Ludlow Typography

Just as com­pet­it­ors wanted to improve typo­graphy gen­er­ally, Lud­low also took on the challenge

Ludlow Type Specimen Book
Lud­low Type Spe­ci­men Book

From the 1920s, Mono­type took the chal­lenge of improv­ing typo­graphy very ser­i­ously and embarked on a pro­gramme of devel­op­ing new faces and reviv­ing clas­sic faces so that the world might be rid of faces like Chel­ten­ham.  Inter­type and Lino­type were slow to fol­low and con­cen­trated on speed of pro­duc­tion rather than qual­ity.  My view is that Lud­low took typo­graphy ser­i­ously, but their smal­ler mar­ket share meant they did­n’t have the same impact.

The sys­tem itself had some advant­ages as well as the ital­ics (men­tioned below), the same degree of con­trol was avail­able over spa­cing as in hand com­pos­i­tion.  Con­trast this with linecasters using adjustable spaces that some­times led to rivers of spaces fol­low­ing through work.

The name R. Hunter Middleton is syn­onym­ous with the Lud­low Cor­por­a­tion, and he designed some of the firm­’s most suc­cess­ful faces includ­ing Depl­hi­an Titling, Tempo (sans serif), Karnak (slab serif), and a Garamond


Ludlow Italic Matrices
Lud­low Ital­ic Matrices

Because of the sim­pli­city of the Lud­low sys­tem, they could make amend­ments to the oper­a­tion of the machine rel­at­ively eas­ily.  Once such change was to intro­duce ital­ic matrices, and a spe­cial ital­ic stick.  A dif­fi­cult prob­lem for line-cast­ing is that ital­ics have a tend­ency to encroach on the area of the pre­ced­ing and fol­low­ing let­ters: take the f for example, which will hang under the earli­er char­ac­ter and over the fol­low­ing.  Because most oth­er cast­ing uses rect­an­gu­lar mats, this can­not eas­ily be accoun­ted for and so the face has to be adjus­ted and weakened to fit with­in the con­fines of the mat.  In 1913 Lud­low decided to go with the ital­ic whole­heartedly and developed matrices that slope at a 17° angle and are held in a stick with ends at the same angle.  The res­ult is that an f, for example, can be cast at that angle and fit neatly with the oth­er types at the same angle.  By means of tri­an­gu­lar spaces, roman and ital­ics can mix on the same line.

Lud­low took full advant­age of this and developed some beau­ti­ful ital­ics to go with their faces.


Know­ing that they were keen to attract the job­bing print­er, Lud­low set out to make the print­ing of ruled formes very easy.  Job­bing print­ers had to pro­duce invoices, bills, account sheets and so on, and tra­di­tion­ally had used met­al rules sat between lead types to cre­ate the right pat­tern.  This approach tied up mater­i­al and took a vast amount of time: ima­gine set­ting mul­tiple hori­zont­al and ver­tic­al rules with some type to cre­ate a pet­rol sta­tion receipt, for example.

Mr Mer­rill of Lud­low developed Rule­form in 1923.  The approach was to cre­ate uni­form-width matrices and exploit the slug by cast­ing over­hangs and under­hangs at the top and bot­tom of the same slug.  Using the repeat cast­ing func­tion meant that one line could be set and duplic­ated, and the under­hangs and over­hangs would mesh with each oth­er to cre­ate a whole, sol­id lump for printing.