Caslon, William

Caslon, William

Caslon, William, 1692-1766, English type designer, b. Worcestershire. He worked first in London as an engraver of gunlocks, then set up his own foundry in 1716. The merits of Caslon's types were rediscovered after a brief eclipse in the popularity of John Baskerville's types. Caslon's individual letters are less impressive than those of Baskerville and Giambattista Bodoni, but their regularity, legibility, and sensitive proportions constituted a remarkable achievement in design. His typefaces were used for most important printed works from c.1740 to c.1800. One such example is the first printed version of the United States Declaration of Independence. Some Caslon types are still in use. His business was carried on by his eldest son, William (1720-78).

See biography by J. Ball (1974).

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

Caslon shares the irregular characteristic of Venetian ("antiqua") and 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 italic has a rhythmic calligraphic stoke. Characters A, V, and W have an acute slant. In Caslon 540 and 471 the lowercase italic p, q, v, w, and z all have a suggestion of a swash.


Caslon's earliest design dates to 1734. Caslon is cited to be the first original typeface of English origin, but some type historians point out the close similarity of Caslon's design to the Dutch Fell types. 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 saw 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," particularly if no font was specified.


With the rise of hot metal typesetting beginning at the close of the 19th century, existing foundry metal typefaces had to be adapted to specific typesetting technology. This was true again 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, there are many typefaces called "Caslon" with some other distinguishing element.

Some of the more popular revivals include Caslon 540, from American Type Founders in 1902, and Caslon 3, a slightly bolder variant also from ATF in 1905.

Adobe Caslon (1990)

It is a variant designed by Carol Twombly, which is based on the Caslon's own specimen pages printed by William Caslon between 1734 and 1770. Small caps, old style figures, swash letters, alternates, ligatures, alternate letters, ornaments are included with Adobe Caslon Expert family.

In Adobe Caslon Pro, it incorporates the previous expert letters, and added ordinals, fractions, subscripts and superscripts, and expanded character set to Adobe CE and Adobe Western 2.

ITC Founder's Caslon (1998)

Digitized by Justin Howes, he used on the resources of the St. Bride Printing Library in London to thoroughly research William Caslon and his types. Unlike previous digital revivals, this family closely follows the tradition of building separate fonts intended for different sizes, despite the use of scalable fonts in the digital counterpart.

This family was released by ITC in December 1998, which includes separate fonts for 12 point, 30 point, 42 point, and Poster sizes, and a font for ornaments. Also following the original Caslon types, it does not include bold fonts, but uses old style figures for all numbers.

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

In OpenType Std version of the font, small caps are added to the family. Character set is updated to support ISO Adobe.

H. W. Caslon version

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

Caslon Old Face is a text font family 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 font containing ornament glyphs.

These fonts are packaged in 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 was no longer in business, and the expanded Founders Caslon is no longer offered in retail market.

LTC Caslon (2005)

It is a remastering of 14 point Caslon font, created by Lanston Type Company. This family include fonts in 2 weights, and complementary italics, and long descender fonts based on the Lanston Monotype designed in 1915 called Caslon 337. Character sets are expanded to include fractions, ligatures, swashes (italics only), Central European characters.

LTC Caslon Remix

It is a variant of LTC Caslon Pro found in P22 Records music CD called William Caslon Experience, an album by The William Caslon Experience (Nate Butler, Mart Schaefer) remixed by Odiorne. The CD is included with the purchase of the LTC Caslon family.


  • 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 978-0879233334.
  • 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 0486402819 , 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

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