It’s in State Department memos, vintage pages of Woman’s Home Companion and your inbox: Times New Roman, the most widely used typeface in the world — and one of the most controversial. For more than half a century, it was attributed to a titan in the field of typography, Stanley Morison. But in the late 1980s, a Canadian printer discovered that Morison might have plagiarized the classic font.
The original story of Times New Roman’s genesis goes like this: Morison wrote a blistering article in 1929 arguing that Times Old Roman, the font of The Times of London, was dated, clunky, badly printed and in need of help — his help. The paper listened and charged Morison with directing the creation of a new suite of letters. He did, and on Oct. 3, 1943, Times New Roman debuted on the bright white broadsheets of the London daily.
Here’s the problem with this tidy account: Evidence found in 1987 — drawings for letters and corresponding brass plates — suggests that the real father of the font wasn’t a typographer at all, but a wooden boat designer from Boston named William Starling Burgess.