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For other uses or meanings of Caslon, see Caslon (disambiguation).
William Caslon
200 × 271
William Caslon I in an engraved portrait by John Faber the Younger
Born 1693
Cradley, Worcestershire
Died 23 January 1766 (aged 72–73)
London, England
Occupation Gunsmith and type designer

William Caslon (1693 – 23 January 1766), also known as William Caslon I, was an English gunsmith and designer of typefaces.[1] He was born at Cradley, Worcestershire, and in 1716 started business in London as an engraver of gun locks and barrels, and as a bookbinder's tool cutter. Having contact with printers, he was induced to fit up a type foundry, largely through the encouragement of William Bowyer. The distinction and legibility of his type secured him the patronage of the leading printers of the day in England and on the continent.

A specimen sheet of typefaces and languages, by William Caslon I, letter founder; from the 1728 Cyclopaedia

Personal Life[edit]

William Caslon, the Elzevir of England. He belong to a family of Castledowne, Castledone, Casleton or Caslon. He was a son of George and Mary Caslon, he went to Halesowen free school, which was re-establish later. [2] pg2,21,32 Caslon was married three times, his first married to Sarah Pearman, daughter of Thomas butcher in 1717. They had two sons and a daughter. One of the son William Caslon II, joined his father in the foundry. Outside his business Caslon was devoted to music. He used to perform himself, though for this he is not known. He like music that much that he used to concert at his house.[3]

Early Life[edit]

William caslon has an undeniable eminence in a branch of the art of printing, the art preservative of all arts and he also holds the well deserved title of "the foremost English type founder".[4]pgXVII Caslon was a probationer to an engraving firm at the age of 13. Caslon, a young man not long out his apprenticeship, making living through a shop of his own in Vine Street, nera the Minories. He had learned the business of engraving and chasing the locks and barrels of guns, which in his time were often ornate and gave ample scope for abilities of a fine artist. He also did engraving of other kinds, and on occasion would cut letters in brass for a binder.[5].Caslon accepted a project in 1720 to create a typeface for a New Testament in Arabic and following with his Roman typeface was a rapid success.[6]


Caslon's typefaces were inspired by the Dutch Baroque types, the most commonly used types in England before Caslon's faces. His designs influenced John Baskerville and are thus the progenitors of the typeface classifications Transitional (which includes Baskerville, Bulmer, and Fairfield), and Modern (which includes Bell, Bodoni, Didot, and Walbaum). Caslon's type design's were not particularly fashionable or innovative. They owed their tremendous popularly and appeal to an outsatanding legibility and study texture that made them comfortable and friendly to the eye.[7]

Caslon typefaces were immediately popular and used for many important printed works, including the first printed version of the United States Declaration of Independence. Caslon's types became so popular that the expression about typeface choice, "when in doubt, use Caslon," came about. The Caslon types fell out of favour in the century after his death, but were revived in the 1840s. Several revivals of the Caslon types are widely used today.

The Caslon family tomb in the churchyard of St Luke Old Street, London

Death and burial[edit]

Caslon retired from the business altogether to leave his son in charge, and went to live first in the Hackney Road, then at Water Gruel Row, and finally to a country house at Bethnal Green, there at the age of 74 he died.[5]. Caslon died on 23 January 1766, and was buried in the churchyard of St Luke Old Street, London, where the family tomb (bearing his name and others) is preserved.

Caslon Foundry[edit]

William Bowyer and two other printer, Bettenhan and Watts, shows confidence in Caslon and lend him five hundred pounds and this loan enable Caslon to start a new foundry. He chooses his headquarters a garret in Helmet Row in OLd street. Their is no record how he learn the technique of his new business. He was good learner and gaive such a proofs of competence that in 1720 he was commissioned by the "Society for the Promotion of Christian Knowledge" to cut a new fount in arabic to be used in printing of a New Testament and Psalter, which the society intended to distribute in Palestine and Syria..[8]. William Caslon founded the Caslon Foundry at around 1720, which became the leading English typefoundry of the 18th and early 19th centuries.

After the death of William Caslon I, his son William Caslon II took over the Caslon Foundry business, which lasted until William Caslon IV sold the foundry to Blake, Garnett & Co. In 1792, William Caslon III sold his share of Caslon Foundry to his mother and his sister-in-law, the widow of his brother Henry. In the same year, William Caslon III purchased the Salisbury Square foundry from the recently deceased Joseph Jackson, and renamed it to Caslon & Son. In 1807, Caslon & Son was passed to William Caslon IV. In 1819, William Caslon IV sold the Caslon & Son to the new Sheffield foundry of Blake, Garnett & Co. In 1837, the Caslon Foundry became the property of Stephenson, Blake & Co. The family of William Caslon III's sister-in-law kept the main Caslon foundry running until 1937, when Stephenson Blake acquired the remaining H.W. Caslon & Sons foundry.[9] After 275 years, Caslon type is still widely used.[10]

H. W. Caslon and Company Limited[edit]

In 1998, Justin Howes reestablished the Caslon foundry, under the name H. W. Caslon & Company Limited, with an expanded version of ITC Founder’s Caslon as the company's initial product. "H. W. Caslon & Company Limited offers a digital type library drawn from a remarkable range of types historically stocked by the Caslon Foundry, founded in 1720 by England's greatest punch-cutter, William Caslon. Founder's Caslon Old Face, launched in July 2001, includes 14 optically differentiated sizes of the classic type, and is the web's only complete Caslon, available online from [2]"[3]However, following the death of Justin Howes in 2005, the revived H.W. Caslon & Company was no longer in business, and the expanded Founders Caslon is no longer offered in retail market.


