Wood Type


Wood Type - Caslon | International Printing Museumby Jim Thompson, IPM Board of Trustees

Caslon is the first original English typeface. Designed and cut in metal by William Caslon, the first few sizes were issued in 1722. This new typeface quickly replaced many of the Dutch typefaces used previously. Its popularity in England led to its being exported throughout the British Empire including the American colonies. It was a favorite type for Ben Franklin who had met Caslon in London, and he recommended its use to other printers as well. When the Declaration of Independence was written, it was printed using Caslon’s type (see below) so that King George would have no trouble reading the text.

Declaration of Independence | International Printing Museum

By 1800 this typeface had fallen out of favor. In 1860 Lawrence Johnson arranged to reissue Caslon’s type under the name of Old Style since naming type after the designer was not yet in vogue. The reissue was successful, and in 1878 Old Style first appeared as wood-type No.119 in a specimen book by Page. Out sample “Liberty” is a 5 line version of Old Style Bold (now Caslon Bold) by Hamilton.

Since 1900 there have been many re-cuts and additional variations so that the McGrew book on metal typefaces shows over 50 versions of Caslon. Those that are true to their origin are still in use today. One of these has been used for “United States of America” on the fuselage of Air Force One (see below).

Air Force One | International Printing Museum