May 8

“Dear Sol,” wrote Frederic W. Goudy on May 8, 1947 in what was to be the last of countless letters which had come from the hand of the great type designer, “I would have written you long ago except for an acute attack of neuritis which has kept me in the house since early in March, and finally culminated a few weeks ago in a heart block so that until the past few days the Dr. wouldn’t even let me go upstairs to bed. I am better just now but unable to do any work yet. Thank you for sending the photo to the professor in Evanston. Ill. I had a letter from him but wasn’t strong enough to look up a photo or write to him. I get requests for autographed portraits 3 or 4 times a month, but only occasionally do any enclose postage. They seem to think I do nothing but pose for photos. Can you or will you have two or three more like these I am sending you made for me and send me the bill for them? They will give me something to use when such a request comes that I want to accept. Am glad Harvey is looking better, tell him “hello” for me when you next see him. Regards to my friends at the Mono.”

Three days later Fred Goudy was dead, on the eleventh of May. So passed the man who was probably the last of the great individualistic type designers this nation shall ever see. From the time fifty-two years ago when he had sent a most tentative set of sketches for an alphabet of type to the Dickinson Type Foundry of Boston and had secured in return a check for ten dollars, Goudy had been a type designer. He had also been a letterer, a typographer, a prolific writer, and the operator of a most distinguished private press. But it is as a type designer that he will be best remembered.

By 1944 when he completed his last design, 123 types had come from his drawing board. A number of these were never actually cut or otherwise cast into printer’s types, but they had been conceived by the designer as finished letterforms. Out of that vast output some forty-three types are still available, a number of them being in everyday use. It is unfortunate that Goudy never produced a type specifically for the linecasting machine, the dominant typesetting machine in this country, a factor which has limited the wider use of his types. Almost all the Goudy designs were made for the Monotype machine. This has in one respect been useful to the small printer, enabling him to have in his cases of type for hand composition a selection of the Goudy types.

Very far from being “the boastful old man who has designed a hundred types,” as Henry Lewis Bullen described him, Goudy was a man of considerable modesty obsessed by a dream—a dream of beautiful letters, and his role in their creation. It is for this reason that his types speak for themselves and he shall ever be honored as their designer.

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