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Unseen Hands: Women Printers, Binders and Book Designers    
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Bertha M. Sprinks Goudy
American, 1869-1935

Bertha Goudy was a bookkeeper when she married a fellow bookkeeper, Frederic William Goudy (1865-1947), in 1897. Fred Goudy would later become arguably the most admired and well-known of American twentieth-century type designers. The posthumous tributes which appeared in Bookmaking on the Distaff Side (1937), and Bertha S. Goudy, First Lady of Printing (1958) make it clear, however, that her contributions were of the greatest significance to their joint enterprises. Bertha herself, for example, cut their 24-point Deepdene italic design, and set the type for much of the output of the Village Press, which they founded together with Will Ransom, in 1903. Printing, an Essay by William Morris & Emery Walker, was their first publication, and their designs continue Morris’s revival of fine craftsmanship in the book arts.

Fred Goudy's own touching tribute to his wife reveals her importance to him and to their work:

To me she was "my beloved helpmate." She encouraged me when my own courage faltered; uncomplaining she endured the privations and vicissitudes of our early companionship; her intelligent and ready counsel I welcomed and valued; her consummate craftsmanship made possible many difficult undertakings. She ever sought to minimize any exploitation of her great attainments, that the acclaim which rightfully belonged to her should come, instead, to me. For two-score years she unselfishly aided me in every way in my work in the fields of type design and typography, and enabled me to secure a measure of success which alone could never have been mine.


Bertha M. Sprinks Goudy: A Specimen of the Type & Borders Cast by Frederic & Bertha Goudy at the Village Letter Foundery

A Specimen of the Village & Other Types Cast at the Village Letter Foundery [sic], Marlborough-on-Hudson, N.Y., by Fred & Bertha Goudy.” Typographica, Number 5, Summer 1927.
Graphic Arts Division

Portrait of Bertha Goudy by Mae Bradford Dunning

Portrait of Bertha Goudy, by Mae Bradford Dunning, ca. 1910
Graphic Arts Division

Other works in the exhibition:

  • The Door in the Wall and Other Stories, by H. G. Wells, illustrated with photogravures from photographs by Alvin Langdon Coburn. New York and London: Mitchell Kennerley, 1911.
    Graphic Arts Division

    While The Door in the Wall is justly famous on three counts: stories by H. G. Wells, photographs by Alvin Langdon Coburn, and type designed especially for it by Fred Goudy (his Kennerly, named for the publisher), the high quality of Bertha Goudy’s typesetting also deserves recognition.
  • Bertha S. Goudy, First Lady of Printing: Remembrances of the Distaff Side of the Village Press. Tributes by Bruce Rogers, Mabel H. Dwiggins, Alice Goudy Lochhead, Paul A. Bennett, George Macy, and F. W. Goudy
    The Distaff Side, 1958.
    Rare Books Division, the Miriam Y. Holden Collection on the History of Women

Princeton University Library, Graphic Arts Collection
Rebecca W. Davidson, Curator of Graphic Arts
Tel: (609) 258-3197
Last Modified: February 18, 2004