Poster Details: King Henry VIII + 6 wives

Caslon + Cochin

[ from top: Adobe Caslon Pro Bold  + Cochin LT Std Roman ]

Love can be so fleeting, can’t it? For some it is much more fleeting than others. Before Zsa Zsa Gabor (married 9 times), Elizabeth Taylor (8), and Larry King (8), there was King Henry the VIII. He changed wives like others have changed socks.

In typography, trying to pair two serifs together is looked at as risky and unconventional and usually unnecessary. Frequently the two don’t mix well, like King Henry and some of his wives. However, in a poster dedicated to finding type combinations, I had to give it a try. “King Henry” is set in the grandaddy of all English typefaces: Caslon. William Caslon was first an engraver. In 1721 the Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge asked him to design an Arabic typeface to be used to typeset the New Testament. At this time in England (1722), Dutch types were used and Caslon based his design on some of these. The typeface soon spread throughout the English empire. It is noted for being solid, practical and unassuming, and very readable. The version used here is Adobe Caslon, designed by Carol Twombly. I have obviously modified the H and Y letterforms to create a masthead for “King Henry.”

The wives are set in the typeface Cochin. Nicolas Cochin was a French engraver in the 18th century. In the 1900s, French foundry Deberny & Peignot commissioned a design and initially released it under the name of Sonderdruck in 1912. The version used here was designed by Matthew Carter in 1977 for Linotype and released by Adobe as part of their Open Type collection. I first fell in love with Cochin in the early 1990s when a colleague of mine used if for body text in a catalog he designed. It has a subtle elegance (fit for a queen) with its small x-height and long ascenders and descenders, although I have set it in all caps to give it a more formal feel. The serifs are quite sharp and contrast well with the more blunt serifs of Adobe Caslon Pro. Speaking of sharp edges, two of the six wives were beheaded by Henry’s decrees.

Other versions (and links to buy them):
Caslon: There are many fantastic versions of Caslon. A few of my favorites are: Caslon 540 (,,, Caslon 3 (I think this is the version used in Honda car advertisements since the 1970s and can be purchased using the previous links), Big Caslon ( and a recent revival, Williams Caslon (check out a great article from its designer William Burkson; buy the typeface at
Cochin: Nicolas Cochin and LTC Nicolas Cochin, both with a lot more flair than the one I used on the poster (,

Other combinations of serif typefaces that might work:
I don’t know if I have any other combos that I’ve used that have worked well. If you have some ideas, make a comment below.


King Henry:



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