Big Caslon-like serif face on Penguin Books cover

is this Big Caslon? it seems thinner particularly the 's'. The serifs also, in general look a little more rounded, is it just my eyes/the printing/scan? oh and i can't find a cut of Caslon to match the italic, any ideas?



I think it is Big Caslon, and the italic looks like Caslon No337

It really looks like Big Caslon to me. The stress on the m is distinctive.

I hear what you're saying about the lightness -- the thins look too thin. But I think that has to do with the way it was printed or scanned. Look at the ascender on the f to see how the thin lines are disappearing in this scan.


Do you have the original book/print there? I could help to date the type and print technique. Big Caslon is not ‘it’, but is my best match. Although there are various differences, like ‘J’.

If it is an original dating from the early days, this exact Caslon might not be available today.
Good luck.


thanks for your help

the cover is a scan from derek birdsall's 'notes on book design' i had omitted to note that the cover was designed in 1969, apologies this would perhaps explain the subtle differences, im guessing that big caslon is the closest that im going to find digitally?

I think it might be a large size of ATF Caslon 540, probably metal.

Big Caslon was done in 1994, so it's definitely not that. Also the squashed non-descending J and the strange a are something Carter wouldn't have drawn.

Depending on the size you want digital Caslon 540 might do you fine. Given that it's Penguin and English, English Monotype 337, which Patty mentioned, is a likely guess also, but I don't have any copy of the Roman.

You'd probably have to do the research on large sizes of metal 337 and 540 to nail it definitely, unless it's photo type, which I kind of doubt.

This won't be digital, of course.

You might try the lovely ITC Founders Caslon, it just gives me chills!

> the squashed non-descending J and the strange
> a are something Carter wouldn’t have drawn.

Maybe, but don't confuse formal beauty with aesthetic merit.


BTW, considering the date, and the thin hairlines, wouldn't this
probably be some phototype font? If so, ask Peter Bain for help.


Yes, I just checked the 'Poster' size of Founder's Caslon, but it doesn't match and looks a bit more 'antique'.

>but don’t confuse formal beauty with aesthetic merit.


Bacon, IIRC, said that "There is no beauty but that has a strangeness of proportion in it."

But here the J and a are just ungainly in my opinion. By the way, Caslon himself was perfectly capable of drawing these.

Yeah, but Heraclitus said ἁρμονίη ἀφανὴς φανερῆς κρείττων.

> here the J and a are just ungainly in my opinion.

Well, the whole thing is ungainly in my opinion. But I'm assuming -rather safely- that Carter for one is much deeper than me concerning letterforms; but really that things are much deeper than me (and you).

> Caslon himself was perfectly capable of drawing these.

Do you mean somebody else drew those? That's quite probable, especially considering how many people had a hand over the centuries in what we call Caslon. And when was the "J" introduced into type?

That said:
1) Caslon wasn't really a "quality is job 1" kind of guy... Like much of his variation between sizes is just slobbery.
2) What point size is this sample? Scale is central to type, and Caslon wasn't a specialist in poster type I don't think.


>Do you mean somebody else drew those?

Yes, I suspect it's not from the Caslon foundry, but a large size of ATF 540 or Monotype 337--or maybe Ludlow, as it's so large. It would look even more irregular if it was the real thing. Also it would have more 'moxie' and a probably more even color.

>And when was the “J” introduced into type?

Caslon drew non-descending J's, one of which at least is pretty ugly--with a tiny ball at the terminal, like this one.

I suspect this is a re-drawing of actual Caslon, but not the real thing. The round arches on the o and e are light compared to the stem of the n, and that's not usual with Caslon. But his stuff is sometimes so irregular that you never can tell. Neither Big Caslon not digital Caslon 540 have the light o and e.

> BTW, considering the date, and the thin hairlines, wouldn’t this
> probably be some phototype font? If so, ask Peter Bain for help.

Certainly not (too early). These covers were printed litho, but from metal type composition. The type was photographed, resulting in a negative through which an offset plate was exposed. Due to (under)exposure the hairlines got thinner.

Also note that Wo is kerned. Of course, kerned logotypes ware available, and, too, kerning was possible by filing. But I assume it is more likely that the lettering was hand drawn, or at least a work-up from the original composition..

Are you sure 1969 is too early?


Experiments with photocomposition date back to as early as the 1930s. And according to the Monotype Recorder Monophoto and Lumitype were "commercially accepted" already in 1957. But their use for high speed compositions jobs, such as phone books, catalogues, magazines and newspapers, is quite something different than cover design. Let alone that Caslon and other distinguished display faces were available as photomatrices.

Anyway, what I described above was common practice and moreover explains the extra light hairlines.

Edward, the same cover can be found on p.168 of Phil Baines' Penguin by Design and credited to Derek Birdsall at Omnific, but the date given there is 1983. Either the publisher, or the designer has lost track of the dates. Either way, this is still a long time before Big Caslon, but if it was done in the early eighties, almost certainly Ludwig is right. Most of the studios in London at that time were artworking from phototypesetting and re-photographing their paste-ups. If you have access to any old phototypesetter catalogues (maybe Agfa/Scangraphic?) you might find it there.

Ludwig said he thought they had photographed metal type. Considering the date it seems to have been a sensical conclusion. But if it was the early 80s then phototype becomes the more probable I think.


Looking at used books on line, it looks like the first Penguin edition was 1967.

thanks for thorough discussion, Derek Birdsall says 1969, This cover must be a later edition, apparently the simple grid used here was designed in 1968 by David Pehlam to replace the existing designed in 1962 by Germano Facetti