I’m wondering what pica means in the following context -also view Pica Roman n°2 from this article, Pica Hole font, and IM Fell DW Pica font:

James Mosley summarises [Caslon’s] early work: "Caslon's pica...was based very closely indeed on a pica roman and italic that appears on the specimen sheet of the widow of the Amsterdam printer Dirck Voskens, c.1695, and which Bowyer had used for some years. Caslon's pica replaces it in his printing from 1725…Caslon's Great Primer roman, first used in 1728, a type that was much admired in the twentieth century, is clearly related to the Text Romeyn of Voskens, a type of the early seventeenth century used by several London printers and now attributed to the punch-cutter Nicolas Briot of Gouda."4 Mosley also describes several other Caslon faces as "intelligent adaptations" of the Voskens Pica

I have a doubt that it talks about the measure's unit.

1 Answer 1


The term "pica" refers to the size of the font.

Long before type fonts had sizes in standardized (more or less) units, the sizes had names.

  • Pica is roughly equivalent to 12 pt expressed in today's terms.
  • Royal was reserved exclusively for the King's use. (Proclamations, Wanted posters, etc.) It was roughly equal to our 72 pt size

  • Agate is still used in some classified advertising. Agate is 14 lined/inch. and is 5½ points.

The names varied as well as the sizes from country to country.
Even after the size was standardized to be 1/72nd of an inch (roughly-it complains irrationally.) There was some disagreement until we settled on a digital point size definition.

Edit: Here's a definitive list Traditional Type size names

  • thanks for your answer, Is there an agreement on a digital point size defintition today? Wikipedia talks about a de facto standard: "Following the advent of desktop publishing in the 1980s and 1990s, digital printing has largely supplanted the letterpress printing and has established the DTP point (desktop publishing point) as the de facto standard. The DTP point is defined as ​1⁄72 of an international inch (about 0.353 mm) and, as with earlier American point sizes, is considered to be ​1⁄12 of a pica. "
    – DiaJos
    Jul 4, 2019 at 3:11
  • @Webwoman Yes. Thank you for that. I couldn't have said it better.
    – Stan
    Jul 4, 2019 at 3:14
  • '@Webwoman The issue was side-stepped. A couple of industry leaders found the remainders inconvenient. For a while the question was an added specification when phototypesetting was introduced. It was an issue when trying to match type for editions, revisions, and reprints. It became a moot point in the early 80s.
    – Stan
    Jul 4, 2019 at 3:23
  • This is correct except that I don't know where you got the idea that there was a special royal size of type. (In every country in Europe?) In some countries in Europe there were fonts of type that were government property, and some that were supposed not to be copied (e.g. Romain du Roi), but no sizes that only belonged to kings.
    – Copilot
    Jul 30, 2019 at 20:41

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