Caledonia (typeface)

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Category Serif
Classification Transitional serif
Designer(s) William Addison Dwiggins
Foundry Mergenthaler Linotype Company
Date released 1938
Design based on Scotch Roman
Variations New Caledonia
Also known as Cornelia
Transitional 511

Caledonia is a serif typeface designed by William Addison Dwiggins in 1938 for the Mergenthaler Linotype Company and commonly used in book design. As a transitional serif design, one inspired by the Scotch Roman typefaces of the early nineteenth century, Caledonia has a contrasting design of alternating thick and thin strokes, a design that stresses the vertical axis and sharp, regular serifs on ascenders and descenders.

Dwiggins chose the name Caledonia, the Roman name for Scotland, to express the face's basis on Scotch Roman typefaces. However, though Dwiggins began with the thought of copying the classical Scotch Romans, eventually he drew more inspiration from the Bulmer design of William Martin.[1] The G is open and the R has a curved tail. the t is unbracketed. Italic characters p and q have no foot serif. The character set, as drawn by Dwiggins was wide, including ranging (old style) figures, lining figures, and small capitals in the text and bold weights. A Greek version of the face is available. Historian of printing G. Willem Ovink describes Caledonia as "one of the most crisp and sprightly modern types".[2]

Hot Metal Type[edit]

Machine Composition[edit]

Caledonia made initially for machine composition with foundry type only made later, and then only in Germany. The following variants were designed by Dwiggins and released by Linotype:

  • Caledonia + Italic (1938)
  • Caledonia Bold + Bold Italic (1940)

Two versions of the typeface were commercially available: one, with longer descenders (preferred by the designer), was cast on larger type bodies than the nominal point size and required leading, while the other, with shorter descenders, was designed for use at size and could be set solid. Linotype also made 36 point matrices for Caledonia Bold Condensed, but it is doubtful that Dwiggins had anything to do with their design. The face was sold by Linotype in England under the same name, and in Germany as Cornelia.[3]

Foundry Type[edit]

Cornelia, as it was called there, proved so popular in Germany, that the Stempel Foundry cast it as foundry type.[4]

Cold Type Copies[edit]

Caledonia’s popularity as a text face continued right through the cold type era, and it was sold then under the following names:[5]

Digital Copies[edit]

  • A digital version, called New Caledonia, was designed by David Berlow in 1979 and released by Adobe and Linotype in 1982. New Caledonia replaced an even earlier digital Caledonia that, owing to the technical limitations of the time, had become infamous for obliterating most of the typeface's defining attributes. It is available in four weights: text, semibold, bold, and black, each with small capitals and both lining and old-style numerals. Although largely a direct tracing of the font in metal, the lowercase "f" is modified to have a larger overhang, which was not possible on the Linotype machine. New Caledonia uses the longer descenders from the metal Caledonia.
  • Bitstream digitized Caledonia as Transitional 511. It features only two weights, regular and bold, with accompanying italics, and has a much smaller character set than the Linotype/Adobe version, lacking both small capitals and old-style figures. The shorter descender lengths from the metal Caledonia are used.
  • TIME Caledonia, a proprietary version for Time Magazine, was designed by Matthew Carter in 1994. It is more robust than other available digital versions, which suffer from the "emaciated" appearance of many early digitizations of metal fonts that make them less suited to running text, but it is not available for commercial licensing.


  • Whitman, designed by Kent Lew at Font Bureau and released in 2003, combines the basic structure of Caledonia in the roman with elements of Eric Gill's Joanna, and has an italic in between the two extremes. Lew would later contribute the hand-lettering for the spine of W.A. Dwiggins: A Life in Design, Bruce Kennett's 2018 Dwiggins biography.
  • Déréon,[6] designed by Jean François Porchez in 2005 for Beyoncé Knowles's "House of Déréon" fashion line, is based on Caledonia but incorporates influences from a number of different time periods and type styles, reflecting the eclectic influences on Beyoncé's music. It is not currently commercially available.


  • Blackwell, Lewis. 20th Century Type. Yale University Press: 2004. ISBN 0-300-10073-6.
  • Bringhurst, Robert. The Elements of Typographic Style. Hartley & Marks: 1992. ISBN 0-88179-033-8.
  • Fiedl, Frederich, Nicholas Ott and Bernard Stein. Typography: An Encyclopedic Survey of Type Design and Techniques Through History. Black Dog & Leventhal: 1998. ISBN 1-57912-023-7.
  • Macmillan, Neil. An A–Z of Type Designers. Yale University Press: 2006. ISBN 0-300-11151-7.
  1. ^ Hlasta, Stanley C., Printing Types & How to Use Them, Carnegie Press, Pittsburgh, PA, 1950, pp. 111-114.
  2. ^ Ovink, G. Willem (1973). "Review: Jan van Krimpen, A Letter to Philip Hofer". Quaerendo: 239–242. doi:10.1163/157006973X00237. 
  3. ^ MacGrew, Mac, American Metal Typefaces of the Twentieth Century, Oak Knoll Books, New Castle Delaware, 1993, ISBN 0-938768-34-4, pp. 56 + 57.
  4. ^ Jaspert, W. Pincus, W. Turner Berry and A.F. Johnson, The Encyclopedia of Type Faces, Blandford Press Lts., 1983, ISBN 0-7137-1347-X, p. 34.
  5. ^ Wheatley, W.F., Typeface Analogue, National Composition Association, Arlington, Virginia, 1988, p. 7 + Lawson, Alexander, Archie Provan, and Frank Romano, Primer of Typeface Identification, National Composition Association, Arlington, Virginia, 1976, pp. 34 - 35.
  6. ^ "Deréon - ZeCraft". 

External links[edit]