Caslon Old Face Italic - a question to the type nerds

Case: I recently acquired two founts of 10 and 20 pkt Caslon Old Face Italic. The types are probably cast by H.W. Caslon & Cie in Paris (the nick on the types is cast on the back at the body, which indicate that they are of French origin :).
Yesterday when I made some test setting of the 10 pkt., I discovered that the figures in the fount aren’t italic but roman – damn, shit, …………….. 99 % of all the types in the fount are brand new (read never used), they seem to be cast from the same mould and there aren’t any other signs of a mix of an italic and a roman fount in the past. Hmmm….. In the 20 pkt. italic from the same source, it’s the same situation – I did know that before yesterday, but have just seen it as an irritating old mix of italic and roman – a situation you have to live with when you are purchasing antique rare types.

In my 1937 type specimen from H.W. Caslon, London, there is an overview of all the characters in a fount, including italic figures. It’s supplied with a note about some recently added swash letters to complete the larger sizes. Italic figures are used in the specimen settings. But, in my 1924 specimen of Caslon Old Face and Italic from H.W. Caslon, London, there aren’t any signs of any italic figures on the 64 pages – not a single little 1! Everywhere where used italic all the figures are set in roman.

The issue about the roman characters in the italic is also visible in the comma and the quotes marks which seem rather roman in the two specimens form 1924 and 1937. Some of the brackets in the italic are roman in the 1924 specimen, but they are all italic in the 1937 specimen. In my 10 and 20 pkt. italic the brackets are italic.

Some of my Caslon Old Face Roman founts, from the same acquisition, are mixes of types cast by Caslon in Paris and London. There are no visible differences in the drives and the linings – only in the pin marks (in fact my 32 pkt. roman has 3 different pin marks: Caslon Paris, Caslon London & Caslon). All with the French nick.

Question: Can it be right that first around 1930 there were cut italic figures etc. to the original Caslon italic from the first half of the 18th century?

Here a link to the question on flicker together with some extra photos

All thoughts will be welcome.

Gott grüß die Kunst

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In Caslon’s 1913 catalogue, it appears that the company went to great lengths when composing the showings of the Caslon Old Face Italic, to not use figures or punctuation. Only a very few commas, full stops and one or two apostrophes were used as punctuation. The only instances where figures should have been used was on pp.18-19 where, in the captions to 6, 8, 10 and 12 pt settings, the captions (all in the format “10-point.”) uniformly use Roman figures and dashes with italic letters.

The next relevant catalogue I have is Stephenson Blake’s 1969 edition; in this appear italic numbers and punctuation.

I have the impression that italic numbers and punctualtion were introduced sometime between 1913 and 1969. This is a very wide time bracket but its the best that I can do with the limited number of type catalogues I possess.

Millington, in his 2002 history of Stephenson Blake states on p.226 that Caslon Old Face was “acquired by SB as a result of purchase. SB had problems with the italic due to overhanging characters and kerning.” He assigns a date of 1937 to the face - i.e. the date Stephenson Blake acquired Caslon. Is it possible that Stephenson Blake changed some matrices in response to this difficulty, and is this possibly the period in which the italic figures were cut? People with access to good runs of Caslon and, from 1937, Stephenson Blake catalogues may be be able to check and to narrow-down the date the italic figures (and punctuation?) were introduced.

Might possibly Monotype italic figures possibly meet your needs? Morison in “A Talley of Types” states that Monotype cut the face three times: series 20 in 1903 (which he reports Rogers in 1917 described as ‘a very close approximation of Caslon Old Face’) , series 45 in 1906, and series 128 in 1915 (described by Morisom as ‘hurried workmanship’ with some letters ‘hardly recognisable as Caslon’). Morison provides no information on how many of these series were accompanied by italics but from a 1960s Monotype catalogue I see that the Roman was 128 and the italic was ‘128 It’ which suggests that 20 and 45 might have been similarly accompanied by italics. Monotype figures would be available more readily and possibly more cheaply than Caslon founder’s type but I have no feel for how well they might sit together.

My 1909 (that’s the date of a price list included) Caslon specimen book includes italic numeral figures in sizes up to 12pt on the final page of the “Old Style’ section. There is also a note at the bottom of one page saying that “Peculiar Italic Sorts” are supplied with founts from 36-point to 8-point - and it shows 15 special characters, including swash capitals.

Thanks. Circut5 – do you have a scan or a photo of your 1909 specimen?:-)
A bit more information are shown up at
Gott grüß die Kunst

I’ve uploaded four photographs of the 1909 Caxton Specimen Book to flickr:[email protected]/

Thanks a lot :-)
Gott grüß die Kunst