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This article is about the typeface. Caslon_sentence_0

For the person, see William Caslon. Caslon_sentence_1

For other uses, see Caslon (disambiguation). Caslon_sentence_2


CategoryCaslon_header_cell_0_0_0 SerifCaslon_cell_0_0_1
ClassificationCaslon_header_cell_0_1_0 Old-styleCaslon_cell_0_1_1
Designer(s)Caslon_header_cell_0_2_0 William Caslon ICaslon_cell_0_2_1
FoundryCaslon_header_cell_0_3_0 Caslon Type FoundryCaslon_cell_0_3_1
VariationsCaslon_header_cell_0_4_0 manyCaslon_cell_0_4_1
Shown hereCaslon_header_cell_0_5_0 Adobe Caslon by Carol TwomblyCaslon_cell_0_5_1

Caslon is the name given to serif typefaces designed by William Caslon I (c. 1692–1766) in London, or inspired by his work. Caslon_sentence_3

Caslon worked as an engraver of punches, the masters used to stamp the moulds or matrices used to cast metal type. Caslon_sentence_4

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_sentence_5

Caslon established a tradition of engraving type in London, which previously had not been common, and was influenced by the imported Dutch Baroque typefaces that were popular in England at the time. Caslon_sentence_6

His typefaces established a strong reputation for their quality and their attractive appearance, suitable for extended passages of text. Caslon_sentence_7

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. Caslon_sentence_8

The sides of the 'M' are straight. Caslon_sentence_9

The 'W' has three terminals at the top and the 'b' has a small tapered stroke ending at bottom left. Caslon_sentence_10

The 'a' has a slight ball terminal. Caslon_sentence_11

Ascenders and descenders are relatively short and the level of stroke contrast is modest in body text sizes. Caslon_sentence_12

In italic, Caslon's h folds inwards and the A is sharply slanted. Caslon_sentence_13

The Q, T v, w, and z all have flourishes or swashes in the original design, something not all revivals follow. Caslon_sentence_14

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_sentence_15

However, Caslon created different designs of letter at different sizes: his larger sizes follow the lead of a type he sold cut in the previous century by Joseph Moxon, with more fine detail and sharper contrast in stroke weight, in the "Dutch taste" style. Caslon_sentence_16

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. Caslon_sentence_17

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. Caslon_sentence_18

Many revivals exist, with varying faithfulness to Caslon's original design. Caslon_sentence_19

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. Caslon_sentence_20

William Berkson, designer of a revival of Caslon, describes Caslon in body text as "comfortable and inviting". Caslon_sentence_21

History Caslon_section_0

Caslon began his career in London as an apprentice engraver of ornamental designs on firearms and other metalwork. Caslon_sentence_22

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. Caslon_sentence_23

Punchcutting was a difficult technique and many of the techniques used were kept secret by punchcutters or passed on from father to son. Caslon_sentence_24

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. Caslon_sentence_25

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. Caslon_sentence_26

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_sentence_27

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." Caslon_sentence_28

Mosley also describes several other Caslon faces as "intelligent adaptations" of the Voskens Pica. Caslon_sentence_29

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." Caslon_sentence_30

Mosley describes Caslon's Long Primer No. Caslon_sentence_31

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. Caslon_sentence_32

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_sentence_33

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. Caslon_sentence_34

He publicised his type through contributing a specimen sheet to Chambers' Cyclopedia, which has often been often cut out by antiquarian book dealers and sold separately. Caslon_sentence_35

Compared to the more delicate, stylised and experimental "transitional" typefaces gaining ground in mainland Europe during Caslon's life, notably the romain du roi type of the previous century, the work of Pierre-Simon Fournier in Paris, 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. Caslon_sentence_36

Johnson notes that his 1764 specimen "might have been produced a hundred years earlier". Caslon_sentence_37

Stanley Morison described Caslon's type as "a happy archaism". Caslon_sentence_38

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 of the U.S. Caslon_sentence_39 Declaration of Independence. Caslon_sentence_40

