Joseph Fry (type-founder)

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Joseph Fry
Born 1728
Died 27 March 1787(1787-03-27) (aged 58–59)
Resting place Friars, Bristol
Nationality English
Known for Type-founder and chocolate maker

Joseph Fry (1728 – 27 March 1787), was an English type-founder and chocolate maker and founder of the Bristol branch of the Quaker Fry family. He was the eldest son of John Fry (d. 1775) of Sutton Benger, Wiltshire, author of ‘Select Poems,’ 1774, 4th edition, 1793. He was educated in the north of England, and afterwards bound apprentice to Henry Portsmouth of Basingstoke, an eminent doctor, whose eldest daughter, Anna, he afterwards married. He was the first member of his family to settle in Bristol, where he acquired a considerable medical practice, and ‘was led to take a part in many new scientific undertakings’.[1]

Business pursuits

Chocolate in China

After a time he abandoned medicine for business pursuits. He helped Richard Champion in his Bristol works, and began to make chocolate, having purchased Walter Churchman's patent right. The chocolate and cocoa manufactory thus started has been carried on by the family down to the early twentieth century.


The success of John Baskerville caused Fry to turn his attention in 1764 to type-founding, and he entered into a partnership with William Pine, the first Printer of the newspaper ‘Bristol Gazette,’ who had a large business in Wine Street. Their new type may be traced in several works issued between 1764 and 1770. The manager of Messrs. Joseph Fry & Wm Pine was Isaac Moore, formerly a whitesmith at Birmingham,[2] after whose speedy admission to partnership the business, "Bristol Letter Foundry" 1764 - 1773§. Moore was removed and went to London. He carried on as ‘Isaac Moore & Co., in Queen Street, near Upper Moorfields.’ Luckombe mentions Moore as one of three London founders.[3] In 1774 the London firm produced a fine folio bible, and in 1774–1776 a well-printed edition in 5 vols., 8vo. Fry's first foounts were cut in imitation Baskerville's, the punches being engraved by Isaac Moore. About this time they somewhat abandoned their earlier Baskerville style of letter, to follow the more popular Caslon character.

Joseph Fry firm became - Joseph Fry, London 1773 - 1776. In 1774 Pine printed at Bristol a bible in a pearl type, asserted to be ‘the smallest a bible was ever printed with.’ To all these editions notes were added to escape the penalty of infringing the patent. Two years later the firm became [[J Fry & Co.] 1776 - 1782], and issued in 1777 reprints of the octavo and folio bibles. Pine subsequently withdrew entirely.

Fry took two of his sons, Edmund (d. 1835) and Henry, into partnership in 1782, and bought the sale of James Foundry on the death of Rowe Mores and including all its relics of the old English Letter Founders in that year. The business was removed to Worship Street, where in 1785 was issued ‘A Specimen of Printing Types made by Joseph Fry & Sons, Letter-founders and Marking Instrument Makers by the King's Royal Letters Patent.’ In the advertisement the proprietors ‘flatter themselves’ that the types which are called new ‘will mix with, and be totally unknown from, the most approved founts made by the late ingenious artist, William Caslon.’ The next year they published another ‘Specimen,’ with new founts, and including seven pages of oriental types. They now called themselves ‘Letter-founders to the Prince of Wales.’

Soap and chemicals

Up to the time of his death Fry was a partner with Alderman William Fripp, as Fry, Fripp, & Co., soap-boilers. This business is now in the hands of Christopher Thomas Brothers. Fry also had some chemical works at Battersea, in which he was assisted by his son.

Death of Joseph Fry

Fry died after a few days' illness on 29 March 1787, aged 59, having father and grandfather he was a member of the Society of Friends, and was buried in the burial-ground at the Friars, Bristol.

Continuation of the businesses

After his death, Edmund Fry, M.D. 1787 - 1794 carried on with the Foundry business which included a partnership with Isaac Steele - Edmund Fry and Isaac Steele 1794 - 1799; then Fry Steele & Co 1799 - 1808. The Company name then returned once again to Edmund Fry, M.D. Letter Founder to King and Prince Regent 1808 - 1816. From this date Joseph's legacy became "Edmund Fry & Son" 1816 - 1828. The Foundry was then acquired by William Thorowgood, Letter Founder to His Majesty 1820. The sale included not only Dr Fry's collection of Oriental and "learned" Founts but also many relics of those old foundries which were incorporated with the James Foundry. §

Joseph Fry's other business, the chocolate and cocoa manufactory, was carried on by his widow and a son, Joseph Storrs Fry (1766–1835), under the style of Anna Fry & Son. The previous title had been Fry, Vaughan, & Co. In 1795 the works were removed from Newgate Street to Union Street, where a Watt steam engine was erected, the first in Bristol. Later Joseph Storrs Fry's three sons, Joseph, Francis (1803–1886), and Richard, were subsequently joined with him as J. S. Fry & Sons, the name the firm bore until its takeover by Cadburys. His widow was associated for a short time with her sons in the type-foundry. She died at Charterhouse Square, London, 22 October 1803, aged 83.


  1. Hugh Owen, Two Centuries of Ceramic Art in Bristol, 1873, p. 218
  2. E. Rowe Mores, Dissertation upon English Typogr. Founders, 1778, p. 83
  3. History of Printing, 1770, p. 244

 This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domain"Fry, Joseph". Dictionary of National Biography. London: Smith, Elder & Co. 1885–1900. 


  1. § Printing Types Composing Room Equipment Condensed Edition Stephenson, Blake & Co. Ltd The Letter Foundry, Sheffield England 1927 A History Record written by Lt. Col. H. K. Stephenson, D.S.O.., D.L.,J.P., Chairman; R. G. Blake J.P.,; S.J. Blake; H.F.B.Stepehenson; G. Redfearn, Secretary. 33 Aldergate Street. London E. C. 1 Manager R. B. Fishenden Assist. Manager B L§ockhart.