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This article is about the typeface. For the person, see William Caslon. For other uses, see Caslon (disambiguation).
Category Serif
Classification Old Style[1]
Designer(s) William Caslon I
Foundry Caslon Type Foundry
Variations Adobe Caslon
Williams Caslon
Big Caslon
LTC Caslon
Founders Caslon
ITC Founders Caslon
Caslon 3
Caslon 224
Caslon 471
Caslon 540
Caslon 641
Caslon Old Face
Shown here Adobe Caslon by Carol Twombly
English roman, a Latin text face of the Caslon stable of typefaces. Restored extract from the specimen sheet below.
William Caslon's 1734 Specimen sheet, some of which is set in the Caslon typeface.
The ligatures of Adobe Caslon Pro. Th is not historic.

Caslon is a group of serif typefaces designed by William Caslon I (1692–1766), and various revivals thereof.

Caslon shares the irregularity characteristic of Dutch Baroque types. It is characterized by short ascenders and descenders, bracketed serifs, moderately high contrast, robust texture, and moderate modulation of stroke. The A has a concave hollow at the apex, the G is without a spur. Caslon's italics have a rhythmic calligraphic stroke. Characters A, V, and W have an acute slant. The italic p, Q, v, w, and z all have a suggestion of a swash.


Caslon's earliest design dates to 1722.[1] Caslon is cited as the first original typeface of English origin. Type historians Stanley Morison and Alfred F. Johnson, a scientist who worked at the British Museum, point out the close similarity of Caslon's design to the Dutch Fell types cut by Voskens and other type cut by the Dutchman Van Dyck.[2][3]

The earliest information about William Caslon as punch-cutter and typefounders is in [2]

  • Rowe More, Dissertation 1778
  • John Nicols, Biographical and Literary Anecdotes of William Bowyer 1782, start at: pag. 316
  • 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

The first founts cut by William Caslon were:

  • Arabic, used in a "Psalter" in 1725
  • Hebrew, used for John Selden's Works in 1726.
  • Koptic, used for the bi-language Pentateuch of Dr. David Wilkins in Latin and Hebrew in 1731

There is much uncertainty about the first roman and italic Latin characters cut by Caslon himself.

Nicols writes: "he (Caslon) cut the beautiful fount of English which is used in printing Selden's Works 1726." Nicols describes this character as far superior to contemporary Dutch founts used in English books at this period. Rowe More does not give any comment on this.

Dutch founts were in use by several printers in England at that time. The Oxford University Press used the "Fell-types", character cut by the Dutch typefounder Voskens. The Cambridge University Press had received in January 1698 some 52 series of alphabets from Holland, all cut by Van Dyck.[4] But even before that in 1697 they used the Text-sized roman and italic of Van Dyck in an edition of Gratulatio Cantabrigiences.[5] Character of Van Dyck and Voskens is found also in: William Harison, Woodstock Park, Tonson, 1706.

Although Nicols attributes this character to Caslon, the fount used in Seldens Works is actually cut by Van Dyck. The italic is identical to the Van Dycks Augustijn Cursijf fount in specimen sheets issued in 1681 by the widow Daniel Elzevir.[6][7] This woman had bought the typefoundry of Van Dyck after Van Dyck died.

The roman in this book is a Garamond. This fount is used in the first volume and in the greater part of the second volume. It is found in a specimen sheet of the Amsterdam printer Johannes Kannewet, in company with Van Dyck's Augustijn Cursijf. All that is known of Kannewet is that he was a printer, not a typefounder. This specimen-sheet is preserved in the Bagford-collection in the British Museum, and can be dated 1715 or earlier because Bagford died in 1716. There is no reason to suppose anything was added at a later date to this collection. The roman is named: Groote Mediaan Romyn. This fount is also found on a specimen sheet of the Voskens’ widow; therefore it can be assumed to be the work of Voskens. The earliest use of it at Amsterdam was in 1684.[8]

The earliest use of a roman and italic cut by Caslon can be identified in books printed William Bowyer in:

  • 1725: roman and italic Pica-size, in the notes in Anacreon in Greek and Latin.
  • 1726: roman and cursief, Pica-size, in: Reliquæ Baxterianæ
  • 1730: roman and italic, English size, in the preface of Richard Baker's Chronicles of the Kings of England. The text-part is set in the Caslon Pica.

The founts cut by Caslon and his son, were close copies of the Dutch Old face cut by Van Dyck. These founts were rather fashionable at that time. The alternative founts they cut for text were a smaller, rather than a condensed letter.