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. Caslon_sentence_41

Besides regular text fonts, Caslon cut blackletter or 'Gothic' types, which were also printed on his specimen. Caslon_sentence_42

These could be used for purposes such as title pages, emphasis and drop caps. Caslon_sentence_43

Bold type did not exist in Caslon's time, although some of his larger-size fonts are quite bold. Caslon_sentence_44

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. Caslon_sentence_45

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". Caslon_sentence_46

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_sentence_47

Eclipse Caslon_section_1

Caslon's types fell out of interest in the late eighteenth century, to some extent first due to the arrival of "transitional"-style typefaces like Baskerville and then more significantly with the growing popularity of "Didone" or modern designs in Britain, under the influence of the quality of printing achieved by printers such as Bodoni. Caslon_sentence_48

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. Caslon_sentence_49

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. Caslon_sentence_50

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. Caslon_sentence_51

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." Caslon_sentence_52

Even as Caslon's type itself largely fell out of use, his reputation remained strong within the printing community. Caslon_sentence_53

The printer and social reformer Thomas Curson Hansard wrote in 1825: Caslon_sentence_54

Similarly, Edward Bull in 1842 called Caslon "the great chief and father of English type." Caslon_sentence_55

Return to popularity Caslon_section_2

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. Caslon_sentence_56

Fine printing presses, notably the Chiswick Press, bought original Caslon type from the Caslon foundry; copies of these matrices were also made by electrotyping. Caslon_sentence_57

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. Caslon_sentence_58

(Bookman Old Style is a descendant of this typeface, but made bolder with a boosted x-height very unlike the original Caslon.) Caslon_sentence_59

The Caslon foundry itself covertly replaced some sizes with new, cleaner versions that could be machine-cast and cut new swash capitals. Caslon_sentence_60

In the United States, "Caslon" became almost a genre, with numerous new designs unconnected to the original, with modifications such as shortened descenders to fit American common line, or lining figures, or bold and condensed designs, many foundries creating (or, in many cases, pirating) versions. Caslon_sentence_61

By the 1920s, American Type Founders offered a large range of styles, some numbered rather than named. Caslon_sentence_62

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. Caslon_sentence_63

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. Caslon_sentence_64

These included Bembo, Garamond, Plantin, Baskerville and Times New Roman. Caslon_sentence_65

Caslon type again entered a new technology with phototypesetting, mostly in the 1960s and 1970s, and then again with digital typesetting technology. Caslon_sentence_66

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. Caslon_sentence_67

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. Caslon_sentence_68

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. Caslon_sentence_69

Scholarly research on Caslon's type has been carried out by historians including Alfred F. Johnson, Harry Carter, James Mosley and Justin Howes. Caslon_sentence_70

Metal type versions Caslon_section_3

Caslon Old Face Caslon_section_4

The H.W. Caslon_sentence_71

Caslon & Sons foundry reissued Caslon’s original types as Caslon Old Face from the original (or, at least, early) matrices. Caslon_sentence_72

The last lineal descendant of Caslon, Henry William Caslon, brought in Thomas White Smith as a new manager shortly before Caslon's death in 1874. Caslon_sentence_73

Smith took over the company and instructed his sons to change their surnames to Caslon in order to provide an appearance of continuity. Caslon_sentence_74

The foundry operated an ambitious promotional programme, issuing a periodical, "Caslon's Circular". Caslon_sentence_75

It continued to issue specimens from top printers including George W. Jones until the 1920s. Caslon_sentence_76

Some Caslon faces were augmented by adding new features, in particular swash capitals for historicist printing. Caslon_sentence_77

From around 1887 the type was sold with additional swash capitals. Caslon_sentence_78

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." Caslon_sentence_79

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. Caslon_sentence_80

Due to the cachet of the Caslon name, some of the recuttings and modifications of the original Caslon types were apparently not publicly admitted. Caslon_sentence_81

The H.W. Caslon_sentence_82

Caslon company also licensed to other printers matrices made by electrotyping, although some companies may also have made unauthorized copies. Caslon_sentence_83

