|Designer(s)||William Caslon I|
|Foundry||Caslon Type Foundry|
|Shown here||Adobe Caslon by Carol Twombly|
Caslon worked as an engraver of punches, the masters used to stamp the moulds or matrices used to cast metal type. He worked in the tradition of what is now called old-style serif letter design, that produced letters with a relatively organic structure resembling handwriting with a pen. Caslon established a tradition of engraving type in London, which previously had not been common, and so he was influenced by the imported Dutch Baroque typefaces that were popular in England at the time. His typefaces established a strong reputation for their quality and their attractive appearance, suitable for extended passages of text.
The letterforms of Caslon's roman, or upright type include an 'A' with a concave hollow at top left and a 'G' without a downwards-pointing spur at bottom right. The sides of the 'M' are straight. The 'W' has three terminals at the top and the 'b' has a small tapered stroke ending at bottom left. Ascenders and descenders are relatively short and the level of stroke contrast is modest in body text sizes. However, Caslon created subtly different designs of letter at different sizes, with increasing levels of fine detail and sharp contrast in stroke weight at larger sizes. Caslon's larger-size roman fonts have two serifs on the 'C', while his smaller-size versions have one half-arrow serif only at top right. In italic, Caslon's h folds inwards and the A is sharply slanted. The Q, T v, w, and z all have flourishes or swashes in the original design, something not all revivals follow. The italic 'J' has a crossbar and a rotated casting was used by Caslon in many sizes on his specimens to form the pound sign.
Caslon's typefaces were popular in his lifetime and beyond, and after a brief period of eclipse in the early nineteenth century returned to popularity, particularly for setting printed body text and books. Many revivals exist, with varying faithfulness to Caslon's original design. Modern Caslon revivals also often add features such as a matching boldface and 'lining' numbers at the height of capital letters, neither of which were used in Caslon's time.[a] William Berkson, designer of a revival of Caslon, describes Caslon in body text as "comfortable and inviting".
Caslon began his career in London as an apprentice engraver of ornamental designs on firearms and other metalwork. According to printer and historian John Nichols, the main source on Caslon's life, the accuracy of his work came to the attention of prominent London printers, who advanced him money to carve steel punches for printing, first for exotic languages and then as his reputation developed for the Latin alphabet. Punchcutting was a difficult technique and many of the techniques used were kept secret by punchcutters or passed on from father to son. Caslon would later follow this practice himself, according to Nichols teaching his son his methods privately while locked in a room where nobody could watch them. As British printers had little success or experience of making their own types, they were forced to use equipment bought from the Netherlands, or France, and Caslon's types are therefore clearly influenced by the popular Dutch typefaces of his period. James Mosley summarises his early work: "Caslon's pica...was based very closely indeed on a pica roman and italic that appears on the specimen sheet of the widow of the Amsterdam printer Dirck Voskens, c.1695, and which Bowyer had used for some years. Caslon's pica replaces it in his printing from 1725…Caslon's Great Primer roman, first used in 1728, a type that was much admired in the twentieth century, is clearly related to the Text Romeyn of Voskens, a type of the early seventeenth century used by several London printers and now attributed to the punch-cutter Nicolas Briot of Gouda." Mosley also describes several other Caslon faces as "intelligent adaptations" of the Voskens Pica.
Caslon's type rapidly built up a reputation for workmanship, being described by Henry Newman in 1733 as "the work of that Artist who seems to aspire to outvying all the Workmen in his way in Europe, so that our Printers send no more to Holland for the Elzevir and other Letters which they formerly valued themselves much."[c] Mosley describes Caslon's Long Primer No. 1 type as "type with generous proportions and it was normally cast with letter-spacing that was not too tight, characteristics that are needed in types on a small body. And yet it is so soundly made that words that are set in it keep their shape and are comfortably readable...It is a type that works best in the narrow measure of a two-column page or in quite modest octavos." Caslon sold a French Canon face he did not engrave that may to have been the work of Joseph Moxon with some modifications, and his larger-size faces follow this high-contrast model. Compared to the more delicate, stylised and experimental designs that developed in Europe during Caslon's life, notably the romain du roi type and the work of Fleischmann in Amsterdam, and the Baskerville type of John Baskerville in Birmingham that appeared towards the end of Caslon's career, Caslon's type was quite conservative. Johnson notes that his 1764 specimen "might have been produced a hundred years earlier". Stanley Morison described Caslon's type as "a happy archaicism".
