Established during the 16th century, the Imprimerie nationale
was the French printing factory possessing precious patrimonial archives
including old printing machines, books, and the most important collection
of punches (including the Garamond ones).
To conform with European directives, the French government started to
transform the company in a state-owned commercial limited-liability
company. This was with no thought to finding a long term solution to
preserve its historic heritage - part of which is classified as a historic
A vigorous movement has arisen to protect the book workshop (atelier
du livre),which includes the activities of the punchcutters of
the "Cabinet des Poinçons", of the hand composition
of the historic and exotic types and their printing by letterpress,
and the illustration processes. Members of this movement believe that
this entity must not be scattered or split up, as regards to its contents
or its functions, which include a museum and conservation, typeface
creation, publishing and research. They believe that l’Imprimerie Nationale
must be released from the control of a ministerial department whose
concern is with economic viability.
has been signed to support this idea by more than 25 000 people around
the world which was presented to the President of the Republic in May
Present & future
The commercial entity of the Imprimerie nationale was moved from its
historical Parisian premises to two other sites in 2005. The patrimonial
sector has been renamed Atelier du livre d’art et de l’estampe
(workshop for art printing and engraving) and has been moved to an industrial
area in a Paris suburb. 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. But
this situation is only temporary.
There is no real project for the future.
The official project
This is the project conceived by the cabinet of the minister of Culture.
The idea is to rehabilitate the Arsenal Library, which is part of the
Bibliothèque Nationale de France (the French National Library),
and to present the patronimy of the IN i.e. the library and the punch
collection. This implies that the traditional workshop would disappear.
The project that the group Garamonpatrimoine has been promoting for
nearly two 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. Two options are considered:
- La Maison internationale de L’Illustration à Bobigny with the
support of the Paris 13 University and some local authorities ;
- 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.
Related article: Photoreportage
of the Imprimerie Nationale.