The Caslon types were distributed throughout the British Empire, including British North America. Much of the decayed appearance of early American printing is thought to be due to oxidation caused by long exposure to seawater during transport from England to the Americas. Caslon's types were immediately successful and used in many historic documents, including 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. The Caslon design is still widely used today. For many years a common rule of thumb of printers and typesetters was When in doubt, use Caslon.[9]

Caslon's original designs do not include a bold weight. This is because it was unusual to use bold weights in typesetting during the 18th century, and Caslon never designed one for body text, although some of his titling-size fonts are quite bold. For emphasis, italics or a larger point size, and sometimes caps and small caps would be used instead.


The History of Henry Esmond, a novel by Thackeray written as a fictional memoir. The first edition of 1852 was printed in Caslon type, then out of fashion. The goal was to achieve a period feel appropriate to its early eighteenth-century setting.

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. Some printing was done using Caslon's original matrices or electrotyped copies, while other releases used new designs in the same style to achieve a similar but cleaner appearance, making use of the improved technology of hot metal typesetting at the close of the 19th century.[10]

Caslon again entered a new technology with phototypesetting, mostly in the 1960s and 1970s, and then again with digital typesetting technology, mostly since the mid-1980s. As a result of that, and the lack of trademark on the name "Caslon" by itself (the Caslon foundry having closed down), there are many typefaces called "Caslon" which reproduce the original designs in varying degrees of faithfulness.

Caslon Old Face[edit]

Caslon Old Face was originally directly produced from Caslon matrices and type that were property of the H.W. Caslon & Sons foundry. In 1937, the H.W. Caslon & Sons foundry was acquired by Stephenson Blake & Co who thereafter added 'the Caslon Letter Foundry' to their name.

George Ostrochulski adapted the designs from Stephenson Blake & Co for photocomposition at Mergenthaler Linotype with skill and understanding during the 1950s.

A variety of typefaces called Caslon Old Face are available commercially. Visual differences exist between typefaces from different companies and the authenticity of some of these typefaces is debatable.

Ludlow Typograph Company, Chicago, Illinois, USA[edit]

Ludlow had a wide variety of Caslon-types. The type-number is added between brackets behind the name.

  • Ludlow True-Cut Caslon (1-TC)
    • 8, 10, 12, 14, 18, 22, 24, 30, 36, 42, 48, 60, 72 punt
  • Ludlow True-Cut Caslon Italic (1-TCI)
    • 8, 10, 12, 14, 18, 22, 24, 30, 36, 42, 48, 60, 72 punt
  • Ludlow Caslon-Light (1-L)
    • 6, 8, 10, 12, 14, 18, 22, 24, 30, 36, 42, 48, 60, 72 punt
  • Ludlow Caslon-Light Italic (1-)
    • 6, 8, 10, 12, 14, 18, 22, 24, 30, 36, 42, 48, 60, 72 punt
  • Ludlow Calson Bold (1-B)
    • 6, 8, 10, 12, 14, 18, 22, 24, 30, 36, 42, 48, 60, 72 punt
  • Ludlow Caslon Bold Italic (1-BI)
    • 6, 8, 10, 12, 14, 18, 22, 24, 30, 36, 42, 48, 60, 72 punt
6, 8 en 10 punt op matrijzen voor romein
  • Ludlow Caslon Bold Condensed (1-BC)
    • 6, 8, 10, 12, 14, 18, 22, 24, 30, 36, 42, 48, 60, 72 punt
  • Ludlow Calson Bold Extra Condensed (1-BEC)
    • 12, 14, 18, 22, 24, 30, 36, 42, 48, 60, 72 punt
  • Ludlow Caslon Old Face Heavy (1-OFH)
    • 6, 8, 10, 12, 14, 18, 22, 24, 30, 36, 42, 48, 60, 72 punt
  • Ludlow Caslon Heavy Italic (1-HE)
    • 14, 18, 22, 24, 30, 36, 42, 48, 60, 72 punt

The Monotype Corporation Limited at Salfords, UK[edit]

This company produced three Caslon revivals:

1903, Series 20 Old Face (special) after 1967 out of production
1906, Series 45 Old Face Standard, after 1967 out of production
1915, Series 128 & 209, Caslon & Caslon Titling.

Caslon 471[edit]

Caslon 471 was designed by the staff of American Type Founders as their first revival of Caslon. It is based on the Old Style No. 1 typeface used in an 1865 specimen book from the L.J. Johnson foundry in Philadelphia.

Caslon 540[edit]

Caslon 540 was designed by the staff of American Type Founders and released in 1902. The typeface was originally intended for use in advertising and is based on Caslon 471 with shortened descenders. It does not include a bold weight.

