Surviving 270 years of typographic trends, technology changes and font fads, Caslon has earned its title of the oldest living typeface. Faces like Garamond or Jenson predate Caslon, but all that is available today are replications of these early designs. Caslon is a different story. The original punches, hand-cut by William Caslon, are still intact and could be used to produce new matrices and fonts that are identical to those used to set type in the early 18th century.
ITC Founder's Caslon History
Not only is Caslon old, it also has staying power. Caslon has been the typeface of choice among printers and typographers for most of its history. It has been used to set nearly every form of printed material: from fine books, to high-pressure advertising, to the most mundane ephemera. Caslon has even been the choice of celebrities. It was the favorite typeface of Benjamin Franklin and was used to set both the Declaration of Independence and the United States Constitution. George Bernhard Shaw, the famous British author and playwright, also insisted that all his work be typeset in Caslon.
ITC Founder’s Caslon was released in the fall of 1998, as a revival of the Caslon typestyle. Drawn by English typographer and printing scholar, Justin Howes, this design is a thoughtful replication of William Caslon’s types. Howes took each size of the original Caslon on its own merits, and digitized it separately, keeping the design’s peculiarities and reproducing it the way it appeared on the printed page of an 18th century document. Out of Caslon’s wide range of sizes and designs, Howes narrowed his family to four fonts: the 12, 30 , 42 and 96-point sizes. (The latter called “Poster.”) This series differs from other digital Caslon “families” in that there is no real variety of weight but, according to Howes, “a difference of texture.”
In his work, Howes created a scale of smoothness as well as size. Founder’s Caslon Twelve, which is taken from printed text type, has noticeably uneven edges, and more irregularities of form than the larger sizes. ITC Founder’s Caslon becomes progressively “cleaner” as the point sizes get larger from the comparatively rugged 12-point, to the sharper – but still displaying the friendly imperfections of antique type – 96-point.
The results? ITC Founder’s Caslon has the warmth and personality of 18th century printing. Howes has delved into the English past and brought that charm back, ready to be deployed in the service of modern goals.