The illustration above shows the three stages of typesetting for printing with moveable type using a printing press. Titled “Imprimerie en lettres, L'opération de la casse,” it was created by Denis Diderot in approximately 1762 and can be found in the French Encyclopédie, ou Dictionnaire raisonné des sciences, des arts et métiers, par une sociéte de gens de lettres.
Proprietary types–typefaces designed for and utilized solely by a single publisher or printer–essentially went by the wayside by the second half of the 16th century. In the late 19th century, Arts & Crafts leader William Morris had become dissatisfied with the commercial types available through his publishers. Morris’s foray into type design began on the night of Emery Walker’s lecture on printing at the 1888 Arts and Craft Exhibition Society, especially after seeing Walker’s enlarged lantern-slide images of Jenson types. Morris’s daughter May reports that following the lecture, Morris and Walker were walking home together when Morris excitedly suggested to Walker, ”Let’s make a new fount of type.” The rest is history.
Morris went on to design three founts of type specifically for use by his Kelmscott Press, which he established in 1891. His first fount, the Golden type, was inspired by Jenson’s Venetian roman face. His next fount was the Gothic-inspired Troy type, which Morris hoped would redeem “the Gothic character from the charge of unreadableness.” His final fount, Chaucer, was also Gothic-inspired. Morris worked with punch-cutter Edward Philip Prince, and all three typefaces were designed and cut by 1892. Morris designed a fourth typeface based on the 1464 Subiaco type of Pannartz and Sweynheym, but this was never cut. It was used later, however, as the proprietary typeface of the Ashendene Press.
A Note by William Morris, printed in 1898, two years after Morris’s death, is the only Kelmscott publication to present all three of Morris’s Kelmscott Press typefaces.