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Goudy's Aries

Thursday, February 26th, 2004 | 3 comments

Frederic Goudy designed Aries in 1925-26 as a commissioned private press typeface and cast it in one size, approximately 16 point. Like the William Morris Troy type, Aries is a stylized roman with blackletter characteristics. It was partially inspired by Subiaco, a type created in 1900 by Emery Walker for the Ashendene Press. Walker had based his work on a type of the same name designed in 1465 by two German monks, Conrad Sweynheym and Arnold Pannartz, which is often credited as being the first roman type. Frederic W. Goudy, who lived from 1865 to 1947, created over 100 typefaces during his lifetime. Like most type designers, he is known principally through his eponymously titled faces such as Goudy Modern and Goudy Old Style. Goudy's work ranged from widely used faces made for the Laston Monotype Company to private commissions that few people have ever seen. Aries was not one of the "Lost Types" that perished in a fire at Goudy's Deepdene studio in 1939 but it was "lost" in the sense that it was not well known. P22's digital revival is one attempt to make this face, as well as Goudy's work in general, a bit less "lost." Goudy created the Aries type as a private commission for Spencer Kellogg Jr.'s Aries Press in Eden, NY but, as far as we know, used it in only one book. This was the 1927 In Praise of My Lady by William Morris, which Kellogg issued in an edition of 31 copies. Shortly afterward, Kellogg abandoned his press and the Aries type became forgotten. As it happens, Goudy was not fully satisfied with his design, so he set about recutting many characters for his own private use. He named the re-cut font Village Text. In 1931, the Grabhorn Press of San Francisco admired this face and persuaded Goudy to sell them the design. They renamed the redesigned face Franciscan. In his book, A Half Century of Type Design and Typography (1946), Goudy recalls his career and his 118 specific designs. He makes special note of the Aries type since it was his first venture into the full process of matrix engraving and type founding. Prior to 1926, Goudy's work had been executed by tradesmen who cut and cast the type designs of many typographic artists, including Goudy.

The fact that even the most knowledgeable typophiles are not familiar with the Aries face is due to a misidentification by Goudy himself. Goudy tells the story of the lineage of these faces in Half Century; however, the sample specimen he used for Aries is a broadside entitled “Aqua Vitae” hand-set by his wife, Bertha, using Village Text (Franciscan). We can forgive Goudy's lack of complete accuracy in recalling his own work since he was in his 80s and fell ill during the course of the production of his book. The authors of subsequent surveys of Goudy's work were remiss in not checking their work for accuracy; they reproduced the specimen shown in A Half Century of Type Design, perpetuating the misidentification of Franciscan as Aries. It is true that Franciscan and Aries are very similar but several characters are strikingly different. Additional research at the Cary Collection of the Wallace Library at Rochester Institute of Technology confirmed that "Aqua Vitae" is clearly credited as being printed in Village Text in the broadside itself. Melbert Cary correctly cites "Aqua Vitae" as having been printed in the Village Text font in item 202 in his A Bibliography of the Village Press, 1903-1938 (New York, 1938, pp. 175-76). P22's discovery of the Aries Press connection for the font known as Aries came as a result of the realization that the typesetter for the Aries Press was a man named Emil Georg Sahlin (1895-1983). Sahlin was the founder of Paradise Press in Buffalo, NY, a small letterpress studio maintained by Sahlin protégé Hal Leader. P22 designers used the Paradise Press as a therapeutic retreat into metal type for years and saw samples of Sahlin's work that had been boxed up alongside the crowded racks of type drawers. Leader possessed one of the rare copies of In Praise of My Lady using the Aries type. While the history of Aries is somewhat murky, its future is more assured because the font is now accessible as a twenty-first century revival.


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