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Robert Besley

British typefounder and punchcutter, active from about 1840-1860. He succeeded William Thorowgood at the Fann Street Foundry in 1849. Credited with cutting the first Clarendon (1845), a fat typeface with thick slabs. This was also the first registered typeface, ever. See also here. Stephenson Blake acquired Clarendon when it bought the Sir Charles Reed typefoundry, and issued the typeface as Consort. Typophile discussion on Besley's Clarendon from which I quote a few passages.

  • About the first instance of piracy, James Mosley explains: The Clarendon type of the Besley foundry is the first type actually designed as a related bold that is, made to harmonize in design and align with the roman types it was set with. It was registered in Britain in 1845 under the new Ornamental Designs Act of 1842. But when protection ran out after only three years, the other founders also thought a related bold was a good idea. This is how Besley reacted.
  • About Consort, another tpyeface of Fann Street from the same era, Mosley writes: The light weight of Consort, an excellent type I think, was another Fann Street type of the 1840s or 1850s, and was presumably cut by Benjamin Fox. It doesn't match the Clarendons closely, though, having unbracketed serifs. The story of the bold and the italic is a rather sad one. They were made by H. Karl Görner, who was born in Germany in 1883, was taken on in 1907 as assistant punchcutter with Stephenson, Blake&Co., Sheffield and stayed with them for the rest of his life. He died in 1964. Görner was probably trained to cut steel punches, but the work I know about was cut in typemetal, and electrotypes were grown to make matrices for casting. This was quite a usual practice, in the UK and the US at least, from the later 19th century onwards. I was told that, years before, Görner had made the type that was thought up by Robert Harling and marketed by Stephenson Blake under the name of Chisel. He cast type from matrices for Bold Latin Condensed and incised lines into the face. When SB wanted a bold and an italic to complete the Consort series, Görner cast a bold slab-serif from some quite early matrices and pared it down to make Consort Bold. I dont know if he had a model for the italic. Probably not. I think they are awful types travesties of the original cuttings of Clarendon.

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History of type ⦿ Type designers ⦿ Type designers ⦿ Type design in the United Kingdom ⦿ Modern style [Bodoni, Didot, Walbaum, Thorowgood, Computer Modern, etc.] ⦿ Clarendon ⦿








file name: Fann Street Besley Clarendon1845


file name: Robert Besley Clarendon 1845 Poster by Gabriel Rose 2014


file name: Robert Besley Clarendon L T Poster by Igor Goncalves 2014


file name: Robert Besley Clarendon L T Poster by Igor Goncalves 2014


file name: Robert Besley Clarendon L T Poster by Igor Goncalves 2014c


file name: Robert Besley Clarendon 1845 Poster by Kyleigh Rowe 2015b


file name: Robert Besley Clarendon 1845 Poster by Renaud Giuliano 2016


file name: Robert Besley Clarendon 1845 Poster by Emma Zazio 2015


file name: Robert Besley Clarendon 1845 Poster by Emma Zazio 2015b


file name: Robert Besley Clarendon 1845 Poster by Chloe Hubler 2015


file name: Robert Besley Clarendon 1845 Poster by Dom Vacchiano 2015


file name: Robert Besley Clarendon 1852 Poster by Alan Walker 2014


file name: Fann Street Foundry Original Clarendon 1852


file name: Stephenson Blake Consort 1953 1954







Luc Devroye ⦿ School of Computer Science ⦿ McGill University Montreal, Canada H3A 2K6 ⦿ lucdevroye@gmail.com ⦿ http://luc.devroye.org ⦿ http://luc.devroye.org/fonts.html