Syracuse University Magazine


Frederic Sherman’s niece, Elizabeth Sherman Engelhardt, donated the Sherman font matrices and type (above), as well as other materials from her uncle’s publishing work, to the University’s Special Collections Research Center. Photo courtesy of Dress Code

A Revived Goudy Font Becomes the University’s Signature Typeface

In spring 1910, a New York publisher fond of poetry and art named Frederic Fairchild Sherman commissioned printer and type designer Frederic W. Goudy to create an exclusive font for some of his publishing forays. Goudy obliged and the Sherman typeface was born. It was used in fewer than a handful of small-run publications and then seemingly exited from the world of print. More than a century later, the Sherman font has re-emerged—this time as the official typeface of Syracuse University. It initially appeared on campus light-pole banners, was launched in digital form on the University’s redesigned website in January, and is now featured in other materials and publications, including this magazine. “It’s a fascinating story,” says Nicci Brown G’98, vice president of communications and chief marketing officer and publisher of Syracuse University Magazine, who guided the process as part of a University brand identity initiative. “We are pleased to have our own custom typeface that is rooted in a historical association with one of America’s most iconic typeface designers. We’re particularly grateful to our colleagues in the University Library’s Special Collections and Archives for their work in bringing this association to light.”

How did this all come about? Well, as William T. La Moy, curator of rare books and manuscripts at the Special Collections Research Center (SCRC), puts it, “There was this very substantial connection between Goudy and Syracuse University.” He counts himself among the legions of fans of Goudy (1865-1947), who created nearly 120 typefaces and is arguably America’s most important type designer. La Moy can also share the details on Goudy’s myriad links to the University. School of Journalism Dean M. Lyle Spencer H’51 recognized the value of forging a relationship with Goudy, who lived in the Hudson Valley, for the fledgling journalism school, which was founded in 1934. In 1936, Spencer presented Goudy with the school’s first medal for distinguished service, recognizing his “distinctive achievement in typographic design.” Spencer supported awarding Goudy an honorary doctorate from the University in 1939 and created a faculty position for him in 1940. The school established the Goudy Typography Laboratory, which was organized by journalism professor David M. Norton. The University also became the recipient of the Frederic W. Goudy Collection and of Norton’s collection of Goudy-related items, both housed in the SCRC. 

All in all, a wealth of Goudy material to explore. But when La Moy came across a complete set of matrices for the Sherman typeface, a partial set of matrices for Goudy’s original Village font, as well as contracts and inventories for both fonts, he was astounded. After all, Goudy’s Village matrices were the only ones to survive a 1908 fire in the New York City building where he and his wife, Bertha, worked and that served as headquarters of their Village Press. A year after the blaze, with Sherman hankering for a Goudy font, Goudy sold him the Village typeface. “The guy who commissions the fonts keeps the matrices; they don’t give them up because if they need more type, they need the matrices,” La Moy says. “Now that posed a big question for me: Why do we have all this stuff?”

The answer, La Moy discovered, rested with Sherman’s niece, Elizabeth Sherman Engelhardt, who donated the material to the SCRC in 1964. Since she lived in the New York metro area, La Moy suspects she was helping her widowed aunt (Sherman died in 1940) disperse the materials, and she learned about Goudy’s links to Syracuse through media reports. “She must have had a librarian’s background,” he says with a chuckle, “because she created a bibliography about his use of Sherman that she gave to us.” She also corresponded with Professor Norton, who used Sherman type in his classes at a time when journalism students still learned how to set type by hand. Today, that type still exists in SCRC and as part of the Goudy Typography Laboratory (now the Goudy Printmaking Workshop). “The Sherman type at Syracuse may well be the only Sherman type that exists,” La Moy says. “No one else has Sherman and we’ve got both the metal and now the digital versions of it.”

