It‘s finally done. My tattoo artist was Mark Galloway at Irezumi Body Art (8435 Wornall Road; Kansas City, MO 64114-5811; 816-363-6396). The font is Caslon, designed by William Caslon I (1692-1766) in the 1720s.

Here’s what the Encyclopaedia Britannica has to say about him:

English typefounder who, between 1720 and 1726, designed the typeface that bears his name. His work helped to modernize the book, making it a separate creation rather than a printed imitation of the old hand-produced book.

Caslon began his career as an apprentice to an engraver of gunlocks and barrels. In 1716 he opened his own engraving shop in London and soon began to make tools for bookbinders and silver chasers. When his work came to the attention of the printer John Watts, Caslon was given the task of cutting type punches for various presses in London. In 1720 he designed an ìEnglish Arabicî typeface used in a psalter and a New Testament. Two years later he cut excellent roman, italic, and Hebrew typefaces for the printer William Bowyer; the roman typeface, which was first used in 1726, later came to be called Caslon. The success of Caslon’s new typefaces in England was almost instantaneous, and, as a result, he received loans and sufficient trade to enable him to set up a complete typefoundry. From 1720 to 1780, few books were printed in England that did not use type from his foundry.

Caslon’s first specimen sheet was issued in 1734 and exhibited his roman and italic types in 14 different sizes. His types eventually spread all over Europe and the American colonies, where one of his fonts was used to print the Declaration of Independence. Caslon’s typefaces combined delicate modeling with a typically Anglo-Saxon vigour.

After 1735 Caslon’s eldest son, William (1720ñ88), joined him and by about 1742 had become a partner. Though the son lacked his father’s great abilities, he maintained the reputation of the firm and, with the aid of his wife, Elizabeth, managed it skillfully. After William’s death in 1788, the original Caslon & Son foundry was divided among his heirs.

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10 thoughts on “pen?

  1. Wow. I like how the reader needs to be positioned in a certain fashion in order to be able to decipher the word and the punctuation according to the conventions of the English language (facing the inscribed site in the same general vertical orientation as the inscribed person).
    At first I read “pen?” as a request for a writing implement. Then I read it as a question about the area of anatomy below (behind?) and around the inscription: how does the body contain? does it function as a pen? body areas as a series of pens? And thirdly connecting both semantic fields of “pen” as container through which flows the material to inscribe meaning. And the stipes on the vestment also look like penwork…. (o)pen liens and lines.

  2. The font is gorgeous. And I’m as curious as Jason.
    Ever since I got “You” etched, I’ve been wanting to do more of this type of body art.

  3. Thanks for all the feedback, y’all (and the fascinating interpretive musings, Francois). To answer questions:
    It’s on the inside of my arm. Surprisingly (to me), it didn’t really hurt much. Right now it feels like a mild sunburn.
    Vika, did you ever post a picture of your tat?
    For more discussion, check out this Livejournal community, mentioned in the thread to my original post on this subject.

  4. Congrats, G2! The tat looks great.
    When are you in Manchester? Weather here in Norwich is LOVELY–75 degrees, sunny, and a cool breeze. And me? I’m very happy, finding some great research, eating lots of Indian food, and enjoying non-rainy Britannia to boot.

  5. Aha, a comment from across the pond! I leave for England on June 27, arriving in Manchester on the 28th. I’ll go to London on July 16 for the weekend, then France for the week, then back to London for another weekend, then home.
    Work, but also fun!
    Having a good trip? When do you come back stateside?

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