Was born at Cradley, Worcestershire. In 1716 he was established as a London engraver of the highly decorated gun locks and barrels of the peroid. He also specialized in cutting the ‘shapes’ that bookbinders used for “tooling” the beautiful leather-bound volumes of the day. This is what brought him into contact with the printing trade.
He was encouraged by William Bowyer to set up a type factory, where he cast so clear and legible a letter that he soon secured patronage of the finest printers in England and also Europe. His businesss was continued by his son William (1720-1778)
Caslon the Typeface
Caslon is a family of serif typefaces designed by William Caslon I (1692-1766). His earliest design dates to 1734. Caslon is cited to be the first original typeface of English origin, but some type historians point out the close similarity of Caslon’s design to the Dutch Fell types.
Caslon shares the irregular characteristic of Venetian (“antiqua”) and Dutch Baroque types. It is characterized by short ascenders and descenders, bracketed serifs, moderately-high contrast, robust texture, and moderate modulation of stroke. The A has a concave hollow at the apex, the G is without a spur. Caslon italic has a rhythmic calligraphic stoke. Characters A, V, and W have an acute slant. In Caslon 540 and 471 the lowercase italic p, q, v, w, and z all have a suggestion of a swash.
The Caslon types were distributed throughout the British Empire, including British North America. Much of the decayed appearance of early American printing is thought to be due to oxidation caused by long exposure to seawater during transport from England to the Americas. Caslon’s types were immediately successful and used in many historic documents, including the U.S. Declaration of Independence. After William Caslon I’s death the use of his types diminished, but saw a revival between 1840-80 as a part of the British Arts and Crafts movement. The Caslon design is still widely used today. For many years a common rule of thumb of printers and typesetters was to “set it in Caslon” if no font was specified.
Recent digital versions were produced by Adobe and H.W. Caslon & Company. Their “Founders Caslon” closely follows William Caslon’s original design, with the addition of “ct” and “st” ligatures not found in the original.