June 21

The Fann Street Foundry of London was this day in 1820 auctioned to William Thorowgood, manager of a business called Patent “Roller Pump. “This gentleman was previously unconnected with the typographical profession,” wrote Talbot Baines Reed, somewhat disparagingly, in his History of the Old English Letter Foundries. In point of fact, Mr. Thorowgood was taking a flyer, “with the proceeds, it is said, of a fortunate draw in one of the State Lotteries.” His luck apparently continued unabated in his new endeavor, as just a year later he was appointed Letter-Founder to His Majesty King George IV.

Thorowgood learned the typefoundry business rapidly. In his specimen book, issued in 1821, the embryo typefounder wrote: “I cannot omit the opportunity offered in presenting my first specimen to your notice, to return my most sincere thanks to the profession for that portion of their patronage which I have received since my succession to Mr. Thorne. Although some difficulties presented themselves in redeeming the pledge I made of renovating my small founts and casting them of metal more durable than those in common use, yet I flatter myself that those friends who relied upon my professions will bear ample testimony that they have not been disappointed, and that the superior facilities of manufacturing types possessed by myself in common with other founders of the metropolis has been used to their advantage.”

As the Royal Letter-Founder, Thorowgood necessarily had to offer scholarly types, issuing a well-cut Greek, a Fraktur, a Hebrew, and several Russian types. In 1828 he enlarged this collection with the purchase of the well-known foundry operated by Dr. Edmund Fry. It was in the “jobbing” types, however, that the Fann Street Foundry was most successful. The middle years of the 19th century witnessed the unparalleled promotion of display types, and the English foundries were most responsible for nurturing this movement. Ornamental types of every description were in great demand—Tuscans, Fat Faces, Egyptians, Outlines, Inlines, Shadeds, and many more. The fat face named Thorowgood, issued in 1821 and still available, is one of the well-known types to be cast by the Fann Street Foundry. Contemporary types in this style are attributed to Bodoni, here in the United States, bearing such titles as Ultra Bodoni, Bodoni Black, Poster Bodoni, etc. These types, however, are much more mechanical in form than Thorowgood.

In 1838 Thorowgood took on as a partner Robert Besely, who later became Lord Mayor of London and who created the best known of the types called Clarendons, these being the Egyptian or square-serifed types with the addition of bracketed serifs. In the middle 1950’s such a style experienced a strong revival which is still running its course. In 1849 Thorowgood retired, the firm being renamed Robert Besely & Co. In 1861 the firm became Reed & Fox, and in 1877 Sir Charles Reed & Co. Talbot Baines Reed, younger son of Sir Charles, managed the foundry until his premature death in 1893 when it was taken over by A. W. Tillie. Finally it was acquired by Stephenson, Blake & Company, which remains the principal English typefoundry.

Leave a Reply