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Boswell’s Life of Samuel Johnson

Contributed by Florian Hardwig on Mar 24th, 2013. Artwork published in .
Boswell’s Life of Samuel Johnson
Source: swallace99. License: All Rights Reserved.

Selected and Abridged by Edmund Fuller. A Laurel Classic. Dell Books LC145, 1960


  • Caslon No. 471 & 540




Artwork location

8 Comments on “Boswell’s Life of Samuel Johnson

  1. This Caslon Italic is based on ATF’s Caslon 540 from 1902, which in turn goes back to William Caslon I’s eighteenth-century types.

    I tried to get as close as possible with digital fonts. The L–f combination in the image is obviously customized. So is the shortened ascender of the ‘h’.

    From top to bottom:
    Berthold Caslon 471
    Elsner+Flake’s Caslon 540
    Bitstream’s Caslon 540
    ITC Founder’s Caslon 42, Justin Howes (1998), with non-swashy ‘J’
    ITC Letraset Caslon Italic & Swashes, Freda Sack (1981), with non-swashy ‘J’

  2. It’s not quite correct to call that last one ITC Caslon. When that was released in 1981, it was a Letraset face called Caslon Swashes and contained only the swash characters, intended to be used with Caslon 540 Italic, which had been carried by Letraset probably forever.

    The reason it’s listed as an ITC face is only because Letraset acquired ITC later on, and since then Letraset faces have been listed as part of ITC’s digital font library, even though they did not originate at ITC.

  3. Thank you, Mark. I had hoped you would chime in. For the Letraset–ITC question: Yes, that is why I wrote “digital fonts”. There is a Letraset version available, too, but that one has the swash alternates hidden away under incorrect codepoints. It was easier to create that setting with the OT version published by ITC.

    Now for the more interesting question: What did Milton Glaser use for this cover? If the date (1960) is correct, that’s too early for Letraset, certainly for the swashes. Of course, the letterforms were around in some form since the 18th century. But what is a likely model that was available to him?

  4. ATF issued a set of matching swatch characters for Caslon 540 in the 1920s. Letraset just copied them. Glaser could have worked from foundry type proofs or film settings from a Typositor or similar.

  5. One thing I’ve wondered for a while is when odd new characters that aren’t in Caslon’s style started to leak into Caslon fonts—I notice how all but one of the italic Caslons in the top comment have open-form italic h, which Caslon apparently never cut.

    Justin Howes’ 2000 article on Caslon from Matrix, which I’ve finally got round to reading, gives the answer. Apparently there was some kind of mysterious updating of the original Caslon types—date and details unknown, but certainly done by 1844 and possibly decades older than that—that added new sorts like a new Q, Q, T and Y without swashes and an open-form italic h. The article isn’t very clearly illustrated, but I suppose that’s what you see in this 1847 book, Byrne’s Euclid from the Chiswick Press: open-form h throughout and a Baskerville-style Q at bottom right, even though the book is printed in an archaic style with archaic ligatures and the long s.

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