While not used extensively in Europe, Caslon types were distributed throughout the British Empire, including British North America, where they were used on the printing the U.S. Declaration of Independence. After William Caslon I’s death, the use of his types diminished, but had a revival between 1840–80 as a part of the British Arts and Crafts movement.
Besides regular text fonts, Caslon cut blackletter or 'Gothic' types (and sold some earlier ones from older foundries), which were also printed on his specimen. These could be used for purposes such as title pages, emphasis and drop caps. Bold type did not exist in Caslon's time, although some of his larger-size fonts are quite bold.
One criticism of some Caslon-style typefaces has been a concern that the capitals are too thick in design and stand out too much, making for an uneven colour on the page. Printer and typeface designer Frederic Goudy was a critic: "the strong contrast between the over-black stems of the capitals and the light weight stems in the lower-case...makes a 'spotty' page". He cited dissatisfaction with the style as an incentive for becoming more involved in type design around 1911, when he created Kennerley Old Style as an alternative.
Caslon's types fell out of interest in the late eighteenth century, due to the arrival of "transitional"-style typefaces like Baskerville and then "Didone" or modern designs. His type foundry remained in business at Chiswell Street, London, but began to sell alternative and additional designs, some cut by his son William Caslon II. His grandson, William Caslon III, broke away from the family to establish a competitor foundry at Salisbury Square, by buying up the company of the late Joseph Jackson. Justin Howes suggests that there may have been some attempt to update some of Caslon's types towards the newer style starting before 1816, noting that Caslon type cast by the 1840s included "a handful of sorts, Q, [an open-form italic] h, ſh, Q, T and Y, which would have been unfamiliar to Caslon, and which may have been cut at the end of the eighteenth century in a modest attempt to bring Old Face up to date. The h, ſh and T are to be seen [in a book from] 1816, large parts of which appear to have been printed from well-worn standing type."
Even as Caslon's type itself largely fell out of use, his reputation remained strong within the printing community. The printer and social reformer Thomas Curson Hansard wrote in 1825:
At the commencement of the 18th century the native talent of the founders was so little prized by the printers of the metropolis, that they were in the habit of importing founts from Holland, ...and the printers of the present day might still have been driven to the inconvenience of importation had not a genius, in the person of William Caslon, arisen to rescue his country from the disgrace of typographical inferiority.
Similarly, Edward Bull in 1842 called Caslon "the great chief and father of English type."
Return to popularityEdit
Interest in eighteenth-century printing returned in the nineteenth century with the rise of the arts and crafts movement, and Caslon's types returned to popularity in books and fine printing among companies such as the Chiswick Press, as well as display use in situations such as advertising.
Fine printing presses, notably the Chiswick Press, bought original Caslon type from the Caslon foundry; copies of these matrices were also made by electrotyping. From the 1860s new types began to appear in a style similar to Caslon's, starting from Miller & Richard's Modernised Old Style of c. 1860. The Caslon foundry itself covertly cut new swash capitals and replaced some sizes with new, cleaner versions.
In the United States, Caslons became almost a genre, modified expanded with new styles such as bold, condensed, inline or with modifications such as shortened descenders to fit American common line, or lining figures. Many foundries cut (or, in many cases, pirated) their own versions. By the 1920s, American Type Founders offered a large range of styles, some numbered rather than named. (Bookman Old Style is a descendant of one of these American Caslon revivals. A series of modifications has given most modern Bookman digitisations a somewhat exaggerated appearance with extremely high x-height very unlike the original Caslon.) The hot metal typesetting companies Linotype, Monotype, Intertype and Ludlow, which sold machines that cast type under the control of a keyboard, brought out their own Caslon releases.
According to book designer Hugh Williamson, a second decline in Caslon's popularity in Britain did, however, set in during the twentieth century due to the arrival of revivals of other old-style and transitional designs from Monotype and Linotype. These included Bembo, Garamond and related faces such as Plantin, Baskerville and Times New Roman.
