“Case for Cheltenham” Revived in Type Face Vogue

  • Bauer Foundry’s Fortune is current revival of 19th century faces
  • English type founders first to experiment with commercial type designs
  • Bertram Goodhue designed most famous of all U.S. type faces in 1896

A German type named Fortune, introduced during the summer of 1955, has brought up once again the much-discussed “Case for Cheltenham.”

Fortune is another type in the current revival of nineteenth-century faces. This revival, which is been going on for the past two or three years, was in the beginning given small chance for survival by many typographers. It is still continuing at a torrid pace. The only fluctuation has been that a momentary swing from wide gothic two square serif has fanned interest in such related types as Egyptian Expanded and Clarendon.

Early in the last century, the English type founders became the first to experiment with types designed for purely commercial purposes as distinguished from book and newspaper faces. Competition was strenuous. One American type founders jumped into the race, the sky was the limit. Every new type seem to be an attempt to outdo the last in display quality, with legibility not even considered. For the close of the century the efforts of such careful American printers as De Vinne and Updike, and the stimulation of interest in fine printing aroused by William Morris, had combined to bring to type founding a better understanding of the requirements of a good type face.

Cheltenham Designed in 1896

An American architect, Bertram Goodhue, became acquainted with Daniel Berkeley Updike. In 1892 good he was commissioned to design borders for edition of the Book of Common Prayer then being prepared by uptight. When the famous Merrymount Press was organized in 1893, Goodhue designed for special use a type called Merrymount. It was this work which aroused Goodhue’s interest in type design. Experimented with a letter in order to test some of his theories of legibility. In 1896 this type was produced for Ingalls Kimball of the Cheltenham Press, later sold the design to American Type Founders and to Mergenthaler Linotype Company, making it the first type to be produced for both hand and machine typesetting.

Thus was born the most famous of all-American type designs. If you believe that readers form pictures of the various words in their minds. To aid this tendency he paid a great deal of attention to the upper half of his letters, with resulting formation of tall ascenders and rather short descenders. The finished product was a type which had very little contrast of stroke, and an appearance of white space above the lines.

Largest Group of Related Types

In addition, Goodhue took advantage of a comparatively new method of type manufacturer. In fact, he was the first to exploit it. The pantographic punch-cutting machine, invented in 1885 by Linn Boyd Benton, made it possible to reproduce easily many variations from an original design. The type “family” was born and came of age with Chelt, which remains to this day the largest single group of related type designs.

To the nineteenth-century idea of crowding a variety of types into a single job, Cheltenham was able to introduce a fresh note by maintaining a basic resemblance through a series of variations. Naturally, advertisers loved it. And advertising, the type made its first and lasting impression here in although primarily produced as a “book” face, it never received much favor when used in text composition.

For the last 30 years Cheltenham has been in the hell box of printers who considered themselves advanced beyond its use. It was simply “old hat” and was relegated to the country printer, who has really never lost his enthusiasm for the face. Throughout this period, of course, occasional typographic designers have felt challenged to use Chelt in fresh and different ways. However, it must be admitted that in spite of occasional esthetic attention, the face has been dormant.

Immediately after the last war, ATF brought out a design called Contact Bold, which was a condensed the display letter. Almost the first comment on this face was that it resembled Cheltenham. Contact never did survive this first impression, and therefore was seldom used.

Fortune and Cheltenham

Top line shows Bauer Alphabets' Fortune, a recent importation. Second line is Cheltenham, best known American type. Fortune is shown in bold version and Chelt is extended, reduced from 36-pt. size.

Now that the advertisers’ whim has resurrected the Clarendons, of which Fortune is a wide version, there is no reason to believe that Cheltenham, in its bold extended series, is about ready to compete. Certainly, letter for letter, there is not a great deal of difference between the two types.

So, all you champions of lost causes, get out your bellows and go to work on those dusty cases in the corner alley. Don’t let the boys of the drawing boards tell you that Chelt is not esthetic. At that, though, you’d better leave the extra-condensed alone, because the trend of the moment is distinctly in favor of the extended shapes.

This article first appeared in “The Composing Room” column of the April 1956 issue of The Inland Printer.

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