Garamont's early career: the grecs du roi

On 2 November 1540, Pierre Duchâtel, the king's adviser and chaplain, and guardian of the royal library, signed an agreement with Robert Estienne to commission Claude Garamont to cut "punches for Greek letters" based on models and instructions from the royal calligrapher Angelo Vergezio, originally from Crete.

Claude Garamont primarily worked under the direction of Vergezio, who established the number and the size of the various letters. The punch-cutting and creation of matrices were carried out "under the leadership and judgment" of the "King's writer of Greek letters".

"The art I practice is but a small thing." Claude Garamont, 1545

On 1 October 1541, 225 livres tournois were allocated to Robert Estienne for him to pay "Claude Garamond, punch-cutter and founder of letters… for and as an advance for the punches of Greek letters that he has undertaken and promised to cut and deliver to the above-mentioned Estienne, as they are completed, to be use for printing books in Greek to place in our libraries."

After Robert Estienne's departure for Geneva in 1550, the punches were transferred to various royal printers, before being consigned to the Imprimerie royale in the 17th century. The 1327 original punches are now listed monuments, and are considered national treasures.

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