Caslon type again entered a new technology with phototypesetting, mostly in the 1960s and 1970s, and then again with digital typesetting technology. There are many typefaces called "Caslon" as a result of that and the lack of an enforceable trademark on the name "Caslon" by itself, which reproduce the original designs in varying degrees of faithfulness.
Many of Caslon's original punches and matrices survived in the collection of the Caslon company (along with many replacement and additional characters), and are now part of the St Bride Library and Type Museum collections in Britain. Copies held by the Paris office of the Caslon company, the Fonderie Caslon, were transferred to the collection of the Musée de l'Imprimerie in Nantes. Scholarly research on Caslon's type has been carried out by historians including Alfred F. Johnson, Harry Carter, James Mosley and Justin Howes.
Metal type versionsEdit
Caslon Old FaceEdit
The H.W. Caslon & Sons foundry reissued Caslon’s original types as Caslon Old Face from the original (or, at least, early) matrices. The last lineal descendent of Caslon, Henry William Caslon, brought in Thomas White Smith as a new manager shortly before Caslon's death in 1874. Smith took over the company and instructed his sons to change their surnames to Caslon in order to provide an appearance of continuity. The foundry operated an ambitious promotional programme, issuing a periodical, "Caslon's Circular". It continued to issue specimens from top printers including George W. Jones until the 1920s.
Some Caslon faces were augmented by adding new features, in particular swash capitals for historicist printing. From around 1887 the type was sold with additional swash capitals. Howes describes these as "based rather closely on François Guyot's [popular 22pt] italic of around 1557...found in English printing until the early years of the eighteenth century." From around 1893 the company started to additionally recut some letters to make the type more regular and create matrices which could be cast by machine. Due to the cachet of the Caslon name, some of the recuttings and modifications of the original Caslon types were apparently not publicly admitted. The H.W. Caslon company also licensed to other printers matrices made by electrotyping, although some companies may also have made unauthorized copies.
In 1937, the H.W. Caslon & Sons foundry was also acquired by Stephenson Blake & Co, who thereafter added 'the Caslon Letter Foundry' to their name.
The hot metal typesetting companies Monotype and Linotype offered "Caslon Old Face" releases that were based (or claimed to be based) on Caslon's original typefaces. Linotype's has been digitised and released by Bitstream.
Caslon #471 was the release of the "original" Caslon type sold by American Type Founders. American Type Founders advertised it as "the Caslon Oldstyle Romans and Italics precisely as Mr. Caslon left them in 1766. It was apparently cast from electrotypes held by American Type Founders' precursors.
Caslon 540 was a second American Type Founders version with shortened descenders to allow tighter linespacing. The italic was distributed by Letraset with a matching set of swashes. As a result, this often became sold or used without the regular or roman style of this revival.
A slighter bolder version of Caslon 540, released by American Type Founders in 1905. BitStream sells Caslon 3 under the name of Caslon Bold with its Caslon 540 release. Russian studio ParaType have released both with Cyrillic glyphs.
A decorative openface serif typeface with very high ascenders, popular in the United States. Despite the name, it has no connection to Caslon: it was an import of the French typeface "Le Moreau-le-Jeune", created by Fonderie Peignot in Paris, by ATF branch Barnhart Brothers & Spindlers.
The Monotype Corporation (UK)Edit
- 1903, Series 20, Old Face Special
- 1906, Series 45, Old Face Standard
- 1915, Series 128 & 209, Caslon & Caslon Titling.
A more regular adaptation of Caslon by the British branch of Monotype was commissioned by the London publishers of The Imprint, a short-lived printing trade periodical that published during 1913. It had a higher x-height and was intended to offer an italic more complementary to the roman. It has remained popular since and has been digitised by Monotype.
Ludlow Typograph Company, Chicago, Illinois, USAEdit
Ludlow had a wide variety of Caslon-types.
A heavy version of Caslon 540, released by American Type Founders in 1966.
Caslon 223 and 224Edit
Caslon 223 and 224 were phototypesetting families designed by Ed Benguiat of Lubalin, Smith, Carnase and then ITC. Like many ITC families, they have an aggressive, advertising-oriented bold structure, not closely related to Caslon's original work. 223 was the first version (named for LSC's street number), a companion version with more body text-oriented proportions followed sequentially numbered 224.
