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Gentry vs. Cicero font identification

I’ve got a recently-cast font labeled Gentry (it’s 18 pt.), but I’ve seen a similar, if not identical, “antique” font named Cicero in the back of McGrew’s American Metal Typefaces of the Twentieth Century. I cannot find a published specimen under the name of Gentry — does anyone know where this name originated? I’d like to inventory the font by the correct moniker. Thanks.

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I think that the name “Gentry” came from Frederic Nelson Phillips, in his 1945 specimen book. The face, itself, dates back to at least 1857, where it was listed, in Nicolete Gray’s book, as “Besley.” It was shown in Bruce’s 1869 book as, “Two-Line Bourgeois Ornamented, No. 19; and the modern castings (Los Angeles) were named, “Cicero.” So, you can’t be too-wrong by calling it that.
Dave Greer

Thanks, Dave. I’m inclined to re-christen it Cicero if that’s the name LATF used, and since it’s listed that way in McGrew. I would have continued calling it Gentry, the given name when cast four or five years ago, if there was a compelling reason to.

Just curious — any history on Frederic Nelson Phillips? Was he a typefounder, or did he publish his own specimen book? I don’t recognize his name.

—David Smith.

Phillips was a well-known antique-type collector, like Lyons, and his 1945 specimen book was titled, “Phillips’ Old-Fashioned Type Book.” Another showing of his specimens was published by Tri-Arts Press, Inc., in New York, I believe that his collection was later bought by Bowne. I’m not sure if there is a complete biography of him, though. Several of his specimens were mis-named, as were Lyons’, but some names stuck with the public. Possibly “Gentry” was one of them.

Here (attached to this posting, if it shows up) is a scan of the page from Phillips Old-Fashioned Type Book (1945) which shows this face, as “Gentry.” The small picture allowed here doesn’t reveal much, so here is a link to a 600dpi version:

The 20th century revival of it dates to at least 1962, when it was shown by Typefounders, Inc. (of Phoenix) under the name “Cicero” in 18 point. These mats went to LATF, who continued to show it. They are now in the possession of Skyline Type Foundry, although Sky does not list the face as available in his current Specimen.

The Phoenix specimen 7A (1962) is reprinted at:

It’s also shown in LATF specimens - e.g.:

To clarify the information from Nicolete Gray… This face is shown in the “Chart of Ornamented Typefaces” in the second edition (1976) of her book (Nineteenth Century Ornamented Typefaces); it is not in the first edition (at least that I can find). It is shown on p. 221 and identified as being by the typefounder named Besley (the name of the typeface is not “Besley”). She says:

Besley. c. 1857. _De La Rue_ (Owen Jones design)

Dave Greer gave you the essential info on Phillips. In 1986, an article by Saxe listed him with 1200 fonts of metal type and 180 of wood. I believe that his collection went to Bowne & Co., Stationers.

David M.

image: Phillips Old Fashioned Type Book, p. 30

Phillips Old Fashioned Type Book, p. 30

Thanks Dave and David — that’s just what I was hoping for!

I had forgotten I had a copy of the Tri-Arts Press specimen book and when I pulled it out, there was the name Frederic Nelson Phillips. The index lists Cicero but says “see Gentry,” and the specimens (10 and 18 pt.) shown in the book are listed as Gentry.

But it would seem there are several (and weighted) reasons for calling this type Cicero, mainly because the majority of modern typefounders who’ve cast it, or possess the mats, list it by that name, as does McGrew. That’s how I’ll label it in my inventory.

It does leave open the question of whether the name Cicero existed before the revival casting by Typefounders of Phoenix in 1962, or whether Charles Broad came up with the name on his own….

All the Best,


image: Tri-Arts.jpg


This face was offered as a revival previous to Charles Broad’s by Steve Watts in one of his Kittypot Castings, about 1960. He called it Great Primer Ornamented #8. Watts had a long career at ATF, and after he retired he offered a number of revival castings, by subscription, that he arranged to have cast by ATF using the original matrices of the company. This was the eighth Kittyupot Casting. On the card offering this face he stated” “This type had extensive use in England during the 1860’s, and was offered by three or more American letter founders before the year 1876.

I keep an index card file on all of my fonts. I constantly make additions and changes as new facts are discovered, but unfortunately I have never made any notes as to exactly where my information was gleaned from.

In the case of Cicero/Gentry, my file card tells me that the original name is De La Rue, designed by Owen Jones for the Besley foundry c. 1857.


I should probably also mention that there is another Frederic Nelson Phillips type face book. The book is titled “Type Faces”, published in 1929, hardbound, 540 pages.

Somewhat emulating the 1923 ATF catgalog, this book shows the fonts available from Phillips. They were typographers, whose shop was on East 45th Street in New York City.

I obtained this book from Jim Doletsky some years back at a printer’s swap meet. Jim just passed away a few days ago so it is somewhat amazing that this subject came up now.



Lyons’ font of “Gentry” was a Kittypot, ATF-cast font, which he renamed, “Dave.” Just like many of his ornamented faces, it was more convenient for him to remember a name that he associated with a face.
Sorry for my error concerning the “Besley” information, in Grey—I have a hard time reading my own writing, lately.
My practice is to call type the same name that the originating type-caster called it, if I can identify who cast it.
Your Phillips book, from 1929, is new information for me, thank you!
Dave Greer

As I’m sure you know, Guy Botterill published several booklets entitled “The Man Behind the Face” which showed the type designer’s name printed in one of his creations. This thread shows that there could be numerous other people, and stories, associated with just a single typeface!

Thanks, Bob and Rick, for your added insight into this developing story. And Dave, I wonder if we’ll ever know the “Dave” that Lyons named his type after. I imagine it was before your association with him….

—David Smith.

Perhaps the Type Faces book issued by by Frederic Nelson Phillips, Inc. in 1929 is relatively rare, so I’ll elaborate a little more about it. For starters, there are ZERO antique faces displayed in it. It contains an amazing amount of ATF, BB&S, Monotype and a few European faces that were all popular commercial faces at thyat time. Lots of borders afre displayed and the ending 30 pages of the book are a Dictionary of Printing Terms.

A fairly neat volume.


David S.
I found the name “Dave” on one of Lyons’ index cards, but not in his Typograph;
Since it was printed in 1958, it was before the Kittypot recastings were released. My thought was that it may have been named after David O’Neal, the Boston antiquarian book-dealer, who had many dealings with Lyons and was the one that introduced me to Lyons.
Since Al Gowan wrote the Lyons biography, he may know.
Dave G.