Caslon 3[edit]

A slighter bolder version of Caslon 540, released by American Type Founders in 1905. BitStream sells Caslon 3 under the name of Caslon Bold.

Caslon Openface[edit]

A decorative openface serif typeface with very high ascenders, designed by Barnhart Brothers and Spindler in 1915. It is only loosely based on the typefaces designed by William Caslon himself.

Caslon 641[edit]

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

Caslon 224[edit]

Caslon 224 was designed by Ed Benguiat of ITC, and released in 1983. A classic advertising and display typeface, it features a large x-height, smooth weight transitions, and careful structuring of hairline strokes, offered in four weights (book, medium, bold, and black) each with a matching italic.

In lectures, Benguiat has frequently said he chose the number 224 because it was the address of the building where he did most of his work.

Digital-only releases[edit]

Two alternative revivals of Caslon, designed for large and small text sizes.

Adobe Caslon (1990)[edit]

Media related to Adobe Caslon Pro at Wikimedia Commons

Adobe Caslon is a very popular revival designed by Carol Twombly. It is based on the Caslon's own specimen pages printed between 1734 and 1770.[11] 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.[12]

Adobe Caslon Pro incorporates the previous expert letters, adds ordinals, arbitrary fractions, and extends the language coverage to include central European languages.[1]

Adobe Caslon is the typeface used for body text in The New Yorker.[13]

Adobe Caslon is one of the two official typefaces of the University of Virginia. It uses a modification of Caslon Pro for the University of Virginia logo.[14]

Big Caslon[edit]

Big Caslon is a revival by Matthew Carter of three largest sizes of type from the Caslon foundry, released by Carter & Cone in 1994. These have a unique design with dramatic stroke contrast, complementary to but unlike Caslon's text faces. The typeface is intended for use at eighteen point and above.[15][16] The standard weight is bundled with Apple's OS X operating system in a release including small caps and alternates such as the long s. In 2014 Carter revisited the design and republished it through Font Bureau, adding bold and black designs with matching italics.[17]

LTC Caslon (2005)[edit]

LTC Caslon is a remastering of the Lanston Type Company's 14 point size of their revival of Lanston Monotype's Caslon 337 of 1915 (itself a revival of the original Caslon types).[18] This family include fonts in 2 weights, complementary italics, and long descender typefaces The character sets are expanded to include fractions, ligatures, small caps (regular and regular italic only), swashes (italics only), and Central European characters.[19] A limited edition upright italic design, 'LTC Caslon Remix', was released to accompany a CD by The William Caslon Experience, a downtempo electronic act.[20] The CD is included with the purchase of the LTC Caslon family.[21]

Williams Caslon Text (2010)[edit]

A modern attempt to capture the spirit of Caslon by William Berkson, intended for use in body text.[22] Although not aimed at being fully authentic in every respect, the typeface closely follows Caslon's original specimen sheet in many respects, including varied slopes for the italic letters. The weight is heavier, to compensate for changes in printing processes. It includes bold and bold italic designs, with small caps and long and short descenders in all styles as well as swash italic alternates.[23][24][25] Released by Font Bureau, it is currently used in Boston magazine.

Caslon Roman[edit]

Main article: Caslon Roman

Caslon Roman is a Unicode-based typeface for computer display, developed by George Williams. Much lighter than most Caslon revivals, it is one of a number of fonts provided as example fonts for the FontForge font editor.

Distressed revivals[edit]

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 Printing Library in London to thoroughly research William Caslon and his types.[26] Unlike previous digital revivals, this family closely follows the tradition of building separate typefaces intended for different sizes, despite the use of scalable typefaces in the digital counterpart. 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.[27] It includes separate fonts for 12 point, 30 point, 42 point, and Poster sizes, and a typeface for ornaments. Also following the original Caslon types, it does not include bold typefaces, but uses old style figures for all numbers.

Another feature in the Windows TrueType version of the typeface is the allocation of extra ligatures and alternate forms to Basic Latin and ISO Latin-1 blocks, replacing |, <, >, =.

The OpenType Std version of the typeface adds small caps to the family and updates the character set to support the Adobe Western 2 character set.

H. W. Caslon version[edit]

Following the release of ITC Founder's Caslon, Justin Howes revived the H.W. Caslon & Company name, and released an expanded version of the ITC typefaces under the Founders Caslon name.

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 1776: Caslon Old Face (14), Caslon Ornaments.
  • 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.

However, following the death of Justin Howes, the revived H.W. Caslon & Company went out of business, and the expanded Founders Caslon is no longer offered in the retail market.