Adobe Caslon (1990)Edit
Adobe Caslon is a very popular revival designed by Carol Twombly. It is based on Caslon's own specimen pages printed between 1734 and 1770 and is a member of the Adobe Originals programme. It added many features now standard in high-quality digital fonts, such as small caps, old style figures, swash letters, ligatures, alternate letters, fractions, subscripts and superscripts, and matching ornaments.
Adobe Caslon is used for body text in The New Yorker and is one of the two official typefaces of the University of Virginia. A modification is used on U. VA's logo. It is also available with Adobe's Typekit programme, in some weights for free.
Big Caslon (1994)Edit
Big Caslon by Matthew Carter is inspired by the "funkiness" of the three largest sizes of type from the Caslon foundry. These have a unique design with dramatic stroke contrast, complementary but very different to Caslon's text faces; one was apparently originally created by Joseph Moxon rather than Caslon. The typeface is intended for use at 18pt and above. The standard weight is bundled with Apple's macOS operating system in a release including small caps and alternates such as the long s. Initially published by his company Carter & Cone, in 2014 Carter revisited the design adding bold and black designs with matching italics, and republished it through Font Bureau.[e] It is used by Boston magazine and the Harvard Crimson.
LTC Caslon (2005)Edit
LTC Caslon is a digitisation of the Lanston Type Company's 14 point size Caslon 337 of 1915 (itself a revival of the original Caslon types). This family include fonts in regular and bold weights, with fractions, ligatures, small caps (regular and regular italic only), swashes (regular italic weight only), and Central European characters. An notable feature is that like some hot metal releases of Caslon, two separate options for descenders are provided for all styles: long descenders (creating a more elegant designs) or short (allowing tighter linespacing).
To celebrate its release, LTC included in early sales a CD of music by The William Caslon Experience, a downtempo electronic act, along with a limited edition upright italic design, 'LTC Caslon Remix'.
Williams Caslon Text (2010)Edit
A modern attempt to capture the spirit of Caslon by William Berkson, intended for use in body text. Although not aimed at being fully authentic in every respect, the typeface closely follows Caslon's original specimen sheet in many respects. The weight is heavier than many earlier revivals, to compensate for changes in printing processes, and the italic is less slanted (with variation in stroke angle) than on many other Caslon releases. Berkson described his design choices in an extensive article series.
Released by Font Bureau, it includes bold and bold italic designs, and a complete feature set across all weights, including bold small caps and swash italic alternates as well as optional shorter descenders and a 'modernist' italic option to turn off swashes on lower-case letters and reduce the slant on the 'A' for a more spare appearance.[f] It is currently used in Boston magazine and by Foreign Affairs.
A notable feature of Caslon's structure is its widely splayed T, which can space awkwardly with an 'h' afterwards. Accordingly, an emerging tradition among digital releases is to offer a 'Th' ligature, inspired by a tradition in calligraphy, to achieve tighter letterspacing. Adobe Caslon, LTC Caslon, Williams Caslon and Big Caslon (italics only, in the Font Bureau release) all offer a 'Th' ligature as default or as an alternate.
A number of Caslon revivals are 'distressed' in style, adding intentional irregularities to capture the worn, jagged feel of metal type.
ITC Founder's Caslon (1998)Edit
ITC Founder's Caslon was digitized by Justin Howes. He used the resources of the St Bride Library in London to thoroughly research William Caslon and his types. Unlike previous digital revivals, this family closely follows the tradition of building separate typefaces intended for different sizes. Distressing varies by style, matching the effect of metal type, with large optical sizes offering the cleanest appearance.
This family was released by ITC in December 1998. Following the original Caslon types, it does not include bold typefaces, but uses old style figures for all numbers.
H. W. Caslon versionEdit
Caslon Old Face is a typeface with multiple optical sizes, including 8, 10, 12, 14, 18, 22, 24, 30, 36, 42, 48, 60, 72, 96 points. Each font has small capitals, long esses and swash characters. The 96 point font came in roman only and without small capitals. Caslon Old Face was released in July 2001.
