i think good old Frederic Goudy is as good a place as any to start with our Tour the Type series. we have a lot of Goudy fonts in the collection. my pal bill liked to say that while Goudy wasn’t a great type designer, he was an honest type designers.

Goudy was also a prolific type designer.

there are a few different names for this typeface we are looking at today. i have often misidentified it in various ways as Goudy E-35. it’s also known as Goudy 38E, Goudy Light Roman and Gimbel as it was used in adverts for Gimbel’s department store. in fact, it was mislabeled on the type case for the caps as Goudy Oldstyle. bill had picked up a lot of the type from a toronto foundry that was going out of business.


the thing i like best about this type is its spideriness. it is a very light and thin type and it has that appearance when printed on the page. one of the problems with printing it letterpress is that it tends to wear very easily and you can quickly distinguish the difference between old and new characters.

it is also very much a product of the time at which it was designed (in 1908 for Monotype to be used in Life magazine). it has a feel of that time period, and perhaps more than any other designer, Goudy’s types are idiosyncratic in a low-key way. as soon as you look at this type you know that it’s one of old Fred’s, but you’re just not sure which one.

the main point of departure from his later Goudy Oldstyle is the lowercase ‘e’ (you can see it below clutched in my pudgy fingers). the crossbar is at an angle which makes it look older than it really is (Goudy Oldstyle looks pretty new style to me—it was released in 1915). as well, the quotation marks are really weird as the tail is almost non-existent.


we have lots of this font in the shop which means if we have a lot of type to set, we will often use it (depending on the character of the text). the 12-point size is ideal and comfortable for hand setting. our font is sorted into a lowercase case and the uppercase shares a case with 30-point Castellar.

we don’t have the italic companion to this face : probably because of the typefounder’s misidentification. when we need to use an italic, we just use some 12-point Goudy Oldstyle and it seems to do the job pretty well.


i think i understand why my pal bill called Goudy’s types honest. there’s a comforting homeliness to them. you can see the hand of the maker in them (Goudy cut the matrices for many of his own types—a method that inspired the great canadian typefounder Jim Rimmer). perhaps this is why, to me, Goudy’s faces also seem to be contemporary even when he is trying to make them feel older.


there is at least on digital version of Goudy 38E out there and while they look like the original, they don’t have the weirdness of Goudy’s work. that slight offness that makes his best work so good.