationale

The large historical site of Imprimerie nationale (rue de la Convention, Paris 15th) has been sold to a property promoter (Carlyle) for remaking as a prestigious building for affair firms. The front and side walls, being classified as a “historic monument”, have been saved. These new buildings interest the foreign Office to buy them. If so, some place in this site could be reserved to the conservatory we are asking for. What better address than Rue Gutenberg (a street along this builfing) could be the one of a workshop and laboratory of typography?

More details

1.“La typographie en danger” by Élisabeth Badinter, Yves Bonnefoy, Roger Chartier, Jacques Rigaud,
    Bernard Stiegler et Michel Tardieu (in French):

2. “Preserving the typographical patrimony” by James Mosley (in English and in French):

3. Le projet CITÉ (in French)

4. Estienne School project (in French)


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