Caslon Ornaments is a typeface containing ornament glyphs.
These typefaces are packaged in the following formats:
- Founders Caslon Text: Caslon Old Face (8, 10, 12, 14, 18), Caslon Ornaments.
- Founders Caslon Display: Caslon Old Face (22, 24, 30, 36, 42, 48, 60, 72), Caslon Ornaments.
- Founders Caslon 1776: Caslon Old Face (14), Caslon Ornaments. A selection of the types used on the United States Declaration of Independence.
However, following the death of Justin Howes, the revived H.W. Caslon & Company went out of business.
An exuberant parody of Caslon italics created by Mark Andresen, this 1995 Emigre font was created by blending together samples of Caslon from "bits and pieces of dry transfer lettering: flakes, nicks, and all".
Franklin Caslon (2006)Edit
This decorative serif typeface was originally called Fifteenth Century, but later renamed Caslon Antique. It is not generally considered to be a member of the Caslon family of typefaces, because its design appears unrelated, and the Caslon name was only applied retroactively.
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- Arabic numerals in Caslon's time were written as what are now called text figures, styled with variable height like lower-case letters.
- Mosley identifies other non-Caslon types as the Samaritan and Syriac, and "it is difficult to believe that the lower case of the Small Pica no. 1...can be Caslon's work unless it is an early attempt. It was replaced in 1742, the only one of the roman types to be abandoned in this way."
- "Elzevir" is a somewhat meaningless term meaning small types used by the Elzevir or Elsevier family of printers. Mosley concludes that in practice the term meant more "crisp, competent presswork" than the work of any specific engraver, since the Elseviers often used types cut centuries before in Paris.
- Note, however, some replacement sorts, including a Baskerville-style Q and open italic 'h', both in the style of the late eighteenth century. Justin Howes suggests that these were attempts to modernise Caslon's type towards newer styles.
- The modern family Quarto by Hoefler & Frere-Jones is a well-received revival of the Dutch display types that inspired Caslon’s larger sizes, and is therefore quite similar.
- It is not to be confused with a totally different 'Caslon FB' by Jill Pichotta, inspired by bold condensed Caslon-inspired typefaces used in American newspaper headlines.
- Rowe More, Dissertation 1778
- John Nicols, Biographical and Literary Anecdotes of William Bowyer 1782
- John Nicols, Literary Anecdotes, 1812–1815
The following two authors based their writings entirely on these three publications.
- Talbot Baines Reed, A History of Old English Letter Foundries, 1897
- Daniel Berkeley Updike, Printing types, their History, forms and use, 1937
- Conseguera, David, Classic Typefaces: American Type and Type Designers, Skyhorse: 2011 ISBN 9781621535829.
- Lawson, Alexander S., Anatomy of a Typeface. Godine: 1990. ISBN 978-0-87923-333-4.
- Meggs, Phillip B, McKelvey, Roy. Revival of the Fittest: Digital Versions of Classic Typefaces. RC Publications, Inc.2000. ISBN 1-883915-08-2
- Updike, Daniel Berkeley. Printing Types: Their History, Forms, and Use. Dover Publications, Inc.: 1980. ISBN 0-486-23929-2
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- Fonts in Use (see sub-pages for use of specific versions)
Specimen books available onlineEdit
- By the original Caslon Company, run by William Caslon II: Specimen of 1785
- By a breakaway company run by William Caslon III: Specimen of 1798 (completely different typeface designs, in the transitional and modern style)
- H.W. Caslon & Co. Ltd., specimen book, 1915. The 20th century Caslon company at its height, including many sample settings.
- Late specimen sheet of the Caslon foundry from 1924: outside, inside. Included with Commercial Art magazine. George W. Jones's Caslon specimen of 1924 is similar.
- American Type Founders, 1912 Specimen Book. Includes Caslon samples on pages 116-123 & 314-353.
- American Type Founders, 1923 Specimen Book: complete digitisation, separate volumes (incomplete). Includes many examples of American releases of Caslon and sample settings in full-colour printing.
- 1953 article by Eugene Pattenburg in Print magazine on the popularity of Caslon in contemporary advertising. Many sample showings.