A type foundry is a company that designs or distributes typefaces. Before digital typography, type foundries manufactured and sold metal and wood typefaces for hand typesetting, and matrices for line-casting machines like the Linotype and Monotype, for letterpress printers. Today's digital type foundries accumulate and distribute typefaces (typically as digitized fonts) created by type designers, who may either be freelancers operating their own independent foundry, or employed by a foundry. Type foundries may also provide custom type design services.
In England, type foundries began in 1476, when William Caxton introduced the printing press, importing at least some of the type that he used in printing. Until William Caslon (1692–1766), however, English type generally had a poor reputation with the best type imported from Holland.
Only after Caslon had established his Caslon foundry in Chiswell Street, did the City of London become a major centre for the industry, until the end of the 20th century when famous metal-based printing districts such as Fleet Street came to the close of their era. The industry was particularly important in Victorian times, when education became available to all due to the new school boards, and firms such as Charles Reed & Sons, the printer and type founders were in their heyday. The St Bride Printing Library in the City of London encourages wider public interest in the history of type founding for the printed book and newspaper.