Fann Street Foundry

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April 21, 2016 at 7:30 AM #27113


GoudyLeaf-LeftUnlike continental Europe, Great Britain aggressively policed the power of the press until the late-1600s and again a century later. Talbot Baines Reed [d1893] writes that type was extra-strictly regulated—lest printed words incite and organize “sedition” perhaps characterized by the colonial US War for Independence against England [1775–1783].

Note that (as always!) historians disagree…


The history of the Fann Street Foundry [London, 1757–1905] spans nearly 150 years. Lineages of two earlier TFs were joined in 1820 and 1828 when acquired by William Thorowgood:†

1757–1759. Thomas Cotrell‡ and Joseph Jackson.‡ Apparently, the partnership was dissolved and the assets divided.
1759–1785. Thomas Cotrell,‡ Nevil’s Court.
1778. Specimens feature romans and italics excelling competitors for lightness and uniformity [Eason et al.].
1794–1820. Robert Thorne,‡ Fann Street [Millington].
1802. Foundry moved to Fann Street, site of a former brewery [Eason et al.].
1820. Thorne dies [Gray, Eason et al.].
1820. Acquired by William Thorowgood [Gray]. According to Gray, the two-sheet 1820 catalog illustrates “the first-known Thorne fat faces and Egyptian.”


One of these days, I’ll get around to documenting the histories (speculations?) proposed below:

†Eason et al. write that “Thorowgood came from Straffordshire and had been in the pump business but had no previous connection with type founding. Despite this not inconsiderable disadvantage he threw himself into the business with great energy and very quickly established himself.” I read somewhere that he acquired the foundry as a gambling debt or by winning a card game…
‡Thorne was once apprenticed to Cotrell, a former colleague of Jackson when both were employed by William Caslon I. Type Lore and Legend purports that Cotrell and/or Jackson learned Caslon’s punch-cutting trade secrets by spying through a hole in the wall surrounding the room reserved for this purpose.
1764–1773. Joseph Fry, William Pine and Isaac Moore: Bristol Letter Foundry.
1773–1776. Joseph Fry, London.
1776–1782. J. Fry and Co.
1782–1794. Edmund Fry, M.D.
1794–1799. Edmund Fry and Isaac Steel.
1799–1808. Fry, Steel and Co.
1808–1816. Edmund Fry, M.D.|Letter Founder to King and Prince Regent.
1816–1828. Edmund Fry and Son.
1828. Acquired by William Thorowgood.
1820–1838. William Thorowgood|Letter Founder to His Majesty.
1838. Robert Besley becomes a partner [Eason et al.].
1838–1849. Thorowgood and Besley.
1849. Thorowgood retires [Eason et al.].
1849–1861. [Robert] Besley and Co.
1861. Besley retires [Gray].
1861–1877. Reed and Fox [Millington].
1866. Reed and Fox [Gray].
1874. Catalog title page identifies publisher as “Fann Street Foundry|Reed and Fox, Late Robert Besley & Co. Aldersgate Street, London.”
1877. Fox dies [Eason et al.].
1877. Thorowgood dies [Eason et al.]

1877–1894. Sir Charles Reed and Sons.
1894–1905. Sir Charles Reed and Sons, Ltd.
1905. Acquired by Stephenson, Blake and Co. [Sheffield, London, Toronto].


  • Reed, T.B. (1887): A History of the Old English Letter Foundries|With Notes, Historical and Biographical, on the Rise and Progress of English Typography. Elliot Stock, London.
  • Gray, N. (1938): XIXth Century Ornamented Types and Title Pages, pages 128–133. Faber and Faber Limited, London.
  • Eason, R.; Rookledge, S.; Baines, P.; Rookledge, G. (1991): Rookledge’s International Handbook of Type Designers|A Biographical Directory, pages 150–152. Sarema Press Ltd., London.
  • Millington, R. (2002): The Ancestry of English Typefounding. In Stephenson Blake|The Last of the Old English Typefounders, Appendix VI. Oak Knoll Press, New Castle, DE.


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