In 1937, the H.W. Caslon_sentence_84

Caslon & Sons foundry was also acquired by Stephenson Blake & Co, who thereafter added 'the Caslon Letter Foundry' to their name. Caslon_sentence_85

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. Caslon_sentence_86

Linotype's has been digitised and released by Bitstream. Caslon_sentence_87

Caslon 471 Caslon_section_5

Caslon #471 was the release of the "original" Caslon type sold by American Type Founders. Caslon_sentence_88

American Type Founders advertised it as "the Caslon Oldstyle Romans and Italics precisely as Mr. Caslon left them in 1766. Caslon_sentence_89

It was apparently cast from electrotypes held by American Type Founders' precursors. Caslon_sentence_90

Thomas Maitland Cleland drew a set of additional swash capitals. Caslon_sentence_91

Caslon 540 Caslon_section_6

Caslon 540 was a second American Type Founders version with shortened descenders to allow tighter linespacing. Caslon_sentence_92

The italic was distributed by Letraset with a matching set of swashes. Caslon_sentence_93

As a result, this often became sold or used without the regular or roman style of this revival. Caslon_sentence_94

Caslon 3 Caslon_section_7

A slighter bolder version of Caslon 540, released by American Type Founders in 1905. Caslon_sentence_95

BitStream sells Caslon 3 under the name of Caslon Bold with its Caslon 540 release. Caslon_sentence_96

Russian studio ParaType have released both with Cyrillic glyphs. Caslon_sentence_97

Caslon Openface Caslon_section_8

A decorative openface serif typeface with very high ascenders, popular in the United States. Caslon_sentence_98

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. Caslon_sentence_99

The Monotype Corporation (UK) Caslon_section_9

The British Monotype company produced three Caslon revivals. Caslon_sentence_100


  • 1903, Series 20, Old Face SpecialCaslon_item_0_0
  • 1906, Series 45, Old Face StandardCaslon_item_0_1
  • 1915, Series 128 & 209, Caslon & Caslon Titling.Caslon_item_0_2

Imprint Caslon_section_10

Main article: Imprint MT Caslon_sentence_101

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. Caslon_sentence_102

It had a higher x-height and was intended to offer an italic more complementary to the roman. Caslon_sentence_103

It has remained popular since and has been digitised by Monotype. Caslon_sentence_104

Ludlow Typograph Company, Chicago, Illinois, USA Caslon_section_11

Ludlow had a wide variety of Caslon-types. Caslon_sentence_105

Caslon 641 Caslon_section_12

A heavy version of Caslon 540, released by American Type Founders in 1966. Caslon_sentence_106

Caslon 223 and 224 Caslon_section_13

Caslon 223 and 224 were phototypesetting families designed by Ed Benguiat of Lubalin, Smith, Carnase and then ITC. Caslon_sentence_107

Like many ITC families, they have an aggressive, advertising-oriented bold structure, not closely related to Caslon's original work. Caslon_sentence_108

223 was the first version (named for LSC's street number), a companion version with more body text-oriented proportions followed sequentially numbered 224. Caslon_sentence_109

Digital-only releases Caslon_section_14

Adobe Caslon (1990) Caslon_section_15

Adobe Caslon is a very popular revival designed by Carol Twombly. Caslon_sentence_110

It is based on Caslon's own specimen pages printed between 1734 and 1770 and is a member of the Adobe Originals programme. Caslon_sentence_111

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. Caslon_sentence_112

Adobe Caslon is used for body text in The New Yorker and is one of the two official typefaces of the University of Virginia. Caslon_sentence_113

A modification is used on U. VA's logo. Caslon_sentence_114

It is also available with Adobe's Typekit programme, in some weights for free. Caslon_sentence_115

Big Caslon (1994) Caslon_section_16

Big Caslon by Matthew Carter is inspired by the "funkiness" of the three largest sizes of type from the Caslon foundry. Caslon_sentence_116

These have a unique design with dramatic stroke contrast, complementary but very different from Caslon's text faces; one was apparently originally created by Joseph Moxon rather than Caslon. Caslon_sentence_117