Digital Revival

La Moy documented his research on Goudy, the fonts, and the SU connection in a pair of articles for the journal Printing History. As it turns out, La Moy’s work would prove beneficial to the University. In 2015, SU launched a brand identity initiative with guidance from the New York City office of Pentagram, the world’s largest independent design consultancy. In exploring typography options, the Pentagram team learned about Goudy’s history with SU, and La Moy introduced them to the Goudy fonts in the collections. There were printed examples of Sherman and Village and also one known as Spencer Old Style, which Goudy had created in honor of the former journalism dean. The problem was they only had drawings of five Spencer letters: phasg. Ultimately, Sherman became the selection to pursue—viewed as a font that reinforces the University’s academic strength and captures SU’s spirit through its combination of liveliness and seriousness. Jesse Reed, an associate partner at Pentagram and lead designer on the project, says often when a typeface is chosen for a particular brand, its direct relationship and recognition will strengthen over time. “Baked into the DNA of this typeface is such a direct correlation with the University,” Reed says. “You couldn’t ask for a better gift as a graphic designer—it would be almost unthinkable for such a close connection to even exist from the outset.” 

To bring the Sherman typeface into today’s digital world, Pentagram commissioned type designer Chester Jenkins of Brooklyn, cofounder of Village Type. “I’ve always been a fan of Goudy’s and had an interest in him and his work,” he says. “Even before this project, I started to collect what I call ‘Goudyana.’” Jenkins paid a visit to La Moy at the SCRC and used a high-resolution flatbed scanner to copy the Sherman examples, including the matrices. Back in his office, he autotraced the scans and then drew over the top of the autotraces, refining the details. Along with reviving Goudy’s Sherman serif, he created a companion sans serif as well as italic and bold versions and a consistent set of numerals for running text. “With Sherman, we started with the original stuff and tried to make a version as close as possible to the original,” he says.

Jenkins equates rejuvenating a typeface to channeling the designer using 21st-century technology and techniques and imagining what supporting fonts would look like based on the original. For instance, to create the italic he turned to some of Goudy’s other work. “I looked through the type he was making around the same time as he made Sherman and tried to echo some of those italic forms,” Jenkins says. He describes the Sherman typeface as “friendly and a little bit quirky, but not a lot… I hope it won’t stop anyone in their tracks when they’re trying to get through something they’re reading. It’s meant to be read over long texts, so I hope it does that,” he says.

Celebrating Goudy

In the fall, the SCRC plans to host an exhibition of all things Goudy. “It will celebrate Will’s research and the library’s role, the new typeface, the influence of Goudy, and the materials we have in the collections,” says Andrew Saluti ’99, G’09, chief curator of exhibitions, programs, and education at the SCRC. “It will be part history and also part legacy.” Saluti, also a Goudy fan, has a background in printmaking and has spent time at the Goudy workshop on campus. “There are still many Goudy fonts at the printmaking workshop that are available for use,” he says. “That’s one of the things I get excited about—maintaining this legacy of Goudy type at Syracuse, because as Will was saying, we have all these elements and not letting it be forgotten is important.”

In the meantime, La Moy and Saluti have been searching campus files for the missing hand-drawn letters of the Spencer font that Goudy created. In addition, after doing some research, La Moy has a sense of the possible whereabouts of the original Village font matrices and is interested in recovering them. “I want the matrices from Village,” La Moy says. “I want them to rejoin the collection.” ­—Jay Cox



Type designer Frederic W. Goudy


Frederic Fairchild Sherman was a New York City publisher who admired the work of type designer Frederic W. Goudy. He acquired Goudy’s Village font and also commissioned Goudy to create the Sherman font.

Goudy and Sherman photos courtesy of SU Special Collections Research Center


Photo courtesy of Dress Code

Watch Goudy & Syracuse: The Tale of a Typeface Found, a video about the rediscovery.

Pentagram on Vimeo.


"The Sherman type at Syracuse may well be the only Sherman type that exists. No one else has Sherman and we’ve got both the metal and now the digital versions of it.”

—William La Moy