Skip to main content

Adobe Caslon

By Adobe

The Englishman William Caslon punchcut many roman, italic, and non-Latin typefaces from 1720 until his death in 1766. At that time most types were being imported to England from Dutch sources, so Caslon was influenced by the characteristics of Dutch types. He did, however, achieve a level of craft that enabled his recognition as the first great English punchcutter. Caslon's roman became so popular that it was known as the script of kings, although on the other side of the political spectrum (and the ocean), the Americans used it for their Declaration of Independence in 1776. The original Caslon specimen sheets and punches have long provided a fertile source for the range of types bearing his name. Identifying characteristics of most Caslons include a cap A with a scooped-out apex; a cap C with two full serifs; and in the italic, a swashed lowercase v and w. Caslon's types have achieved legendary status among printers and typographers, and are considered safe, solid, and dependable.

Carol Twombly designed this Caslon revival for Adobe in 1990, after studying Caslon's own specimen sheets from the mid-eighteenth century. This elegant version is quite true to the source, and has been optimized for the demands of digital design and printing. Adobe Caslon? makes an excellent text font and includes just about everything needed by the discriminating typographer: small caps, Old style Figures, swash letters, alternates, ligatures, expert characters, central European characters, and a plethora of period ornaments.

Considered the first original English typeface, it shares many characteristics of the Dutch Baroque type fonts of the era, and may be a variation on the Dutch Fell type fonts cut by Voskens or Van Dyck at that time. From 1725 through to 1730 three books printed by William Bower used roman and italic fonts cut by Caslon. The fonts were popular throughout the British Empire including the American Colonies, where they acquired their distinctive appearance from the exposure to salt air during the voyage from Britain.

The popularity of the font diminished upon Caslon’s death but revived during the British Arts and Crafts movement of the 1840s to 1880s. Currently the Caslon font is in wide use and considered the standard for typesetters and printers. The rule of thumb continues to be, when in doubt use Caslon.

Because a bold weight was not used commonly to create emphasis in type at the time of the development of the Caslon font, Caslon never designed a bold font weight. This peculiarity of the font style has stayed with it through several revivals.

The close of the 19th Century has seen three major changes in the technology of typesetting that affected the Caslon font. Beginning with the introduction of hot type and then the development of phototypesetting in the 60s and 70s, we then saw the recent change to digital fonts that began in the mid 1980s. All of these technological changes have seen redesigns of the Caslon font, some with very little similarity to the original font outside of serif and the name.

References:
http://www.hyperborea.org/les-mis/font.html

This is such a versatile font that it can be found in a wide variety of places. Benjamin Franklin used it extensively and in fact it was the font used to set both the Declaration of Independence and the U.S. Constitution. George Bernard Shaw required that all his plays be set in Caslon. In more modern times, it was the True Type Caslon Antique font that was used as the title font for the play Les Miserables.