Goudy's Method

image link-topic-sf0.jpg

I am a matrix-cutter and type-founder of such recent entry into a field still uncrowded, that to attempt any dogmatic assertions or criticisms of others' methods would seem impertinent, yet I shall not refrain from relating my own method, which involves a serious attempt to restore the intimate relation that formerly existed between artist and artisan. - F. W. Goudy. "On Designing a Type-Face" [1] .

[click image to view larger]

image link-to-lewis-goudy-behind-the-types-1941-1200grey-0062-goudy-and-cat-sf0.jpg

Illus. 1: Frederic W. Goudy and his Assistant [2] ( Lewis. Behind the Type . p. 62.)

1. Introduction

The primary innovation in Frederic W. Goudy's method of matrix engraving was the use of hand-cut heavy paper "master patterns" as the guide patterns for the pantographic machine-engraving of working patterns. To the best of my knowledge, no typefoundry, composing or casting machine manufacturer, or commercial engraving service employed a method like this. Standard industrial practice was to trace the finished drawings directly at the pantograph.

Goudy's method, however, was later adopted by at least two important amateur type-makers: Jim Rimmer and Paul Hayden Duensing. Because of Rimmer's use of it, in particular, it is now one of the best-documented techniques. As a method, it has significant advantages for the small shop and the artist-typemaker. It allows the process of the initial translation of the drawn design to physical patterns to be done in an inexpensive and forgiving material (thick paper) upon which corrections can be made in pencil or with glue. It also employs tools and materials familiar to the artist (thick paper and sharp X-Acto® knives); these would have been particularly familiar to typographical artists trained in the late 20th century on phototypesetting paste-up (Duensing and Rimmer's period).

2. Aspects of Goudy's Method Considered in this Book

Goudy's method is discussed in the following chapters and sections of this book:

The photograph reprinted below will repay careful study by the serious matrix maker. It is the only published image of which I am aware which shows the entire matrix making operation of Goudy's Deepdene studio in a single view. From left to right:

[click image to view larger]

image link-to-typographers-digest-27-spring-1969-1200rgb-023-engraving-workshop-sf0.jpg

(From Lawson, Alexander, ed. Typographer's Digest, No. 27 (Spring, 1969): 23. The image above links to a 2048 pixel wide reduction of the original. Here is the original 1200 dpi scan (6784x3525, 42 Megabytes): typographers-digest-27-spring-1969-1200rgb-023-engraving-workshop-crop-6480x3020-scale-2048x954.png )

3. Contemporary Sources

Goudy indicates that his method evolved over time. [3] In his lifetime, his mature method was documented several times. This is good, of course. But several of the most important of these sources remain in copyright and I cannot, therefore, reprint here some very useful portions of them. The present discussion will make a lot more sense if you have these three references at hand (all three are available for free online; see the links to the Bibliography for information):

In addition, useful tidbits of information exist in other sources, such as Lewis' Behind the Type (1941), Goudy's such as "On Designing a Type-Face" ( The Dolphin, No. 1, 1933) , the photo-essay in Advertising and Selling (May 1939) and Bruckner's biography of Goudy (1990).

Goudy's own matrix making began in the early 1920s after his move to the town (that is, township) of Marlborough [4] and the home he named "Deepdene." He was in his late 50s at the time, which is very comforting to those of us who failed to take up type-making in their youth.

4. Micro-Goudiana

This is just a record for my own reference of Goudy-related details that I discovered while writing this up which seem to have been either missed or insufficiently understood in the literature.

The following details of Goudy's matrix making and type casting equipment are unknown to me:

Finally, the following puzzle just doesn't make sense:

5. Coda: The Designer's Hand and Digital Type

Goudy's published finished drawings, and the photographs of him at work in Boone, Kellerman, and elsewhere serve to emphasize what has been lost in most digital "type" formats. Postscript Type 1, TrueType, most uses of OpenType, and, alas, METAFONT do not encode the actual dimensions of the type body or the relationship of the printing face to the type body. Digital type is not, in theory, impossible, but none of these are in fact digital type formats - they're computer-aided lettering formats. This has many consequences (for example, the fact that most digital typographical practices have lost the concept of type body and think of "leading" as inter-baseline spacing). See Digital Lettering and Type Formats for a discussion of the technical details of digital letter and type formats. See Excursion: Digital Typography and Computer-Aided Lettering for a polemic on the unfortunate results.

No digital "type" lacking the encoding of the type body has the capability of capturing the type designs Goudy drew. They are just pretty pictures, not digital representations of the type that we see Goudy's hands creating. If type matters, then this matters. If this doesn't matter, then the type designer is irrelevant.

6. Notes

1. Goudy, Frederic W. "On Designing a Type-Face." The Dolphin. No. 1 (1933) .

2. It is an ancient custom of the typefounder's art that a cat must assist at all times. This is recorded in a passage in The Mirrour of Pryntyng which is too well known to require quotation here.

3. "When I decided to become a type founder in fact instead of in name only, and actually to produce my own designs instead of having the work done by other hands, I tried a number of methods before I succeeded in making the simple and efficient [paper] pattern I use today." Typologia , 91.

4. Lewis calls it the "Village of Marlborough" (82). Bruckner says "Marlboro-on-Hudson" (65). Neither of these seem to exist as such; there is a Town[ship] of Marlborough and, within it, a hamlet of Marlboro. The 1933 Zellermann/Zukor film "The Creation of a Printing Type" says "Marlboro, NY" in its credits. In the final number of Ars Typographica (Vol. 1, No. 4 (Autumn, 1934), Goudy places its composition at "The Village Press, Marlboro, NY." Bruckner dates Goudy's move to his Deepdene studio/home to 1924.

About the images

Select Resolution: 0 [other resolutions temporarily disabled due to lack of disk space]