Theodore Low De Vinne

Theodore Low De Vinne
Bust of Theodore Low De Vinne by Chester Beach

Theodore Low De Vinne (December 25, 1828 – February 16, 1914) was an American printer and scholarly author on typography.

De Vinne was born at Stamford, Connecticut, and educated in the common schools of the various towns where his father had pastorates. He developed the ability to be a printer while employed in a shop at Fishkill, New York. He worked at the Newburgh, New York Gazette, then moved to New York City. In 1849 he entered the establishment of Francis Hart, and worked there until 1883 when the business was renamed Theodore L. Devinne & Co. In 1886 he moved to a model plant designed by him on Lafayette Place.

De Vinne either commissioned Linn Boyd Benton, or co-designed in conjunction with Benton, the hugely popular Century Roman typeface for use by The Century Magazine, which his firm printed.[1] For use at his own press, he also commissioned Linotype to produce De Vinne, an updated Elzevoir (or French Oldstyle) type, and the Bruce Typefoundry to produce Renner, a Venetian face.[2] However, his biographer Irene Tichenor notes that De Vinne's private correspondence shows he was not closely involved with the design of "De Vinne" and ultimately somewhat unhappy with the type.[3]

De Vinne did much for the improvement of American printing. A prolific author in the periodical printing trade press, he was also responsible for a number of books on the history and practice of printing. For years his publications ranked at the head of American presswork. His works include:

  • The Invention of Printing (1876) (An investigation of the claims of Laurens Coster to be inventor of printing with moveable type, and awarding the honor to [Gutenberg])
  • Historic Printing Types (1886)
  • Plain Printing Types (1900) (The Practice of Typography, v.1)
  • Correct Composition (1901) (The Practice of Typography, v. 2)
  • A Treatise on Title-Pages (1902) (The Practice of Typography, v.3) (A revision of his earlier *Title Pages as seen by a Printer (Grolier Club, 1901)
  • Modern Methods of Book Composition (1904) (The Practice of Typography, v.4)
  • Notable Printers of Italy during the Fifteenth Century (1910)

He was one of nine men who founded the Grolier Club. He was also a founder and the first president of the United Typothetae of America, a predecessor organization of the Printing Industries of America.


  1. ^ Irene Tichenor, No Craft without Art: The Life of Theodore Low De Vinne. (Boston: David R. Godine, 2002), pp. 106-109.
  2. ^ Mac MacGrew, "American Metal Typefaces of the Twentieth Century, Oak Knoll Books, New Castle Delaware, 1993
  3. ^ Tichenor, No Craft without Art, pp. 125-126.

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