English fonts of the 1600's

cameronthibault's picture

Hello all,

I am looking for font similar to what would have been used in England in the 1600s. Specifically, the words I would like to print are those of the poem "Death Be Not Proud" by John Donne. This "Holy Sonnet" was written around 1610 and published in 1633 and I would like to find some fonts that are suited to this time period.


quadibloc's picture

The period from 1550 to 1650 was when printers in England operated under license restrictions that led to a serious decline in English printing.

Day Roman, which is even available free, is based on the work of an English typefounder before 1550. Fell dates from about 1700, and Caslon is even later.

English printers often used Dutch types during that period, so Plantin is another possibility.

dberlow's picture

You can also search google for "17th century english typography".

Click on the button that says "images", and you can see. Don't, and you can read.

quadibloc's picture

There's also DTL Elzevir.

charles ellertson's picture


Here's Updike, online...

Begin about page88, I believe. Or you can get the full text w/the sidebar on the left, but no illustrations that way...

For facsimile editions of Donne, visit


and click on facsimile editions, top far right.

Michel Boyer's picture

You can get a facsimile on page 35 of http://digitaldonne.tamu.edu/DisplayText (of follow the links from http://digitaldonne.tamu.edu/00A-biblio.html). Hmm, now Charles has it too...

Top is a grab of the facsimile, bottom is just Adobe Caslon Pro with rare ligatures and historical forms

charles ellertson's picture

Hmm, now Charles has it too...

Michael, I added the tamu kink to Donne after posting the Updike link, because when I checked my print edition of Updike, found no sample of Donne.

A quick Google found this, and I suspect I was previewing and checking the link as you were posting.

In the end, all it was was "late." So I took a nap.

Michel Boyer's picture

Those are the joys of parallel processing. I first posted the grab, but then realized one could not get to the cover page from the first link and made a modification. Your modified post appeared in the meantime.

quadibloc's picture

This is interesting.

William Caslon began his typefounding career in 1720 or thereabouts. So his type could not possibly adorn a book published in 1633.

That being said, there's no reason why a typeface from 1633 couldn't very strongly resemble Caslon to modern eyes. Caslon was noted as being very similar to Dutch typefaces of the period preceding it - and, as I noted, during the 1550-1650 desuetude of English publishing, Dutch type was much used in England (as I learned from Updike).

Incidentally, some Google searches I made in connection with this thread led me to some books by the Elston Press on Google Books; from thence, I found this very informative page when looking for information on the types it used:


The Elston Press is shown making do with types from ATF, but they had commissioned their own Jenson revival for an edition of The House of Life by Dante Gabriel Rossetti.

In one case, though, Caslon Old Roman was pictured - that was a Lanston Monotype face (I see now that they must have licensed it from ATF, who got it from Barnhart Brothers), and it was a sort of Jenson (a quite lovely one, actually, although I find the capital X idiosyncratic), despite its name.

Michel Boyer's picture

For fun I made a comparison of Caslon with English Roman from Igino Marini's digitization of the FELL Types. Click picture to see the pdf.

Michel Boyer's picture

Here is a direct link to a scan of the 1633 edition that you can zoom up to 8x.


Té Rowan's picture

What chance any Griffo cuts would have made it to England?

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