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Closing keynote: Passing on the cutting of typographic punches

Nelly Gable and Annie Bocel will introduce the Atelier for the Arts of the Book of the Imprimerie Nationale, its savoir-faire, and its collection of punches (the seven exclusive typefaces and the oriental punches). They will explain in detail the cutting of typographic punches, the striking of matrices, and, briefly, the casting work of Philippe Mérille. They will wrap up with a presentation of the book they are preparing on the topic of transmission between master of arts and apprentice, with the support of the national institute for crafts. This book is an account of the cutting of punches through an interview between Gable and Bocel, and is scheduled to be published near the end of the year by Éditions des Cendre.


Annie Bocel

A graduate of the Estienne school of engraving, Annie Bocel made her apprenticeship with engraver Jean-Luc Seigneur, then taught intaglio in a Parisian workshop and learned the impression of embossing within the company Creanog. Rich from these successive experiences, she opened a printmaking workshop in northern Finistère, and, at the same time, became an engraver of typographic punches at the Imprimerie Nationale printing office. Bocel’s prints are about nature, time, and imprint. Sensitive to the idea of what is lost, what disappears, she likes to see things revealed and hear their stories. In this quest for forgotten forms, writing and geometry are essential. Echoing this personal work, and following a three-year transmission in the framework of the Maitre d’art program set up by INMA (National Institute of Art Craft), Bocel contributes to the valorization and conservation of engraving typographic punches, a profession recently listed on the inventory of French intangible cultural heritage.


Nelly Gable

Nelly Gable, type punchcutter at the Imprimerie Nationale, was appointed Maître d’art (living treasure of art) by the Ministry of Cultural Affairs in 2013. A graduate of the École Boulle in Paris, Nelly Gable had to impose herself in a male-dominated profession. She first worked in jewelry as a relief engraver serving Murat (for Guy Laroche and others). Then, in 1987, she entered the Cabinet des poinçons of the Imprimerie Nationale to practice an endangered trade, that of type punchcutter. Gable specializes in the graphic arts: “When we have experimented with other types of engraving, we realize that here we need extreme rigor. A letter is not like a jewel, it is part of a set. If the type weight is too bold or too light, the harmony of the page is no longer respected. We must facilitate reading.” Gable, the first woman punchcutter, works at the restoration of the collections and is in charge of watching over the engraved heritage of the Cabinet des poinçons, which includes about 700,000 pieces classified as Monuments historiques. In 2002, Gable spent a year studying the striking of matrices with a former Foucher founder of the Imprimerie Nationale. Gable is co-author of Pérennité des poinçons et matrices. Les principaux graveurs du XXe siècle, published in the book Histoire de l’écriture typographique, le XXe siècle, tome 1 : de 1900 à 1950. Publisher: Atelier Perrousseaux. On February 26, 2018, punchcutting was finally listed in the inventory of French intangible cultural heritage.