Mercure, designed by Charles Mazé, is the result of an inquiry into Latin epigraphy and the typographic forms associated with that discipline. Epigraphy is the study of écritures exposées (exposed writings), typically ancient or classical inscriptions engraved in stone or metal. The developments in mid-nineteenth century Latin epigraphy required new methods to transcribe classical inscriptions into print, which in turn required and inspired new typefaces.
The Caractères Augustaux of 1846, produced by the printer Louis Perrin and the punchcutter Francisque Rey in Lyon, was the first typeface specifically designed for the transcription of the Roman capitalis monumentalis, used for the first time in 1854 in Alphonse de Boissieu’s Inscriptions antiques de Lyon. It was soon followed by the Latins épigraphiques of the Imprimerie Nationale (Paris, 1854) and Ferdinand Theinhardt’s Monumental (Berlin, 1863).
At the same time, in reaction against the use of the prevalent Didot style, some French printers and publishers turned their attention to other typographic sources. While they found suitable models for the lowercase in typefaces produced during the French and Dutch Renaissance, the regain of interest for Roman inscriptions would provide a template for the uppercase. Around 1858, Théophile Beaudoire, sous-directeur of the Fonderie Générale in Paris, published his Elzévir (after the Dutch Renaissance printers Elsevier), one of the first typefaces to define this pattern.
Mercure, which is based in part on Beaudoire’s Elzévir, also goes back to the epigraphic origins of Perrin’s Augustaux. Its Regular and Italic styles are completed by an additional fixed-width style, Transcript, a set of signs and symbols for the transcriptions of Latin inscriptions into print with fragmented, false, broken or missing letters. Mercure Transcript is included with any license of Mercure Regular or Italic.
A study of the first three typefaces for Latin epigraphy in France and Germany, written by Charles, will soon be published in the Abyme Revue.
- Designed by Charles Mazé 2010–21
- Available in 3 styles from £120