From the Archives no. 13—Frederic Goudy

Recently I was looking through back issues of The New Yorker online in order find “Glorifier of the Alphabet”, a profile of Frederic W. Goudy written by Milton MacKaye and published in the January 14, 1933 issue. I thought it might contain some information on the famous but vexatious quotation about stealing sheep attributed to Goudy. There is much dispute online over the exact wording of the quotation and what, specifically, Goudy was complaining about: spacing lowercase type, spacing italic type, spacing blackletter or spacing lowercase blackletter. Was he likening such activity to stealing sheep, shagging sheep or fucking sheep. The profile said nothing about this topic.

“At thirty years of age he was an obscure bookkeeper fresh out of a job…. Today, at sixty-seven, he is the greatest type-designer in the world….,” wrote MacKaye in the 1933 profile. If this were not proof enough of Goudy’s fame beyond the narrow confines of the worlds of design, printing and type, then two other brief references to Goudy in The New Yorker certainly are.

In The Talk of the Town for September 22, 1934 (p. 15) it says: “Typographical Note: Mr. Frederic Goudy has designed a special type for Saks Fifth Avenue, to be called Saks Goudy. Macy ads will hereafter be set in Cheltenham Bold—neat but not Goudy.” Typographic humor.

In The Talk of the Town for October 6, 1934 (p. 15) it says: “Courage-of-Convictions Note: In Pirie MacDonald’s window on Fifth Avenue there is a picture of Mr. Goudy and a sign telling of his marvellous [sic] achievements in type design. The text is set in Cooper Black.” Someone at The New Yorker knew their type. Pirie MacDonald (1867–1942) was a portrait photographer who focused on portraits of men of achievement. Among his sitters were Theodore Roosevelt, Woodrow Wilson and Antoine Lumiére. Goudy was in good company.