william caslon

Posted 2:04 PM by Philippa Hoey in

William Caslon was born in 1692 in cradley, Worcestershire, England. In 1706 at the age of 13 he began a seven-year apprenticeship as an engraver with a London harness marker. In 1716 he became a self-employed engraver of gunlocks and barrels, and as a bookbinders tool cutter. In 1721 the society for promoting Christian knowledge commissioned Caslon to cast Arabic alphabets where his font became an instant success. In around 1720 William Caslon founded a typeface foundry called the Caslon Foundry. That foundry became the leading English typeface foundry of the 18th and early 19th centuries. He died in 1766. Caslon is cited as the first original typeface of English origin.

Caslon’s font is characterized by its short ascenders and decenders, bracketed serifs, moderately high contrast, robust texture and moderate modulation of stroke. The Caslon’s typeface has become one of the most famous typefaces in the world today. The first copy of the declaration of independence was printed in Caslon. There are many typefaces that have been derived from Caslon’s font in existence. Caslon’s type is now considered a good, readable typeface for text.


William Caslon designed a number of serif typefaces in his lifetime, some of which are still used today. The first three fonts by William Caslon were Arabic, Hebrew and Koptic. He also designed typefaces such as Caslon 540, Caslon Bold, Caslon Old Face, Big Caslon, Caslon Open Face, Williams Caslon Text and most likely in any other that has the name ‘Caslon’ on it.

The United States Declaration of Independence was set in Caslon type, which would have to be one of William Caslon’s greatest accomplishments.

The name ‘Caslon’ comes from the 18th Century typeface that was designed by William Caslon. This serif typeface was printed in the earliest English language texts and is also know to the typeface used for the New Yorker Magazine.

William Caslon’s typefaces immediately became popular and were used for many important printed works. Caslon’s type became so popular that the expression about the typeface choice, ‘when in doubt, use Caslon,’ came about.

After William Caslon’s death in 1766, his typefaces fell out of favour but were revived in the 1840s, some of which are widely used today.

In 1716 he built his own type foundary in London, which produced some 16 years later his most famous typeface Caslon. He first started out in his business as an engraver of gunlocks and barrels and as a bookbinders tool cutter. He later established contact and encouragement through the printers William Bowyer and John Watts that lead to cutting type punches for various presses London.

In 1720 he designed an “English Arabic” typeface used in the New Testament. Soon after in 1722 he released his first typefaces, which were based on seventeenth century Dutch old style designs and were used extensively in England because of their practicality. 1726 was when the typeface Caslon was first used and soon after it’s release he received loans and sufficient trade, which enabled him to complete the setup of his foundary. Up until the 1780’s there were few books that weren’t printed in one of his typefaces.

In 1735 his typefaces spread all over Europe and American colonies that lead to the font being used to print the American Declaration of Independence. His son William Caslon II soon joined the company and in 1745 became partner and took over the family business after his death.




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