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Bibliothèque de la Pléiade

Contributed by Maxime P. on Feb 3rd, 2017.
    Bibliothèque de la Pléiade 1
    Source: http://www.gallimard.fr Les éditions Gallimard. License: All Rights Reserved.

    The Bibliothèque de la Pléiade was founded in 1931 by Jacques Schiffrin, a Russian émigré. Named after a group of Russian poets, the Pléiade contains today more than 550 volumes, and is considered in French-speaking countries the most prestigious collection of classic literature.

    Inspired by his travels in Germany and England, Schiffrin sought to create a practical and convenient edition of complete works: leather-bound, durable, printed on thin bible paper as to fit in your coat’s pocket, and set exclusively in Monotype Garamond. All the volumes sold today look exactly the same as they did 80 years ago.

    While it quickly became popular among connoisseurs, lack of funds obliged Schiffrin to sell his collection two years later to Gallimard, where he continued to supervise the Pléiade until he was dismissed in 1940 for being Jewish. After receiving asylum in New York, Schiffrin went on to found Pantheon Books with Helen and Kurt Wolff (a refugee himself, Wolff was the first to publish Franz Kafka and Franz Werfel).

    Publishing critical editions of French classics, as well as translations from the literary canon, the Pléiade is also quite famous among contemporary writers. To be “enthroned” in the collection is a high honour, compared by many to the Nobel Prize, but received by few living writers. From the 250 authors published by the collection, only 16 have had the chance to see their name stamped on the golden spine.

    Today, 300,000 volumes are sold each year and the collection is Gallimard’s most profitable.

    Fun fact: Although the Bibliothèque de la Pléiade has always been considered a reference work, the first ever published volume ironically contained poems falsely attributed to Baudelaire. Pascal Pia, renowned today for his involvement in the French Resistance during World War II, had forged unpublished manuscripts which went unnoticed by the responsible scholar.
    Source: https://commons.wikimedia.org © Yann Forget / Wikimedia Commons / CC-BY-SA-3.0. License: All Rights Reserved.

    Fun fact: Although the Bibliothèque de la Pléiade has always been considered a reference work, the first ever published volume ironically contained poems falsely attributed to Baudelaire. Pascal Pia, renowned today for his involvement in the French Resistance during World War II, had forged unpublished manuscripts which went unnoticed by the responsible scholar.

    Fun fact: Although the Bibliothèque de la Pléiade has always been considered a reference work, the first ever published volume ironically contained poems falsely attributed to Baudelaire. Pascal Pia, renowned today for his involvement in the French Resistance during World War II, had forged unpublished manuscripts which went unnoticed by the responsible scholar.
    Photo: Maxime P.. License: All Rights Reserved.

    Since historical ligatures were not originally digitized by Monotype, the typeface had to be modified in-house.

    Bibliothèque de la Pléiade 4
    Source: https://fr.wikipedia.org Wikipedia Commons. License: CC BY.
    Fun fact: Although the Bibliothèque de la Pléiade has always been considered a reference work, the first ever published volume ironically contained poems falsely attributed to Baudelaire. Pascal Pia, renowned today for his involvement in the French Resistance during World War II, had forged unpublished manuscripts which went unnoticed by the responsible scholar.
    Source: http://www.gallimard.fr Les éditions Gallimard. License: All Rights Reserved.

    All the promotional material of the Pléiade uses Bodoni.

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    3 Comments on “Bibliothèque de la Pléiade”

    1. Maxime P. says:
      Feb 3rd, 2017  6:36 am
      The discretionary ligatures (especially the “st”) always looked poorly done to me. They don’t quite fit with the letters. Am I wrong ?
    2. Blythwood says:
      Feb 3rd, 2017  1:14 pm

      Beatrice Warde certainly called the 'st’ ligature “neither historical nor beautiful”, although she didn’t mind 'ct’. But then, she didn’t like Monotype Garamond very much anyway.

      It is a bit of a spindly, wonky thing, especially in larger sizes or onscreen where you can see that without any ink spread to hide it.

    3. Maxime B. says:
      Feb 5th, 2017  5:33 am
      I personally like these ligatures—I wish the digital version of Monotype Garamond had those ligatures not only in the italics but also in the romans. Usually, the digital Garamonds have their discretionary ligatures look like the Pléiade’s 'ct’ ligature.

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