Didot, Francis Ambrose

, an eminent French printer, who deserves a more satisfactory article than the French biographers have as yet enabled us to give him, was born at Paris in 1730, and was the son of a printer and bookseller, who provided him with an excellent classical education before he introduced him into business. Full of enthusiasm for the advancement of the art of printing, young Didot determined to rival those celebrated printers, Joachim Ibarra of Spain, and Baskerville of England, and lived to surpass both. He soon brought his press to a state of excellence unattained by any of his contemporaries; and extended his skill to every branch connected with it. Among the number of improvements perfected by his exertions, is the construction of mills for making fine paper, which he assisted not only by his zeal and activity, but by pecuniary contribution. He also invented a press by which the workman is enabled to print, equally and at once the whole extent of a sheet; and he was the inventor of many other machines and instruments now commonly used in printing offices, all which have powerfully contributed to the modern advancement of the typographical art. The elegant editions of the classics published by order of Louis XIV. for the education of the Dauphin, were the production of the Didots 1 press, as well as the collection of romances called the D'Artois, in 64 vols. 18mo; the Theatrical Selections by Corneille, the works of Racine, Telemachus, Tasso’s Jerusalem, two superb Bibles, and a multiplicity of other inestimable works, each of which, on its publication, seemed to make nearer approaches to perfection. Didot sedulously endeavoured to unite in his family every talent auxiliary to the printing art; one of his | sons became a celebrated type-founder; and the voice of fame announces the superior rank which they both deservedly hold among the printers of the age. The fond father delighted to observe that he was excelled by his children; while they dutifully ascribed their success to the force of his instruction, and the benefit of his example. The life of JDidot was the life of honour; his abilities were universally known and respected; and the following anecdote will prove the goodness of his heart: in one of his journeys to the paper mills of Anonay, he met an artist who had introduced in France an improvement in the application of cylinders, &c. and believing that his ingenuity merited reward, exerted all his interest with government; but unfortunately, when he was on the point of succeeding, the artist died, leaving two girls in the helpless state of infancy. Didot took the orphans in his arms, proclaimed himself their father, and kept his word. At the age of seventy-three, Didot read over five times, and carefully corrected, before it was sent to the press, every sheet of the stereotype edition of Montague, printed by his sons. At four o’clock in the morning he was pursuing this fatiguing occupation. The correctness of the text will therefore render this work particularly valuable among the productions of the modern press. About eighteen months previous to his death, he projected an alphabetical index of every subject treated upon in Montague’s Essays. He had collected all his materials, at which he laboured unceasingly; and perhaps too strict an application to this favourite study accelerated the death of this eminent artist and benevolent man, which took place July 10, 1804. His business is still successfully carried on by his sons, Peter and Firmia Didot. The reputation of the elder Didot was much assisted by the labours of his brother, Peter Francis, who died in 1795, and to whom we owe the beautiful editions of Thomas a Kempis, fol. of Telemachus, 4to the “Tableau de l’empire Ottoman,” &c. 1