The technique of stencilling leaves a recognizable mark on the printed alphabets. Once printed, the stencilled letter is thinner and the outlines more irregular; but foremost, the usually closed counters such as the eye of the «o» or the «a» become an open shape. When the letter is printed, the part that holds the letter together becomes an invisible link.
Some research has already been conducted on this subject, especially by Eric Kindel and Fred Smeijers as well as by Claude Laurent François.
The first stencil alphabets were used to set texts in liturgical books, in the middle of the seventeenth century. These books were really big in size to allow a group of people to sing together. They were placed high up, in the choir of a church. The typefaces used in these books enable us to estimate the date of their creation, because stencil makers were probably inspired by the printed documents of their time.
However, the processes used for the creation of an alphabet using stencil plates are radically different from the ones used for foundry type. In foundry type, the printed letterform is thicker than the tool used for printing (a piece of type derived from a punch). With stencils, it is the opposite: the printed letterform will be thinner than the pierced shape in the plate.
The typeface designed during the year at the post-Master’s research program ANRT is a contemporary interpretation based on early stencil alphabets, which were used to set texts in the graduel of Notre Dame de Paris. The name refers to the gradual of Notre Dame, and suggests a levelled appearance. The family includes three variants in three weights, Rastaban, Denebola, Sirius, which correspond to more or less shiny stars.
The Graduel family is a personal interpretation of a design, linked to a historical context, which explores the specificities of a type made with the technique of stencilling. The letters are «découpées à jour» in the words of Gilles Filleau Des Billettes. They are crossed by the light on the stencils plates, and bring light in the text by a significant loss of weight.