Typography Innovations

Thomas Cotterell:

  • began the trend of sand casting large,
  • bold display letters as early as 1765 when his specimen book included a typeface as high as the measure of twelve lines of pica about 2 inches. (display type)

Robert Thorne,

  • student and successor of Cotterell,
  • innovated fat faces around 1803.
  • competed directly with Caslon IV and Figgins.

William Thorowgood

  • used lottery winnings to buy Thorne’s foundry —auctioned after his death and published the book of specimens.



Vincent Figgins

  • took charge of Joseph Jackson’s foundry
  • failed in his efforts to purchase his master’s foundry because Caslon III offered the highest bid.
  • Figgins established his own type foundry and built a reputation for high quality type design.
  • He specialized in mathematical and astronomical material.
  • He printing specimens showed a full range of modern styles, antiques (Egyptians), and 3-D fonts.


The following are the types innovations from the Industrial Revolution.

Slab Serif Fonts (5 min.)

Slab-serif fonts
Clarendon—New type form called Egyptian

Fat faces

Wood type:
developed by and American Printer,
Darius Wells, in 1828

Wood type Posters
New design without aesthetic concerns

Sans-Serif fonts: Grotesque / Gothic

—Akzidenz Grotesk, (1896)
(designed by Lange, issued by Berthold)

—Franklin Gothic,
(designed by Benton, named after Benjamin Franklin)



Similar to the transitional styles
Fat-face type style
Egyptian style

twelve lines pica, letterforms (1765)
Thomas Cotterell

fat-face types (1821)
Robert Thorne

Egyptian type design (1821)
Robert Thorne

These display letters, shown actual size, seemed gigantic to eighteenth-century compositors, who were used to setting handbills and broadsides using types that were rarely even half this size.

Although the record dates these designs to William Thorowgood’s 1 January 1821 publication of New Specimen of Printing Types, late R. Thorne’ s, it is generally thought that Thorne designed the first fat faces in 1803.

Comparison with Figgins’s design reveals subtle differences. Thorne based this lower case on the structure of modern?style letters, but he radically modified the weight and serifs.


two-line English Egyptian, (1816)
William Caslon IV


Wiliam Caslon IV created a serif typeface so unpopular at the time
it was called Grotesque (in Europe) because it lacked the familiar serifs.

In America it was called
Gothic because it had a barbaric look.

This specimen quietly introduced
what was to become a major resource for graphic design.


  The rise of advertising in the nineteenth century stimulated demand for large-scale letters that could command attention in urban space. In this lithographic trading card from 1878, a man is shown posting a bill in flagrant disregard for the law. Check out the many wood type styles that people create today.
(google search)

Egyptian style

Wood Type

two lines pica, Antique (1821)
Robert Thorne
Ionic type Specimen (mid-1840)
Henry Caslon
Tuscan styles-wood type style

The inspiration for this highly original design, first shown by Figgins, is not known.

Whether Figgins, Thorne, or an anonymous sign painter first invented this style is one of the mysteries surrounding the sudden appearance of slab-serif letterforms.

Bracketing refers to the curved transition from the main stroke of the letterform to its serif.

Egyptian type replaced the bracket with an abrupt angle

Ionic type restored a slight bracket.

The top two specimens are typical Tuscan styles with ornamental serifs.

They demonstrate the diversity of expanded and condensed widths produced by nineteenth-century designers.

The bottom specimen is an Antique Tuscan with curved and slightly pointed slab-serifs.

Note the care given to the design of negative shapes surrounding the letters.


  Book Specimens (1881)
MacKeller, Smiths & Jordan
five lines pica, In Shade, (1815)
Vincent Figgins

The first three-dimensional or perspective fonts were fat faces.

Perhaps designers were seeking to compensate for the lightness of the thin strokes, which tended to reduce the legibility of fat faces at a distance.

Other Type designer to know during this time period:

The type historian Rob Roy Kelly
created this chart to illustrate how
the square serif was manipulated
to create ornamental variations.