Frederic Goudy

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Frederic W. Goudy in 1924

Frederic W. Goudy (Bloomington, Illinois, March 8, 1865 – Marlborough-on-Hudson, May 11, 1947) was a prolific American printer, artist and type designer whose typefaces include Copperplate Gothic, Kennerly, and Goudy Old Style.[1]


A brochure cover hand-lettered by Goudy in the early 1900s.

Goudy was not always a type designer. "At 40, this short, plump, pinkish, and puckish gentleman kept books for a Chicago Realtor, and considered himself a failure. During the next 36 years, starting almost from scratch at an age when most men are permanently set in their chosen vocations, he cut 113 fonts of type, thereby creating more usable faces than did the seven greatest inventors of type and books, from Gutenberg to Garamond."[2]

Asked how to say his name, he told The Literary Digest "When I was a boy my father spelled our name 'Gowdy' which didn't offer any particular reason for verbal gymnastics. Later learning that the old Scots spelling was 'Goudy,' he changed to that form, while I, for some years, retained the old way. My brother in Chicago still spells with the w. However, I find that occasionally a stranger pronounces the word with ou as long o in go, sometimes as ou in soup, or goo and less frequently with the ou as oo in good. I retain the original pronunciation with ou as in out."[3]

"Printing" by William Morris, as reprinted by the Village Press, run by Goudy with Will Ransom, c. 1903

In 1903, Goudy and Will Ransom founded the Village Press in Park Ridge, Illinois. This venture was modeled on the Arts and Crafts movement ideals of William Morris. It was moved to Boston, and then New York. In 1908, he created his first significant typeface for the Lanston Monotype Machine Company: E-38, sometimes known as Goudy Light. However, in that same year the Village Press burned to the ground, destroying all of his equipment and designs. In 1911, Goudy produced his first "hit", Kennerley Old Style, for an H. G. Wells anthology published by Mitchell Kennerley. His most widely used type, Goudy Old Style, was released by the American Type Founders Company in 1915, becoming an instant classic.[4][5]

From 1920 to 1947, Goudy was art director for Lanston Monotype. Beginning in 1927, Goudy was a vice-president of the Continental Type Founders Association, which distributed many of his faces. By the end of his life, Goudy had designed 122 typefaces and published 59 literary works. His wife, Bertha Goudy (1869–1935), was a compositor of type. The couple had a son, Frederic T. Goudy.

It has been claimed that Goudy was the originator of the well-known statement, "Any man who would letterspace blackletter would shag sheep."[6]


Specimens of typefaces designed by Frederic Goudy
A sample advertisement made with Kennerley Old Style, from a 1915 typeface catalogue

Goudy was the third most prolific type designer in the United States (behind Morris Fuller Benton and R. Hunter Middleton), with ninety faces actually cut and cast, and many more designs completed. His most famous were Copperplate Gothic and Goudy Old Style.[7] Besides printing, he also worked on numerous hand-lettering projects (especially early in his career) and created a large set of ampersands for an article on the topic.[8]

Goudy's career was influenced by the Arts and Crafts movement and the growth of fine book printing in the United States. At a time when printing types had become quite mechanical and geometric under the influence of Didone designs such as Bodoni, Goudy spent his career developing old-style serifs often influenced by the printing of the Italian Renaissance and calligraphy, with a characteristic warmth and irregularity. His neighbour, Eric Sloane, recalled that he also took inspiration from hand-painted signs.[9] In contrast to his great contemporary Morris Fuller Benton, he generally avoided sans-serif designs, though he did create the nearly sans-serif Copperplate Gothic, inspired by engraved letters, early in his career and a few others later. As a result, many of his designs may look quite similar to modern readers. He also developed a number of typefaces influenced by blackletter medieval manuscripts, illuminated manuscript capitals and Roman capitals engraved in stone. Some of his most famous designs such as Copperplate Gothic and Goudy Stout are unusual deviations from his normal style.[10] His sans-serif series, Goudy Sans, adopts an eccentric humanist style with a calligraphic italic.[11][12] Quite unlike most sans-serif types of the period, it was unpopular in his lifetime but revived several times since.[13][14][15]

