June 2

In Berwyn, Illinois on this date in 1897, Frederic W. Goudy, a bookkeeper of sorts, married Bertha Sprinks, whom he had known for about seven years. He thereby acquired a helpmate who exerted a most powerful influence on his subsequent career, as Bertha Goudy became one of its motivating forces.

Almost immediately she was helping him to obtain recognition in the craft of lettering, which was then just a side line to Goudy. Working as cashier of The Michigan Farmer in Detroit, he was studying book design and lettering. He received a commission to draw some initials for a St. Louis typefoundry. He drew the letters in pencil and Bertha inked them in. When the work lagged she insisted that it be completed.

When the Village Press was formed, Bertha was the bookbinder, but in a short time it was realized that there would not be sufficient income for the Goudys and also for Will Ransom, their partner. Fred bought Ransom’s interest and thus by default Bertha Goudy became the compositor for the Press. She attained such proficiency that Ransom later said of her, “She gave to the Village Press not only intense enthusiasm and magnificent courage but also a deft craftsmanship already well developed in other media. She turned from a hand-loom to a case of type with certain assurance and, from the first, showed a rare natural aptitude for composition, which has remained her special forte.”

In a moving memoir of their lives together Goudy wrote:

“She had an intuitive sense of spacing—a sense almost uncanny in her ability to judge the amount of matter that would or would not go in a line—and if by chance she omitted a word or a letter, I frequently marvelled at her success in getting the omitted words in without extensive running over and without spoiling the general effect. Her setting was very accurate because she invariably read the lines in the ‘stick,’ but occasionally she would repeat inadvertently the last word of a line at the beginning of the next. She liked to leave out commas, and many were the arguments on this point. I was a stickler for typesetting traditions and she delighted in disregarding them.”

Paul Bennett, a good friend of the Goudys, observed at one time that Bertha was “one of the greatest of women printers, one with a longer and more prolific record in private press annals than any other woman—and the most valuable.”

Four years after her death in 1935, her husband wrote of her, “For nearly two-score years she unselfishly aided me in every way in my work in the fields of type design and typography, and enabled me to secure a measure of success which I, alone, never could have achieved.”

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