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Graphion's Online Type Museum
Graphion's Online Type Museum
J. Gutenberg
W. Caxton
A. Manutius
W. Caslon
G. Bodoni
F. Goudy
E. Gill
J. Tschichold
B. Warde’s Crystal Goblet
Typographic glossary

Frederic W. Goudy

Frederic W. Goudy, one of the most popular and prolific American type designers, was born in Springfield, Illinois. He produced his first typeface design in 1896, a display face called Camelot, for the Camelot Press in Chicago, which his friend and he had opened the previous year. By 1900, Goudy took on a position as an instructor of lettering, beginning a lifetime of teaching that inspired such typesetting giants as William A. Dwiggins, Oswald Cooper, and R. Hunter Middleton. In 1903, he and Will H. Ransom founded the Village Press in Park Ridge, Illinois.

Goudy’s career as a printer and designer began to grow with the fortunes of the press. In 1908, he created his first significant typeface for the Lanston Monotype Machine Company: E-38, sometimes known as Goudy Light. However, in that same year the Village Press burned to the ground, destroying all of his equipment and designs. In 1911, Goudy produced his first “hit”, Kennerly Old Style, for an H.G. Wells anthology published by Mitchell Kennerly. His most widely used type, Goudy Oldstyle, was released by the American Type Founders Company in 1915, becoming an instant classic. Its graceful letterforms made it visually appealing, while its shortened descenders allowed printers to squeeze more type on a page.

In the early years of his career, Goudy designed mostly display faces for advertising. As he progressed as a designer, however, his interests moved more toward the perfecting of the traditional roman typeface. He drew his letters by hand, and objected to the mechanistic way that companies such as Monotype produced matrices for his typefaces. So in 1925 he set up a foundry in his home in Marlborough, New York, in order to produce type in a more creative way. By 1927, he was engraving the matrices himself. But in 1939 Goudy’s work was again destroyed by fire, which consumed his home, his foundry, and his quest to achieve the perfect roman. The rest of his life was chiefly devoted to teaching and lecturing.