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Elizabeth Caslon

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Perusing the New York Public Library Digital Collections, I stumbled upon four sheets from a specimen book

The typefaces presented are Eliz. Caslon’s New Canon, Eliz. Caslon’s New Pica (roman and italic), and Eliz. Caslon’s New Double Pica (roman and italic).

The NYPL lists 1785 as date of publication and “Caslon, William, 1754-1833” as Author (that would be William Caslon III, grandchild of William Caslon).

However, that “Eliz.” piqued my curiosity, and, after a cursory search, I met Elizabeth Caslon.


(Source: National Portrait Gallery)

Caslon [née Cartlich], Elizabeth (1730–1795), typefounder, was born in Foster Lane, London, on 31 May 1730, the daughter of William Cartlich, refiner, of Foster Lane, and his wife, Elizabeth. She was baptized on 4 June at St John Zachary, London. On 25 June 1751 she married William Caslon (1720–1778) [see under Caslon, William (1692–1766)], typefounder, of Chiswell Street; they had two sons, William and Henry. 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, trading as Elizabeth Caslon & Sons. She was a talented businesswoman, having assisted her husband during his lifetime in the management of the foundry. In 1785 the firm produced an extensive type specimen book on sixty-four leaves, dedicated to George III.

(Source: Oxford DNB article: Caslon, Elizabeth)

I assume the pages in the NYPL are from that 1785 specimen, but don’t know if the “Eliz. Caslon” added to these typefaces’ name was just to differentiate them from the ones issued by other iterations of the Caslon foundry, or if Mrs. Elizabeth Caslon had a part also in their design.

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