The typeface is intended for use at 18pt and above. Caslon_sentence_118

The standard weight is bundled with Apple's macOS operating system in a release including small caps and alternates such as the long s. Caslon_sentence_119

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. Caslon_sentence_120

It is used by Boston magazine and the Harvard Crimson. Caslon_sentence_121

LTC Caslon (2005) Caslon_section_17

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). Caslon_sentence_122

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. Caslon_sentence_123

A 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). Caslon_sentence_124

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'. Caslon_sentence_125

Williams Caslon Text (2010) Caslon_section_18

A modern attempt to capture the spirit of Caslon by William Berkson, intended for use in body text. Caslon_sentence_126

Although not aimed at being fully authentic in every respect, the typeface closely follows Caslon's original specimen sheet in many respects. Caslon_sentence_127

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. Caslon_sentence_128

Berkson described his design choices in an extensive article series. Caslon_sentence_129

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. Caslon_sentence_130

It is currently used in Boston magazine and by Foreign Affairs. Caslon_sentence_131

A notable feature of Caslon's structure is its widely splayed 'T', which can space awkwardly with an 'h' afterwards. Caslon_sentence_132

Accordingly, an emerging tradition among digital releases is to offer a 'Th' ligature, inspired by the tradition of ligatures in calligraphy, though itself not a historical type ligature, to achieve tighter letterspacing. Caslon_sentence_133

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. Caslon_sentence_134

Distressed revivals Caslon_section_19

A number of Caslon revivals are 'distressed' in style, adding intentional irregularities to capture the worn, jagged feel of metal type. Caslon_sentence_135

ITC Founder's Caslon (1998) Caslon_section_20

ITC Founder's Caslon was digitized by Justin Howes. Caslon_sentence_136

He used the resources of the St Bride Library in London to thoroughly research William Caslon and his types. Caslon_sentence_137

Unlike previous digital revivals, this family closely follows the tradition of building separate typefaces intended for different sizes. Caslon_sentence_138

Distressing varies by style, matching the effect of metal type, with large optical sizes offering the cleanest appearance. Caslon_sentence_139

This family was released by ITC in December 1998. Caslon_sentence_140

Following the original Caslon types, it does not include bold typefaces, but uses old style figures for all numbers. Caslon_sentence_141

H. W. Caslon version Caslon_section_21

Following the release of ITC Founder's Caslon, Justin Howes revived the H.W. Caslon_sentence_142

Caslon & Company name, and released an expanded version of the ITC typefaces under the Founders Caslon name. Caslon_sentence_143

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. Caslon_sentence_144

Each font has small capitals, long esses and swash characters. Caslon_sentence_145

The 96 point font came in roman only and without small capitals. Caslon_sentence_146

Caslon Old Face was released in July 2001. Caslon_sentence_147

Caslon Ornaments is a typeface containing ornament glyphs. Caslon_sentence_148

These typefaces are packaged in the following formats: Caslon_sentence_149


  • Founders Caslon Text: Caslon Old Face (8, 10, 12, 14, 18), Caslon Ornaments.Caslon_item_1_3
  • Founders Caslon Display: Caslon Old Face (22, 24, 30, 36, 42, 48, 60, 72), Caslon Ornaments.Caslon_item_1_4
  • Founders Caslon 1776: Caslon Old Face (14), Caslon Ornaments. A selection of the types used on the United States Declaration of Independence.Caslon_item_1_5

However, following the death of Justin Howes, the revived H.W. Caslon_sentence_150

Caslon & Company went out of business. Caslon_sentence_151

NotCaslon (1995) Caslon_section_22

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". Caslon_sentence_152

Franklin Caslon (2006) Caslon_section_23

This 2006 creation by P22 is based on the pages produced by Benjamin Franklin circa 1750. Caslon_sentence_153

It has a distressed appearance. Caslon_sentence_154

Caslon Antique Caslon_section_24

Main article: Caslon Antique Caslon_sentence_155

This decorative serif typeface was originally called Fifteenth Century, but later renamed Caslon Antique. Caslon_sentence_156

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. Caslon_sentence_157

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