As an independent artist and consultant, Goudy needed to undertake a large range of commissions to survive, and sought patronage from companies who would commission a typeface for their own printing and advertising. This led to him producing a large range of designs on commission, some of which were lost after his a fire destroyed his studio in 1939 as they were never widely sold to the general public.[1] His career was aided by new technologies making it easier to cut matrices for printing rapidly. While most of his designs are 'old-style' serif faces, they do still explore a wide range of aspects of the genre, with Deepdene offering a strikingly upright italic, Goudy Modern merging traditional old-style letters with the insistent, horizontal serifs of Didone faces of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries and Goudy Old Style being sold with a swash italic for display use.[16][5] Goudy kept records of his work (though most of these do not survive due to the fire), giving his typefaces numbers for his own use in a similar way to the opus numbers used by composers. Almost uniquely for type designers of the metal type era, he wrote extensively on his work, including a thorough commentary on each of his designs late in life.

The printer Daniel Berkeley Updike, while in general respecting his work, echoed William Addison Dwiggins' comment that his work lacked 'a certain snap and acidity'.[17][18]

University of California Old Style in regular and italic styles, compared to two digitisations: Californian FB and Berkeley Old Style Medium.

In 1938 he designed University of California Old Style, for the sole proprietary use of the University of California Press. The Lanston Monotype Company released a version of this typeface as Californian for wider distribution in 1956, while ITC created a well-known adaptation (and expansion) called Berkeley Old Style or ITC Berkeley, in 1983.[19][20][21]


Printed by Goudy[edit]


  1. ^ a b Shaw, Paul. "An appreciation of Frederic W. Goudy as a type designer". Retrieved 12 July 2015. 
  2. ^ Type By Goudy
  3. ^ Charles Earle Funk, What's the Name, Please?, Funk & Wagnalls, 1936
  4. ^ "LTC Goudy Oldstyle". MyFonts. Monotype. Retrieved 2 July 2015. 
  5. ^ a b "LTC Goudy Old Style Cursive". MyFonts. LTC. Retrieved 27 August 2015. 
  6. ^ According to typographer Erik Spiekermann, co-author of "Stop Stealing Sheep" ( 15.Oct.2005)
  7. ^ Carter, Sebastian (2002). Twentieth century type designers : Sebastian Carter. (New ed.). Aldershot: Lund Humphries. p. 45. ISBN 9780853318514. 
  8. ^ Kegler & Kahn. "Goudy Aries". P22. P22. Retrieved 27 August 2015. 
  9. ^ Sloane, Eric (2006). Return to Taos : Eric Sloane's sketchbook of roadside Americana. Mineola, NY: Dover Publications. p. 8. ISBN 9780486447735. 
  10. ^ Rimmer, Jim. "Poster Paint". Fontspring. Canada Type. 
  11. ^ My type design philosophy by Martin Majoor
  12. ^ "LTC Goudy Sans". MyFonts. LTC. Retrieved 27 August 2015. 
  13. ^ "Goudy Sans FS". Fontsite. Retrieved 27 August 2015. 
  14. ^ "ITC Goudy Sans". ITC. MyFonts. Retrieved 27 August 2015. 
  15. ^ "Adobe ITC Goudy Sans". MyFonts. Adobe. Retrieved 27 August 2015. 
  16. ^ "LTC Goudy Modern". MyFonts. LTC. Retrieved 27 August 2015. 
  17. ^ Updike, Daniel Berkeley (1922). Printing types : their history, forms, and use; a study in survivals vol 2 (1st ed.). Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press. p. 243. Retrieved 17 August 2015. 
  18. ^ Frazier, J.L. (1925). Type Lore. Chicago. p. 103. Retrieved 24 August 2015. 
  19. ^ "Californian FB". Font Bureau. Retrieved 19 June 2015. 
  20. ^ "LTC Californian". MyFonts. LTC. Retrieved 27 August 2015. 
  21. ^ "University Old Style (BOS digitisation)". Fontsite. Retrieved 27 August 2015. 

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