Typeface of the week – Cheltenham

An old typesetters’ saying was “You can’t beat Chelt”. Usually as reaction to having to work with a ‘new-fangled’ face like Excelsior or Century. They had a point. Cheltenham, aka Gloucester (check your atlas!) had its merits but for some of us these were outweighed by its so ‘last year’ appearance, and that was close to half a century ago.

Designed in 1896 by architect Bertram Goodhue and Ingalls Kimball, director of the Cheltenham Press its not exactly modern, but had a certain Arts and Crafts appeal, as shown by this beautiful illustration.

Cheltenham typeface poster
Typeface of the week – Cheltenham

Originally intended as a text face, Chelt’s versatility meant it became hugely successful as the ‘king of the display faces’. Cheltenham headlines complement virtually any text face. Together with its appeal for display, Chelt lasted until the advent of the geometric sans-serif faces and was still extensively used right up to the 1970s and 80s.

It has now been digitised and reincarnated. As recently as 2003 the New York Times introduced a new style for headline use. It also lives on in unlikely places – the Dummies series of how-to books, street signage in Helsinki, and Japanese anime cowboy movies. Chelt still takes some beating!