A somewhat distressed modern day recreation of Caslon by David Manthey which is intended to exactly match the typeface found in The Practical Surveyor, by Samuel Wyld,[28] published in London in 1725. The typeface contains a regular and italic style, with glyphs for several ligatures commonly used in printing during the early 18th century. It was released by Mathey as freeware for private use.

Franklin Caslon[edit]

This 2006 creation by P22 is based on the pages produced by Benjamin Franklin circa 1750. It has a distressed appearance.

Caslon Antique[edit]

Main article: Caslon Antique

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.


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".[29][30]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c "Adobe - Fonts : Adobe Caslon Pro". Retrieved 2012-10-22. 
  2. ^ a b Alfred F. Johnson, A note on William Caslon, in: The Monotype Recorder, vol. 35, no. 4, 1936-7, pag. 3-7
  3. ^ Stanley Morison, A tally of types, Cambridge at the University Press, second edition, 1973, pag 24-27
  4. ^ Mr.S.C. Roberts, History of the Cambridge University Press, p. 77
  5. ^ Alfred F. Johnson, A note on William Caslon, in: The Monotype Recorder, vol. 35, no. 4, 1936-7, pag. 6
  6. ^ Willem, Les Elzevir, 1880
  7. ^ Updike, fig. 207 (reduced)
  8. ^ Alfred F. Johnson, A note on William Caslon, in: The Monotype Recorder, vol. 35, no. 4, 1936-7, pag. 7
  9. ^ "Learn About Fonts & Typography". Retrieved 2012-10-22. 
  10. ^ Specimens of Type. London: Caslon & Co. 1915. 
  11. ^ "Adobe - Fonts : Adobe Caslon". Retrieved 2012-10-22. 
  12. ^ "Adobe - Fonts : Adobe Caslon Expert". Retrieved 2012-10-22. 
  13. ^ Gopnik, Adam (February 9, 2009). "Postscript". The New Yorker: 35. 
  14. ^ "University of Virginia Usage Guidelines". Retrieved 2012-12-06. 
  15. ^ "Big Caslon promotional page". Font Bureau. Retrieved 27 July 2015. 
  16. ^ "Big Caslon - Desktop font « MyFonts". 2000-01-01. Retrieved 2012-10-22. 
  17. ^ "Big Caslon FB". Font Bureau. Retrieved 23 June 2015. 
  18. ^ "LANSTON FONT | CASLON OLDSTYLE, 337 | WILLIAM CASLON". Retrieved 2012-10-22. 
  19. ^ "LTC Caslon Family". Retrieved 2012-10-22. 
  20. ^ "Microsoft Typography - News archive". Retrieved 2012-10-22. 
  21. ^ "Audio". P22. Retrieved 2012-10-22. 
  22. ^ "Boston Pops: A Conversation with Patrick Mitchell". 
  23. ^ "WCT Features" (PDF). Font Bureau. Retrieved 23 June 2015. 
  24. ^ Berkson, William. "Reviving Caslon, Part 1". Retrieved 23 June 2015. 
  25. ^ Berkson, William. "Reviving Caslon, Part 2". I Love Typography. Retrieved 21 September 2014. 
  26. ^ "Download ITC Founder's Caslon™ font family". Retrieved 2012-10-22. 
  27. ^ "New Releases -". 2012-10-16. Retrieved 2012-10-22. 
  28. ^ "The Practical Surveyor". Retrieved 2012-10-22. 
  29. ^ "NotCaslon". Emigre. Retrieved 23 June 2015. 
  30. ^ "Buy NotCaslon". Emigre. Retrieved 23 June 2015. 

Further reading[edit]

  • Carter, Rob, Day, Ben, and Phillip Meggs. Typography Design: Form and Communication. John Willey & Sons, Inc.: 1993. ISBN 0-471-28430-0
  • Friedl, Friedrich, Nicolaus Ott and Bernard Stein. Typography, An Encyclopedic Survey of Type Design and Techniques throughout History. Black Dog & Leventhal: 1998. ISBN 1-57912-023-7
  • 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
  • [4] Nesbitt, Alexander The History and Technique of Lettering (c) 1998, Dover Publications, Inc. ISBN 0-486-40281-9, The Dover edition is an abridged and corrected republication of the work originally published in 1950 by Prentice-Hall, Inc. under the title Lettering: The History and Technique of Lettering as Design.
  • Updike, Daniel Berkeley. Printing Types: Their History, Forms, and Use. Dover Publications, Inc.: 1980. ISBN 0-486-23929-2

External links[edit]