At the end of Go Set a Watchman, you may have noticed an odd little note—one you don’t often see at the end of a novel. This “note on the type” is the last page of Harper Lee’s new book, and explains that the font used was Fournier. It begins:
This book was set in Fournier, one of the earliest examples of a transitional font based on the type cut Augustin Ordinaire, by the innovative French engraver and typefounder Pierre Simon Fournier, circa 1742.
Who was Pierre Simon Fournier and why would the publishers make it a point to note him and his font? Let’s explore.
Pierre Simon Fournier
Fournier was born in 1712 in Paris, France. A trained painter, Fournier became interested in typography because it was the family business—his father and brother owned a type foundry, and he trained under them. “Typography” is the art of arranging letters to make language legible and appealing, and a “type foundry” is an establishment that designs fonts and, in the days of letterpress printing, created and distributed the molds necessary to create said types.
Fournier was a typefounder, a punch-cutter and a theoretician. “Punch-cutting” was to carve the mold of a letter, which was used to make an impression of that letter for typesetting. It was a highly skilled craft that required artistry and patience. Fournier opened his own foundry and contributed much to the world of typography. He designed his own types of fonts, including the typeface Fournier, and he standardized the measuring system in the world of typography. (Source: Emily Byrd.)
Choosing a font for a book is an important aspect of the publishing process. A good font mustn’t do anything to hinder the reading process—it must be legible and visually appealing. It is often older fonts, not the standard font packages that come on computers—Times New Roman and Arial, for example—that are better suited for novels. Older fonts, such as Garamond and Caslon, were designed in an earlier age, when typesetting was more calculated and deliberately designed with publishing in mind. (Source: TheBookDesigner.com.)
Fournier font was established in 1924, designed from Pierre Simons Fournier’s font of the same named. Created in 1742, this was one of the earliest fonts of the transitional period for typeface, when it was stepping into the modern age. According to MyFonts.com, these foundational fonts “had more vertical stress than the old style types, greater contrast between thick and thin strokes and little or no bracketing on the serifs.”
Perhaps this is why the publishers of Go Set a Watchman chose Fournier for Harper Lee’s highly anticipated second novel. Fournier has an interesting history, and it “has a light, clean look on the page, provides good economy in text and retains an even color.” (MyFonts.com) This suits the novel and the author, who is a lover of European history and antiquities.
Did you notice the font in Go Set a Watchman, or the “note on the type” after the text? What were your thoughts? Let us know in the comments section, we’d love to hear from you!