A fleuron is an ornament on a printed page in the shape of a small flower or leaf. It is sometimes called a printer’s flower or floret. It can also be found in discussions among aesthetic architects and numismatists. The Oxford English Dictionary even shows us a quotation referring to pastry flourishes. It is also used to refer to a bookbinder’s tool, carrying such an ornament for stamping on a case cover.

The most common fleuron is perhaps this one, derived from an ivy leaf, and apparently sometimes called a hedera, the botanical name of ivy. These flourishes were often brought together to form borders and rules, though modern taste has moved away from the clutter this often produces.

Here are a few examples from my Linotype Collection book published by the Mergenthaler Type Corporation. On the right hand page you can see how these ornaments could be combined in bravura arrangements. In the hot metal world these fleurons would be available in various sizes — digital or film setting enables you of course to output various sizes from a single “master”, which is why the Linotype book only shows one size. They refer to them as flowers, the least flowery of the possible appellations.

Stanley Morison, a strong advocate for clutter-free typography, was involved in the setting up of the typographical journal The Fleuron; indeed it was he who proposed the name in a letter to Oliver Simon in October 1922. “I should like you to consider re-naming our Typographical Annual. The name I recommend is The Fleuron. This would be an advantage I suggest. In the first place the title ‘Typography’ is very stiff and not absolutely free in the public mind from technical connections. The Fleuron possesses just that note of historical & romantic feeling which we need to express.” Volumes 5, 6 and 7 were edited by Morison (Simon edited the first four) and Morison’s volumes were typeset and printed in Cambridge at the University Press, where as Typographical Advisor to the Press he could supervise the entire process of production. Only these seven volumes were published. The publication was losing money, as anything as lavish almost must, and the demands on Morison’s time became too much to be manageable. Plus, to a large extent, the intention of the journal, to raise standards of British printing, had been achieved after the seven years of The Fleuron‘s life.

The combination of type ornament elements on the title page is obviously an appropriate use of fleurons.