Welcome to the Print House of Mr. Lemercier around 1840
NOTE: Pour suivre la visite guidée en français cliquez sur le drapeau en haut
We will take you on a tour of the Lemercier workshop in the order of the numbers shown in this image.
Scroll down the page to start…
Here is (in the center) Mr. Lemercier, owner of this magnificent print shop located in the heart of Paris, 57 rue de Seine. He is wearing his lithographer’s work clothes. He is leaning on a press that we call a “horned beast”. He is proud of his printing shop that he founded alone by dint of perseverance.
He is talking to a lady whose child has received a printed image, something still extraordinary at that time. A customer is waiting for his turn while observing the lithographers at work. On the other side, a man carefully scrutinizes the design of a lithographic stone in place on the press. It is the precision of the details that interests this visitor.
On the left a worker is carrying a heavy lithographic stone. These stones came from Bavaria for their unique qualities. They were extracted from quarries forming fine limestone slabs, which had already been well spotted by Sennefelder who invented lithography about a century earlier. In the foreground, an inking table and a leather roll were used to illustrate the explanation of lithographic magic. Mr. Lemercier had started at the age of 12 as a stone carrier before climbing the ladder of the profession and becoming the greatest printer in Paris.
On the right side, customers wait and chat while a man looks at a document brought by a customer. This man could be Alfred Lemercier, the nephew of the owner who worked with his uncle and took over in 1887.
On the lower level we see more presses and hanging sheets of paper drying after being prepared for a transfer print.
On the lower level, the impressive number of presses and employees shows us the notoriety of this establishment. The two doors at the back are the ones leading to rue Mazarine. In the middle of the room, a statue adorns the press room. There is no indication of who the figure is that seems to be watching over the whole workshop.
Lemercier had learned lithography from Knecht, Knecht from Sennefelder, so a little research on both characters allowed us to identify Aloïs Sennefelder whose original statue is still visible in Germany
Above the press room, a passageway supported by a string of columns shelters the draftsmen on stone. Looking at their models in mirrors, they copy the original drawing on the stone with an amazing fidelity. But what are all these books stored in a sort of gigantic library?
They are not books but stones! The Lemercier lithographic printing house had more than 30,000 of them. Note that all the designers are upstairs to take advantage of the glass roof and have their backs to us because they are right-handed for the majority whereas on the left side they were facing us.
Let’s admire the magnificent metal structure created by Jean Eiffel, the engineer who built the tower that bears his name. It supports the glass roof allowing the light to flood the whole workshop.
Formerly an open-air “Jeu de Paume” game hall, the place later became the famous Parisian cabaret l’Alcazar and is now a Parisian brasserie still called l’Alcazar. The general volume has remained, the columns have been modernized, but under the metal structure there is still all the emotion of a place that has already been famous three times.
Joseph-Rose Lemercier (1803-1887) is one of the most important Parisian printers-lithographers of the 19th century. He worked for the greatest publishers and artists of his time. He played an important role in the diffusion and the generalization of the process of photolithography which made it possible to transfer a photographic image on a lithographic stone and to carry out thanks to that impressions with the printing ink of this image.
Of modest origin, son of a Parisian basket maker, he was born in Paris on July 6th 18031 and died on January 1st 1887. He married Marguerite Drancy in 1824 and had two children who died in infancy.
He was apprenticed to Edouard Knecht, nephew and successor of Aloys Senefelder, the inventor of lithography. In 1828, he started his own business and in 1831, he moved to 57, rue de Seine, in a former game of paume.
In 1852, the Lemercier et Cie printing company had 80 presses and employed 180 workers.