Treasures from the Archives of the Imprimerie Nationale at the Grolier

In December 2011 the Grolier Club of New York will host an exhibition on the history of the French national printing establishment, the Imprimerie Nationale, arguably the most important printing house in Europe.  Drawn from the vast and comprehensive archives of the Imprimerie Nationale, Printing for Kingdom, Empire, and Republic will document the significant influence of the press, not only on printing and the book arts, but on French — and therefore European — literary culture from the mid-sixteenth century to the present day.  The exhibition is being organized by the Grolier Club and the Institut Mémoires de l’Édition Contemporaine (IMEC), which recently added the historical collections of the Imprimerie Nationale to France’s largest archive of authorial and publishing materials, in cooperation with the Groupe Imprimerie Nationale, S.A.

Printing for Kingdom, Empire, and Republic, curated by H. George Fletcher (the retired Brooke Russell Astor Director at The New York Public Library, and the organizer in New York of IMEC’s 2009 exhibition “Between Collaboration and Resistance: French Literary Life under Nazi Occupation”), will tell the story of the Imprimerie Nationale, from a group of royal printers established by François I in 1538, to the Imprimerie Royale created by Cardinal Richelieu in 1640, through many generations of development, marked often by artistic innovation and wide cultural influence, but sometimes by distress and neglect, to triumphant survival in the present day. Over 200 objects will be on view at the Grolier Club from early December 2011 through early February of 2012, encompassing artifacts of various printing processes, such as punches, matrices, and typefonts from the days of François I to the present, as well as engraved plates and lithographic stones used to produce illustrations (including at least one plate from the famous Description de l’Egypt commissioned by Napoleon, with its proofs and published state).  It will also show archival copies of the books produced at the Imprimerie Nationale, from the scholarly products of the Renaissance in France through the royal folios of the Sun King to the culture-changing works of the late nineteenth and early twentieth century, and thus to the work of postwar and present-day generations of French book artists.  In many cases, original manuscripts, documents, and artwork will allow the visitor to follow the art, craft, and business of book-making from conception to realization. Video installations are planned to provide visitors with an overview of the history of the Imprimerie Nationale, as well as demonstrations of all aspects of book production.

LOCATION AND TIME: Printing for Kingdom, Empire, and Republic will be on view in both the ground floor and 2nd floor galleries of the Grolier Club, 47 East 60 Street, New York, from Dec. 7, 2011-Feb. 4, 2012, with the exception of Dec. 24, Dec. 31, and Jan. 16, when the Club is closed. The exhibit will be open to the public free of charge, Monday - Saturday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Additional information and directions are available at  

CATALOGUE: A fully-illustrated publication featuring scholarly essays on the Imprimerie Nationale and a complete checklist of the exhibition will be created and produced by the Imprimerie Nationale’s Atelier du Livre d’Art et l’Estampe (ALAE). It will be available at the Club, and through Oak Knoll Press.  

RELATED EVENTS: Tuesday, January 24, 2012—A day-long colloquium on “The French Imprimerie Nationale and Printing History” will be held at the French Institute/Alliance Francaise (22 East 60th Street, across the street from the Grolier Club). A reception will follow at the Grolier Club. Wednesday, January 25, 2012, 2-3 pm—Lecture by H. George Fletcher in connection with the exhibition.  

The Exhibition

Printing for Kingdom, Empire, and Republic: 
Treasures from the Archives of the Imprimerie Nationale
 has been made possible by a generous grant from
The Florence Gould Foundation


September 14-November 4, 2011: Silver Screen / Silver Prints: Hollywood Glamour Portraits from the Robert Dance Collection.

December 7, 2011-February 4, 2012: Printing for Kingdom, Empire, and Republic: Treasures from the Archives of the Imprimerie Nationale.   

February 22-April 28, 2012: Torn in Two, the 150th Anniversary of the Civil War.
May 16-July 28, 2012: Aaron Burr Returns to New York: an Exhibit of Burr and His Contemporaries.

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