Grace's Guide To British Industrial History

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Grace's Guide is the leading source of historical information on industry and manufacturing in Britain. This web publication contains 147,919 pages of information and 233,587 images on early companies, their products and the people who designed and built them.

Grace's Guide is the leading source of historical information on industry and manufacturing in Britain. This web publication contains 147,919 pages of information and 233,587 images on early companies, their products and the people who designed and built them.

Caslon and Co

From Graces Guide

There are four generations of Caslons involved with the business named Henry Caslon


William Caslon (1692–January 23, 1766), also known as William Caslon I, was an English gunsmith and designer of typefaces.

He was born at Cradley, Worcestershire, and in 1716 started business in London as an engraver of gun locks and barrels, and as a bookbinder's tool cutter. Having contact with printers, he was induced to fit up a type foundry, largely through the encouragement of William Bowyer. The distinction and legibility of his type secured him the patronage of the leading printers of the day in England and on the continent.

Caslon's typefaces were inspired by the Dutch Baroque types, the most commonly used types in England before Caslon's faces. His work influenced John Baskerville and are thus the progenitors of the typeface classifications Transitional (which includes Baskerville, Bulmer, and Fairfield), and Modern (which includes Bell, Bodoni, Didot, and Walbaum).

Caslon typefaces were immediately popular and used for many important printed works, including the first printed version of the United States Declaration of Independence. Caslon's types became so popular that the expression grew up about choosing typeface: "when in doubt, use Caslon".

The Caslon types fell out of favour in the century after his death, but were revived in the 1840s. Several revivals of the Caslon types are widely used today.

The grave of William Caslon is preserved in the churchyard of St Luke Old Street, London.

c.1720 William Caslon founded the Caslon Foundry, which became the leading English type-foundry of the 18th and early 19th centuries.

1734 The business was moved to Chiswell Street where it remained for c.200 years

1750 William Caslon I retired. His son William Caslon II (1720-1778) took over the Caslon Foundry business.

1751 Willliam II (1720–1778) married Elizabeth Cartlich (1730–1795); they had two sons, William III and Henry Caslon (1755-1788).

1766 William Caslon I died.

1778 When William Caslon II died, the foundry was split between three people:

When her husband died intestate, on 17 August 1778, Elizabeth and her sons each inherited one third share of the typefounding business, which she continued as Elizabeth Caslon & Sons

1783 Elizabeth Rowe (c.1755–1809) married Henry Caslon I (c.1755–1788)[1], typefounder, of 62 Chiswell Street; they had a son, Henry II.

1788 Henry I died; Elizabeth inherited his share of the foundry with her son Henry II, then aged two.

1792 William Caslon III (1754-1833) sold his share of Caslon Foundry to his mother (Mrs Caslon II) and his sister-in-law, the widow of his brother Henry I.

1792 Announcement. 'THE WIDOW of the late Mr. WILLIAM CASLONM, Letter-Founder, in Chiswell-street, Moor Fields, acquaints the Gentlemen of the Metropolis, of the three Sister Kingdoms, &c. who have for many years favoured the Family with their Orders, That the Foundery is now conducted by her, for the Benefit of herself, and the Representatives of her late Son Mr. Henry Caslon, who, jointly with her, have fince Mr. Caslon's Decease possessed Two Thirds of the Foondery, and (having lately purchased of her Son, Mr. William Caslon, the remaining Third) are now in possesion of the entire Property of THE ORIGINAL CASLON FOUNDERY....'[2]

In the same year, William Caslon III purchased the foundry of the recently deceased Joseph Jackson in Salisbury Square and renamed it Caslon and Son, so that between 1792 and 1818 there were two distinct Caslon foundries in London

c.1795 Mrs Caslon II died without a will. The management of the Chiswell Street foundry was taken over by her daughter-in-law Elizabeth Caslon (Mrs Henry Caslon); the foundry was put up for auction; Elizabeth purchased it for £520 (a fraction of the price Caslon III had received seven years before). The Caslon name was no longer enough to sell type and the foundry was fading. She commissioned John Drury to cut new types. She also took on Nathaniel Catherwood (a distant relation) as partner in the Caslon Letter Foundry and was able to restore the foundry’s reputation by 1808.

1809 Mrs Henry Caslon and Nathaniel Catherwood both died. Control passed to her son – Henry Caslon II.

H Caslon II brought in Nathaniel's brother, John Catherwood, as a partner.

1821 John Catherwood left.

1822 Martin William Livermore, an employee, was promoted as partner.

1839 Type under the name Caslon, Son and Livermore was released. Henry William Caslon, the son of Henry Caslon II, joined the firm.

1841 Partnership dissolved. Henry Caslon, Martin William Liverlore and Henry William Cason.[3]

1841 Advertisement. Henry Caslon, Chiswell Street, London.[4]

c.1845 The popularity of the Caslon type rose again after its use by the Chiswick Press[5]

1846 The Caslon Letter Foundry offered for sale.[6]

1849 The partnership of Henry Caslon and Henry William Caslon, carrying on business as typefounders Henry Caslon and Son, of 23 Chiswell St, was dissolved[7][8]

1850 Henry Caslon II died. After this, Henry William Caslon was the sole proprietor.

The firm then purchased the Glasgow letter foundry; Alexander and Patrick, the grandsons of the founder, joined the company and it was renamed as H. W. Caslon and Co.

1865 there was an 8-month-long strike and lockout. The two Wilson partners and Thomas White Smith, a trusted employee of the firm since 1857, left

1872 H.W. Caslon became ill and asked Smith to return as manager.

1874 H.W. Caslon died at Medmenham, the last male in the Caslon line; he left the whole foundry to Smith.

Thomas White Smith retained the firm's name as H. W. Caslon and Co. With his encouragement, Smith's sons took the surname Caslon-Smith, which passed to their descendants.

The family of William Caslon III's sister-in-law kept the main Caslon foundry running until 1937, when Stephenson, Blake and Co acquired the remaining H. W. Caslon and Sons foundry.


See Also

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Sources of Information

  1. London and Surrey Marriage Bonds
  2. Hereford Journal - Wednesday 10 October 1792
  3. Gloucester Journal - Saturday 05 June 1841
  4. South Eastern Gazette - Tuesday 14 September 1841
  5. The Times, Nov 03, 1923
  6. Aris's Birmingham Gazette - Monday 12 October 1846
  7. The Times, Apr 18, 1849
  8. London Gazette 17 April 1849
  • [1] Wikipedia
  • William Caslon [2]
  • [3] Caslon typeface
  • Biography of Elizabeth Caslon, ODNB