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Frederic William Goudy, Glorifier of the Alphabet

"Mr. Goudy did more to rescue typography from standardized ugliness than any other man since William Morris, whose spiritual descendant he was"—so stated Goudy's obituary in the New York Times on May 12, 1947.

Born in Bloomington, Illinois, on March 8, 1865, Goudy began his career as an accountant working in South Dakota, Minneapolis, and Chicago. In Chicago he secured a position in James D. Farquhar's bookstore, where he became enthralled by the beauty of well-designed typography. He haunted rare bookstores throughout the city and was introduced to the work of William Morris and the Kelmscott Press. Goudy also spent many hours reading about the history of typography at the famed Newberry Library.

After several unsuccessful business partnerships and a trip abroad in 1913, Goudy decided to focus on designing typefaces rather than printing. He produced the typeface Kennerly Old Style for an H. G. Wells anthology published by Mitchell Kennerly. The typeface became an instant classic and established Goudy's reputation as a designer.

In 1923 Goudy, his wife, Bertha, and their son, Frederic, founded the Village Press in Marlboro-on-Hudson, New York (an earlier unsuccessful business venture had also been named the Village Press). They were the sole employees of the press until it burned to the ground in 1939, destroying many of the original type designs and equipment. Undaunted, Goudy joined the faculty at Syracuse University's School of Journalism, where he was able to continue his work.

By the end of his life, Goudy had designed more than 100 typefaces and published more than 59 literary works. The selection of books by and about Goudy on display here are from the Ingalls Library's Rare Book Collection. Two of these books, Elements of Lettering and The Alphabet, were given to the Ingalls Library in 1925 by Goudy's patron, Mitchell Kennerly.

Collection in Focus Category: 
Artists