Berthe, drawn by Charles Mazé, is designed after another typeface called Série no. 16, whose first cuts were produced at the end of the nineteenth century by the Parisian type foundry Deberny & Peignot. It was engraved by Constant and Auguste Aubert under the direction of Charles Tuleu, the adoptive son of Alexandre Deberny – whose mother, Laure de Berny, had bought from her lover Honoré de Balzac the printing house he didn’t manage to transform in a profitable company.

As part of a set of caractères ordinaires (identified by numbers rather than names), Série no. 16 quickly became a popular choice among printers and found its way into many editions of classic and popular texts – a continuous, although quiet, almost invisible, presence in French printing during the twentieth century, until its disappearance which coincided with the end of the practice of printing with metal type.

This new version of Série no. 16 was originally conceived for a new edition of Gustave Flaubert’s Madame Bovary. Published by Four Corners Books in 2013, the book was designed by John Morgan and illustrated with photographs, collages and found objects by Marc-Camille Chaimowicz. Flaubert’s masterpiece chronicles Emma Bovary’s attempts to escape the banalities and emptiness of provincial life in nineteenth century France. It is after her daughter and only child, Berthe – another quiet and progressively neglected character – that this new typeface is named.

A comprehensive history of Série no. 16 and of the origins of Deberny & Peignot, compiled by Charles, is available to read in the Revue.

  • Designed by Charles Mazé, 2011–18
  • Available in 2 styles from £ 240