Welcome to Typophile
Please Sign in.

Reviving Caslon Part 2 Up at iLoveTypography.com


Bill, a superb and rather illuminating article.

I also just read and enjoyed your article in Reform Judaism, titled Einstein's Religious Awakening. Now I know that this might not be the correct forum, but... I did have two comments to make regarding the later article.

1. Why is the title (and your name) set in Adobe Caslon??? In fact, why is the magazine set in TNR? Please help them see the light (typographically speaking)! I would much rather read the magazine set in your own beautiful rendition of Caslon.

2. Was Einstein's "awakening" not a spiritual one, rather than a "religious" one?

Thanks, Adam. On the typography.

They have used Adobe Caslon for display and TNR for text for a long time. Actually I think Adobe Caslon is rather nice for display; I don't think it works so well as text. Of course, I think my Williams Caslon Heading and Display would be still better, but they're not yet complete or published. I do think that Williams Caslon would be much better suited for the text of this magazine. TNR is a great face, but rather impersonal and a bit cold. But I'm not the designer of the magazine, it's not my call.

I also didn't do the title of the article, which I only saw after publication. I do think it is accurate to call what happened to Einstein as a child a religious awakening, though I don't use those words in the article. Later when, as a pre-teen, he firmly rejected a personal God, but kept a deep religious feeling about his work, I think it is a toss-up whether you call it spiritual or religious. He himself says that in one sense, but only one, he is "deeply religious."

Einstein's religious views are fascinating and hard to categorize, which is what the article is about. I had a lot more to say, but they cut it down to a journalistic report on Einstein, and not an assessment of his views, which I did a draft of. Another time and place, I hope ...

ps For anyone interested, the article (without the print formatting) is http://online here.


Thank you for the detailed response.

The reason that I made the comment regarding spiritual versus religious, is simply because the term religion (and thus, religious) is, for the most part, associated with doctrine, or any form of a defined system of belief. As far as I know, Einstein never attended shul, prayed "Adon Olam", or proclaimed "Pour thy wrath upon the Gentiles" during a Seder. He was (as you mentioned) "in awe of the heavens", and saw God's silhouette in the very fabric of creation and the universe. As such, I believe that the term "spiritual" is perhaps more appropriate.

Perhaps Einstein's increased sense of spirituality was, at least in part, due to the apparent failure of the greater Logical-Positivist project. Kurt Gödel’s Incompleteness Theorem, which delivered the coup de grâce to Logical Positivism, also left the door (slightly) open to more spiritual (and less positivist) conceptions of the natural world—it let some "mystery" into the equation.

Now, just to keep the topic within the realm of typography, I agree that TNR is a superb typeface (for columns), but its ubiquity makes the magazine look cheap, and it certainly lacks the so-called "air of authority" that a good Caslon commands. I will write to the editors and share my typographic misgivings with them.

I think that Einstein's spiritual or religious feelings were very strong from his childhood, and never diminished. Einstein was a friend of Gödel, I believe, but he had a very strong feelings about the mystery of the natural world from his early teen years, long before the incompleteness theorems. (This is what I get from Max Jammer's book.) Also there are many reasons to see mystery in the world other than Gödel. This is not the place to go into it, but I do discuss it in my new book, Pirke Avot: Timeless Wisdom for Modern Life.

Very enjoyable essays, Mr. Berkson. Are you planning additional installments to discuss the specifics of your display and heading sizes? Given how independent Caslon's optical sizes are, I'd think you'd have more to say on the subject than most. I'm intrigued by how eclectic Caslon's influences are across those sizes. Have you been able to trace any of the specific influences, or do any specific sizes stand out as more idiosyncratic than the rest?

Williams Caslon is likely to become my favorite Caslon revival. As much as I appreciate Justin Howes's magnum opus, I don't have any of the right applications for it in the kinds of works I publish. Adobe Caslon, as important a work as it is, lacks that essential Caslon warmth as you discuss in your essays; also, for my purposes, it lacks italic small caps, which are essential to taming the menagerie of acronyms I have to work with.

Has Typophile run a thread yet about the release of Williams Caslon Text? If so, I haven't been able to locate. If not, they should.

The earlier Caslons thread on Typophile should also be extended to mention the release of your text size, since it does mention your work in progress a couple years ago. Also, the Caslon page in Typowiki should be updated to reference and link to it.

On a complete side note, would you be willing to entertain the idea of adding small-caps lining figures to Williams Caslon Text? I know you have plenty of more important things to worry about with your project, but I sure could use them to help tame variable names, program names, Canadian ZIP codes, and other alphanumeric scrambles.

And finally, could you give us a status update on Williams Caslon Display and Heading? I'm in no way wanting to pressure you to finish sooner - things need to cook until they're done - but I'm sure I'm not alone in being genuinely interested in what you're working on.

Frederick, thanks for the kind words.

Williams Caslon Text does have small caps lining figures. You can access them by going to Character/Open type/All small caps. Unfortunately, in InDesign the "Open Type" option, at least in CS4, is well hidden. You have to click on the box at the top right of the Character window to access it.

On the Display and Heading sizes. A basic character set for the Roman exists for the Heading Medium size, and for a "Small" text size regular. The Heading size Medium is based pretty closely on the Great Primer of Caslon, 18 pt., and the proportions of the Small text is based on Caslon's Long Primer, about 9.5 pt. These are both sizes that historian James Mosley singled out, I think rightly, as some of Caslon's best. I also did the a small set of characters of Display italic for my http://recently published book. (I didn't do the cover.) The display italic is more of my own thing.

Here is the display italic in the book:

And here is a bit of the Small in the Appendix:

I had been thinking to wait for demand to do the Display and to complete the rest, but now I'm thinking that having the rest will really help to get the Text size out there. In fact, I had to continually restrain myself from increasing contrast, which magically makes everything more pretty and elegant, though in my view less good for text size. So I will get to this sooner rather than later, but I dare not say how quickly—unless there is a commission to finish it, of course!

Ah, yes, I see them in there now. Thanks for pointing them out.

The new work looks lovely. Count me as a fan and a customer. I'm saving up my pennies; Williams Caslon will be my next typeface purchase. Keep up the great work.

Thanks Frederick!

It would be lovely to see a display size for it as well.

I'd purchase it.