December 22

Edmund Fry, M. D., and typefounder, died on this day in 1835, honored as the most learned member of his craft. A son of another medical man, Joseph Fry, who had left his profession to establish the Fry and Pine foundry in Bristol in 1764, Edmund Fry had been educated in medicine, but his vast enthusiasm for the study of philology, coupled with a tendency towards deafness, directed him to typefounding.

Coming into his father’s firm in 1782, Fry immediately took an active part in its affairs and was probably responsible for the purchase of many of the matrices and punches of learned faces when the James Foundry was put up for sale. Under his guidance his own foundry tended more and more to specialize in such types, although in the specimen book which was produced in 1785, the founder stated that he had copied Caslon’s types.

In 1799 Dr. Fry published a book upon which he had been working for over sixteen years. Entitled Pantographia, it was a philological study which contained some 200 alphabets, including thirty-nine Greek and eighteen Chaldee. With the advice of many of the foremost scholars of his time, Dr. Fry himself cut many of the characters which appeared in this notable work.

The changing of the name of the foundry to the Polyglot Foundry in 1824 certainly signified the direction it was taking. It is therefore not surprising that Fry was not at all sympathetic with the fancy types which English printers were then demanding. In 1828, after having spent forty-six years as a typefounder, Dr. Fry placed his business up for sale. Commenting that his father had begun with improved imitations of Baskerville’s types in 1764, and that at the recommendation of customers the firm had then offered types based on those of Caslon, Fry stated that, due to lack of demand, these fine letters were being “taken from the shelves, and carried to the melting-pot.”

Discussing the introduction of the decorative types then in style, Dr. Fry stated, “At which period a rude, pernicious, and most unclassical innovating System was commenced, which in a short time was followed by the most injurious and desolating ravages on the property of every Letter Founder and Printer in the kingdom, by the introduction of fancy letters of various anomalous forms, with names as appropriate—disgraceful in a profession, once held so Sacred, as to have its operations confined to consecrated Buildings and those of the highest class.”

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