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About the typeface The designer History of the typeface Glyph set Identifying features Comparison and ananalysis Applications References


There is an entry in the Oxford English Dictionary explaining “Clarendon, a thick-faced condensed type, in capital and small letters, made in many sizes” . But Clarendon typeface is lot more than just bold, condensed letters. They were and still are used on several levels of visual communication - as a display typeface, newspaper face, etc. Clarendon is an ionic typeface with truncated and bracketed serifs, a result of the combination of roman and slab serif letterforms. The letters behave as a slab serif typeface with a curve that softens it’s sharp serifs or as a roman face with the ends of the serifs chopped off. This typeface has been believed to have been influenced by the the typeface Double Pica Ionic Caslon, which was introduced in 1844. Though a few letters still owned some slab serif features (like the ‘E’ and ‘F’ have no middle arm, as shown below), most of the typical Clarendon characteristics can be seen.

E Square serifs and equal strokes (Slab serif)


Curved and slender serifs (Roman)


Truncated serifs and unequal strokes (Ionic)


Clarendon was created by Robert Besley in 1845, when he worked at the Fann Street Foundry in London. He was an English typographer, and the Lord Mayor of London in 1869. Besley joined the Fann Street Foundry in 1838. It also happened to be the home of typographer William Throwgood (creator of Grotesque typeface) Besley also created three other font families, namely Besley Clarendon, Clarendon 617 and Clarendon Semi.

Robert Besley (1794-1876)


Clarendon is the first registered typeface. It was patented under Britain’s Ornamnetal Designs Act of 1842. However, the patent expired three years later and the typeface was immediately copied by other foundries. Interestingly, the origins of the name ‘Clarendon’ are not completely clarified. Many authors suggest that the name might refer to the Clarendon Press at Oxford University but the connection is not entirely logical, because during the time of Clarendon’s cutting, there was no type foundry at the Oxford University Press.


There were certain periods in hitory when this typeface was in the foreground. The typeface evolved over these periods. The nineteenth century was the century of the industrialized society. The growth of advertising printing strongly influenced typeface design. Just within 20 years, letterforms such as fat faces, followed by sans serifs and slab serifs were introduced, and the type founders emphasized on the production of display faces. Among many typeface inventions of this period, the slab serifs (also known as ‘Egyptians’ or ‘Square serifs’) were one of the most interesting developments. In some cases it is difficult to judge whether the type founders produced a typeface with Clarendon-like characteristics or whether the bracketed serifs were just a result of poor printing conditions.

j s Some typefaces that were created few decades earlier were generally not solid, but shared characteristics with the Clarendon model. For example, Two line pica in shade, created by Vincent Figgins in 1815. Some authors also suggest that the Clarendon model was used earlier in the roman architectural relief lettering at the end of the eighteenth century and that this model was later introduced to copper plate engravers in a shaded outline form at the beginning of the nineteenth century.

Soon this typeface was introduced in markets outside UK. One of the first continental typefaces based on this model was created by Johann Christoph Bauer from Germany. He decided to make a slightly expanded version that he later issued in the 1850s. It was also introduced in American versions(issued by Bruce and Cincinnati foundries) In France, Clarendon typefaces were usually labelled as ‘Egyptian anglaises’. In 1879, William Page created the French Clarendon, which had exaggerated serifs and strokes.

In the second half of the nineteenth century the speed of newspaper production increased dramatically. The use of stereotype duplicate plates and the development of the rotary press in the 1860s were just some of the more important improvements in the printing industry. The dominant text typefaces in the 1900s in the field of newspaper printing were still the “modern” typefaces of the 1800s. It was only in the 1920s, when mostly American newspaper companies began to collaborate with the manufacturers of type composing machines in order to increase type legibility. After four trials, Mergenthaler Linotype Company finally issued a typeface based on the Clarendon model.


The period after the second world war saw a great development of advertising. There were not many typefaces cut during this period, and thus this decade is sometimes labelled as a “typographically frustrating period”. The font faces mostly used were Bembo, Baskerville and Monotype Plantin. A few things changed in the 1950s - there were three groups used very frequently, i.e sans serifs, romans and typefaces based in the clarendon model. Almost every major type foundry introduced their version of a Clarendon typeface.

GLYPH SET Clarendon Light

ABCDEFGHIJKLMNOPQRSTUVWXYZ abcdefghijklmnopqrstuvwxyz 0123456789 .,><:;”?’/+\=-~`!@#$%^&*)(

Clarendon Regular

ABCDEFGHIJKLMNOPQRSTUVWXYZ abcdefghijklmnopqrstuvwxyz 0123456789 .,><:;”?’/+\=-~`!@#$%^&*)(

Clarendon Black

ABCDEFGHIJKLMNOPQRSTUVWXYZ abcdefghijklmnopqrstuvwxyz 0123456789 .,><:;”?’/+\=-~`!@#$%^&*)(


Slightly square curves


Upright stems have parallel edges



Crossbars are centralised


Width is slightly expanded

Ascenders are equal in height to cap height





Contrast between thick and thin strokes is medium

Large x-height

Axis of contrast is vertical


Fully rounded ears


Horizontal crossbar



Large, defined, hooked stroke Curved leg with a tail

Double storeyed, with a curved tail

cr e

Flat apex

Double storeyed with closed tail

G Vertical spur


Long, elaborate tail


The height of the numerals is lesser than the cap height, but larger than x-height.


0 1 2 3 4 Wherever the stroke starts with a curve or ends with one, there is always a ball at the end. Apart from the bracketed serif, â&#x20AC;&#x2DC;4â&#x20AC;&#x2122; is the only numeral without any curved strokes.

â&#x20AC;&#x2DC;7â&#x20AC;&#x2122; is the only numeral having a serif(vertical) at the beginning of the stroke.

5 6 7 8 9 Contrast between thick and thin strokes is medium, and the curves are smooth. The axis or stress is vertical.


GG QQ TT YY aa gg kk qq rr

Larger counterform, and the serif on top is at an angle

The tail is shorter and is not elaborate

The terminals are at an angle

Larger counterform

Curling tail

Less elaboratly curled ear

Angled serif

Truncated terminal

Curled ear




GG QQ TT YY aa gg kk qq rr

Larger cap height

Counterform made by the tail is bigger

Width is reduced

Contrast in strokes is more

No curling tail, ear is not so rounded

Less rounded ear, larger counterform

Thinner strokes

Truncated terminal

Elongated and less rounded ear


GG Q Q TT YY a a gg kk qq rr Smaller counterform, slab serif

Tail creates two almost equal counterforms

Square serifs, low contrast between strokes

Unequal serifs on the diagonals, shorter stem

Smaller counterform

Less elaborate ear, not fully rounded

Serifs not rounded

Fat, truncated terminal

Smooth ear




GG QQ TT YY aa gg kk qq rr Smoother curve

Thinner tail

More pronounced square serif

Unequal strokes

Larger counterforms

Less rounded ear

Thinner serif

Truncated terminal

Wider ear, not very rounded


REFERENCES ‘Three chapters in the development of Clarendon/ionic typefaces’ by Mitja ‘Font. The sourcebook’ ‘Typeface : Classic typography for contemporary design’ by Tamye Riggs

Manasi Mankad GDPD Semester 3 Graphic Design 2012-13 Typography GUIDE : Tarun Deep Girdher