Caslon Published a secimen of his arabic, and placed his own name at the foot of it in capitals of letters cut by himself. This was seen by a printer called Palmer, who advised Caslon to continue and to cut the whole fount.[5] This was the first broadside type specimen issued by Caslon.[7]


Famous work[edit]


  • William Caslon II(1720-1778), was a type founder and type designer. In 1742, he joins his father William Caslon company. Father and son issue the first English book of type specimens in 1763, which includes 56 alphabets by William Caslon and 27 by his son Caslon II, these alphabets were designed between 1738 and 1763. After the death of his father, he runs the family business until 1778 [4]
  • William Caslon III(1754-1833), was a type founder. He sold his share of the business to his mother and daugther-in-law and used the money to buy the Jackson type foundry, The type foundry remained the property of the Caslon family until 1795. [5]
  • William Caslon IV(1780-1869), was also a type founder. He takes over the running of the type foundry in 1907 until 1819, when the foundry is bought by Blake, Garnett & Co. 1837: the type foundry, still under the name of Caslon, becomes the property of the Stephenson, Blake & Co. type foundry in Sheffield.[6]


Caslon only rival as a typefounder was John Baskerville. Caslon worked in a tradition of Old Style roman typographic design that had begun over two hundred years earlier during the Italian Renaissance. This tradition was bolstered by Baskerville, an innovator who broke the prevailing rules of design and printing in the books. [7] Caslon must have known Baskerville's work but there is no record of his opinion of it.[12]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Short description in a German museum
  2. ^ Ball, Johnson (1973). William Caslon, Master of letters. The Roundwood Press Limited, Kineton, Warwick. p. 2. ISBN 900093137 Check |isbn= value: length (help). 
  3. ^ Sean, Jennett (1958). Routledge & Kegan Paul Limited. p. 47-58.  Unknown parameter |tittle= ignored (help); Missing or empty |title= (help)
  4. ^ Ball, Johnson (1973). William Caslon, Master of letters. The Roundwood Press Limited, Kineton, Warwick. p. 2. ISBN 900093137 Check |isbn= value: length (help). 
  5. ^ a b c Jennett, Sean (1958). Pioneers in Printing. London: Routlege & kegan Paul Limited. p. 48.  Cite error: Invalid <ref> tag; name "wiliiam_caslon" defined multiple times with different content (see the help page).
  6. ^ [1]
  7. ^ a b c Meggs and Alston, Philip B and W. Purvis. Meggs' History of Graphic Design. 2012: Hoboken: J. Wiley & Sons. p. 126-128. ISBN 978-0-470-16873-8. 
  8. ^ Sean, Jennett (1958). Routledge&Kegan Paul Limited. p. 47.  Unknown parameter |tittle= ignored (help); Missing or empty |title= (help)
  9. ^ Description in the font collection
  10. ^ "caslon work". Philip B. Meggs. Retrieved 9/29/2013.  Check date values in: |access-date= (help)
  11. ^ "great designers". wordpress. 
  12. ^ Jennett, Sean (1958). Pioneers in Printing. London: Routlege & kegan Paul Limited. p. 58. 

Public Domain This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domainChisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). "article name needed". Encyclopædia Britannica (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press. 


  • Ball, Johnson (1973). William Caslon, 1693–1766: the ancestry, life and connections of England's foremost letter-engraver and type-founder. Kineton: Roundwood Press. ISBN 0900093137. 
  • Blackmore, H.L. (1981). "William Caslon, gun engraver". Journal of the Arms and Armour Society. 10: 103–7. 
  • Howes, J. (2000). "Caslon's punches and matrices". Matrix. 20: 1–7. 
  • Mosley, James (1967). "The early career of William Caslon". Journal of the Printing Historical Society. 3: 66–81. 
  • Mosley, James (1984). British type specimens before 1831: a hand-list. Oxford: Oxford Bibliographical Society. ISBN 0901420115. 
  • Mosley, James (1993). "The Caslon foundry in 1902". Matrix. 13: 34–42. 
  • Mosley, James (2008) [2004]. "Caslon, William, the elder (1692–1766)". Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (online ed.). Oxford University Press. doi:10.1093/ref:odnb/4857.  (subscription required)
  • jennett, sean (1958). pioneers in printing. Landon: routlege & kegan paul limited. p. 47-58. 

External links[edit]

Category:1692 births Category:1766 deaths Category:Gunsmiths Category:English typographers Category:British graphic designers Category:People from Cradley, West Midlands Category:Burials in London