Our own Monsieur, a family of French printers, a typeface and an Athenian street all share the same name and, in a manner that can be best described as magical enchantment, meet in a single, all-encompassing and unique spot: Monsieur Didot’s house!
The Didot family of French printers, publishers, and type founders have had a profound influence on the history of typography. The founder of the family business was François Didot (1689–1757), who began business as a printer and bookseller in Paris in 1713. His grandson, Firmin, designed the Didot typeface and also created stereotypes (plates cast from printing surfaces).
Neoclassical ideals were at the core of most of the Didot family’s work, drawing elements from Ancient Greek and Roman tradition. Minimal characteristics, wide margins, simplicity and mathematical precision rejected the excess and opulence of the preceding Rococo style. The aesthetic of the Didot typeface reflects this principle in its entirety, evocative of the vertical emphasis that is characteristic of Ancient Greek architecture, much admired by Neoclassicists.
The Didot family gave its name to one of the most famous groups of typefaces appearing in a variety of prints and editions, from a series of prestigious editions of Voltaire’s work to the logos of successful companies in the present day.
A survey of 368 people undertaken by writer and typographer Sarah Hyndman suggested that the modern Didot typeface was the most expensive looking font.
Under the influence of the neoclassical philhellenic ideals of the late 18th century, Firmin Didot designed a new Greek typeface in Paris in 1805 which was immediately used in the publishing programme of Adamantios Korais, a leading scholar of the Greek Enlightenment. The typeface eventually arrived in Greece, with the field press which came with Didot’s grandson Ambroise Firmin Didot, during the Greek Revolution in 1821. Since then the typeface has enjoyed an unrivalled success as the type of choice for almost every kind of publication until the last decades of the 20th century.
In honor of Didot’s grandson, the street on which our own Monsieur Didot’s house happens to be located (Sina 48 & Didot) was given the name, Didot!