Printers To Observe Goudy Centenary March 8

Monotyportrait of Frederic W. Goudy by Earl H. Emmons, 1935

Monotyportrait of Frederic W. Goudy by Earl H. Emmons, 1935

Goudy was among the last of a breed of type designers who regarded type as something artistic as well as functional.

March 8 will mark a most significant event—the centenary of the birth of the great Frederic W. Goudy.

Today, with the printer attempting to keep pace with the astonishing technological changes now taking place in the industry, there seems to be little time to look back over a century in order to reconstruct some fundamental values. Were the contributions of Goudy significant? If they were and are, can they continue to be meaningful in a world in which simplicity appears to be an anachronism?

Certainly, Goudy represents that spirit of craftsmanship so roundly denounced by the new breed of technicians who are so eager to revitalize our industry. In their lexicon, better appears to be synonymous with faster and cheaper. Type, to the computer engineer, means alpha-numeric symbols, and his mission is to create these characters in a form which will allow their composition at astronomical speeds.

During the last 30 years of his life, Fred Goudy enjoyed an international reputation as a designer f letters and was truly considered one of the great men in the craft of printing. And enjoy this reputation he did. He lectured all over the United States, he received honorary degrees from Syracuse university, the University of California and Mills College, and was awarded gold medals by numerous societies.

Throughout this period, he was actively producing new types. In his autobiography, A Half Century of Type Design and Typography, published in 1946 by the Typophiles, Goudy lists 123 designs. Of these 93 were produced between 1917 and 1944.

Frederic Goudy was born in Bloomington, Ill. During his childhood and youth, he lived and worked in several other Midwest towns before going to Chicago in 1890. Originally trained as a bookkeeper, he took just such a position with a Chicago real estate firm. It became his responsibility o plan some real estate advertising.

The ads he laid out were noticeably different from those of other firms then appearing in the newspapers. They drew the attention of the editor of The Inland Printer, A.H. McQuilkin, who introduced the young man to several Chicago designers, including the late Will Bradley.

The last decade of the 19th century was an exciting period typographically. The work of the Englishman, William Morris, was being widely discussed. Goudy was sufficiently influenced to give up bookkeeping and to organize a small printing office called the Booklet Press, a name which was later changed to Camelot Press. In 1896 he drew an alphabet of capitals, which he sent to the Dickinson Type Foundry in Boston, asking if they were worth $5. He received a check for $10 and thereupon launched a new career. The type was named Camelot, and was given a lower-case alphabet by another designer.

By 1903 Goudy had established his Village Press in Park Ridge, Il. He moved it to Hingham, Mass., in 1904, and then to New York City in 1906. It was there in 1911, that he produced his first widely accepted type, Kennerley, which fully established his reputation as a type designer. The much-admired titling Forum was also cut in 1911. Goudy originally sold these types himself. The punches were cut by Robert Wiebking in Chicago and cast by American Type Founders. Later they were acquired by the Lanston Monotype Co., the firm for which Goudy was appointed the art director in 1920.

In 1915 he sold to the American Type Founders the design which became probably the most successful of all his types—Goudy Oldstyle. Goudy cut the original lightface version, and the subsequent variants of Goudy Bold and Goudy Catalog, with their italics, were made by the foundry. Goudy was displeased with these designs and seldom hesitated to mention the matter when questioned.

From this point on, new types issued in a steady stream from his hand. Garamont, Italian Oldstyle, Deepdene, and Goudy Text were all produced for Monotype. In 1923, Goudy’s intense individuality brought about the establishment of his own type foundry at Marlborough-on-Hudson. There he also purchased a home which he named Deepdene. Without question, he then entered the happiest and most productive period of his life. Secure in his recognition as a foremost type designer, he began to experiment with roman letters based upon renaissance Italian models, constantly seeking the perfection of the style.

He became impatient with printers who, admiring his types, asked for their production in series. By the time that Goudy had cut one or two sizes of a new type, he was off on a new quest—to improve and remodel. He was then accused of being in love with numbers and of seeking adulation as the most prolific of type designers. Even the astute Henry Lewis Bullen, who was in charge of the ATF library, called him, in print, “a most boastful old man.”

Anyone who studies this period in Goudy’s career will be able to observe his dedication to perfection, his quest to develop and master the tools which would lend themselves to the more precise production of still more beautiful letterforms.

It was at Deepdene that he suffered the two great disasters of his life. In 1935, he lost his wife Bertha, who had worked at his side since 18, an who was his partner in every venture. And in 1939, fire destroyed his workshop and took with it a great part of his life’s work in the form of matrices and drawings. Of the few designs which followed this calamity, only Goudy Thirty is a type which will continue to serve its designer. Its name was really prophetic, since it closed out a magnificent career which gave to the printers of the world some of the most distinguished types ever cast into metal.

Goudy’s attitude toward his work is probably best expressed in his own words. In the introduction to a biography written for The Inland Printer by Peter Beilenson, Goudy states:

“I really believe that I am the first (in this country, at least) to attempt to draw letters for types as things artistic as well as useful, rather than to construct them as a mechanical might, without regard for any esthetic considerations . . . In the main, I feel that he [Beilenson] has more nearly interpreted what I have attempted than other writers, some of whom too often have exploited me, the individual, rather tan the things I have tried to bring about.”

This article first appeared in the February 1965 issue of The Inland Printer/American Lithographer.

One Comment

  1. […] Archivist’s Note 14 Posted on 9 March 2010 by ASL archivist, under Archivist’s Notes. In support of the Typocurious’s 2010 theme “Type Designer of the Month,” the Lawson Archive will post a non–Printer’s Almanac article or two each month relating to whomever the type designer of the month is. The entire month of March is dedicated to Frederic W. Goudy. Here, from the February 1965 issue of The Inland Printer/American Lithographer, is “Printers To Observe Goudy Centenary March 8.” […]

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