For highest accuracy fluorescence colorimetry, standardizing organizations recommend the use of a two-monochromator method with a bidirectional illumination and viewing geometry (45:0 or 0:45). For this reason, reference fluorescence instruments developed by National Measurement Institutes (NMIs) have largely conformed to this bidirectional geometry. However, for many practical applications in colorimetry where the samples exhibit texture, surface roughness or other spatial non-uniformities, the relevant standard test methods specify a sphere geometry with diffuse illumination or viewing (e.g. d:8 or 8:d) which gives improved measurement precision. This difference in the measurement geometry between the primary instrument used to realize the fluorescence scale and the secondary testing instruments used for practical measurements, compromises the traceability of these fluorescence calibrations. To address this metrology issue, a two-monochromator goniospectrofluorimeter instrument has been developed at the National Research Council of Canada (NRC). This instrument can be configured for different illumination and viewing geometries to conform with international standards for different colorimetric applications. To improve the traceability chain for measurements using different geometries, the instrument has been thoroughly characterized and validated by means of comparison measurements with NRC's other spectrophotometric and fluorescence reference instruments. This uncertainty analysis has been carried out in a step-wise manner; first, for a bidirectional geometry (45:0) and then for a sphere geometry (8:d) to provide an uninterrupted traceability to primary radiometric scales. The first paper in this two paper series reviews the background to this work and provides details of the basic design of the new instrument and its characterization for measurements using a bidirectional geometry (45:0), including a representative uncertainty budget. In part 2, the major sources of sphere error are described and minimized in a modified sphere design. The instrument characterization and validation are then extended to a sphere geometry (8:d) to provide direct traceability for practical fluorescence colorimetry.