I Love Typography

Baskerville, John

Type Founder & Printer (1706-1775)

Type founder, printer, stone cutter and lacquer ware professional. In 1750 he set up a printing business, but it took him until 1757 to produce his first book. However, during those seven years he was an impressive innovator, not only in the construction of the printing press but even in the inks and papers he prepared.

John BaskervilleAmong Baskerville’s most noted works are Milton’s Paradise Lost and Paradise Regained, Book of Common Prayer, and his Bible of 1763 — generally considered to be his finest achievement. As Cambridge University owned the patent to that Bible version and the Prayer Books, they stipulated that Baskerville should actually take his printing presses to Cambridge to print them.

It wasn’t until the 1920s that Baskerville finally won the attention he had always merited. The American classical typographer Bruce Rogers (designer of the Centaur typeface, among others) was in large part behind the modern revival of Baskerville’s typefaces. Now, dozens of type foundries have their own versions and derivatives.

Benjamen Franklin (who already had a successful printing business) was an admirer of Baskerville (they met in Birmingham in 1758), and returned to the US with Baskervilles’s work, popularising it through its adoption as one of the standard typefaces employed in federal government publishing.

Baskerville Typeface:

It is classified as transitional. As a matter of fact, with its generous proportions, the Baskerville appears not very different from its predecessors. But the difference between fine and bold strokes is more marked, the lower-case serifs are almost horizontal and the emphasis on the stroke widths is almost vertical. — Source

baskerville-sample1.gif

Sample: Baskerville Old Face

g glyph baskerville old face

g glyph from Baskerville Old Face

 

baskerville-print-sample.jpgbaskerville-bible.jpg

Samples of Baskerville’s early work (click for larger image).

Links

Baskerville font family on MyFonts.

Bibliography

Offline:

Pardoe, F E, John Baskerville of Birmingham: Letter-Founder and Printer (London, 1975)

Online:

Birmingham’s tribute to John Baskerville

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  1. Ko

    There’s also a wonderful chapter on John Baskerville and the many versions of his typeface in Simon Loxley’s Type: The Secret History of Letters; particularly take note of his comments on Fry’s Baskerville, “a piece of 18th century intellectual piracy”.

  2. Ko
    Thank you. It’s funny that you should mention the Loxley book. I read it a couple of years ago (maybe 2004), but have no recollection of what you mention. I shall dust it off and read it again. I love that quotation.

    I’m hoping to eventually make these biographies a little more comprehensive; if you’re interested in writing one, then let me know.

  3. This post didn’t show up in Google Reader… maybe because of your MT server issues? Beautiful header you did for this article! I love it! This was an interesting little peak into the early typographer’s life. Thanks for sharing. As always, it was enjoyable.

  4. Thanks, Lauren.
    Yes, I’ve excluded the Biographies from the feed; they’re my little side project. In fact I never thought of adding them to the feed. I wonder…

  5. I notice that most of your articles have 20-30+ comments on them but this only has two different people. I think it’s because it’s not in the feed. I think people would be interested in these and maybe see them as a bonus to the two regular posts/week. You have some real type nuts here (that’s going to be the name of your fan club!) and they would gobble up anything you throw at them :D

    In reality, no one really cares anymore how often a blogger posts as long as it’s at least once/week and less than about 3 times/day and I don’t think regular schedules are anything people pay attention to (unless perhaps they are manually checking the site instead of using an email alert or RSS).

  6. Lauren
    You’ve certainly given me food for thought there. The reason I didn’t add this (and the other biographies to the feed) is that I didn’t want to drown people with posts. You do have a point though. The odd extra article like this could do no harm if it were added to the feed. I think I’ll add the next one to the feed.

    I’ve just been re-reading the book that Ko mentions in the comment above, and will expand this biography further. At the moment the biographies are not showing up because of the WP 2.3 and the change in the tables structure — must get it fixed, otherwise people won’t even know these articles are here. Oh, and I’m surprised that no-one has mentioned it, but did you notice my omission search on this site?

  7. Omission search? You mean the omission of a search box? I didn’t notice! I think maybe it’s because the blog is so new that there really aren’t a whole lot of articles to search through. I do think you should also have your About link in the top nav, though :)

  8. MarkeeO

    May I ask why the terminal of the descender of the g glyph from the sample a bit more curled than the actual Baskerville sample?.. ^_^

  9. Markeeo
    Very well spotted. Actually, the sample is Baskerville, while the glyph you see in the FontLab Pro screen dump is Baskerville Old Face.

  10. Fantastic blog. I am thoroughly enjoying every well written and designed post. (Although I am torn as to spread the word or keep iLT all to myself.)

    Keep the great posts coming, and start bugging MyFonts for a referral fee for sending people their way.

  11. In the context of typefaces, what does it mean when you say “the lower-case serifs are almost horizontal and the emphasis on the stroke widths is almost vertical”?

    Thanks for the great blog!

  12. Calvin, you’ve kinda taken the quote out of context, which is why it’s confusing. It makes more sense if you read the whole sentence. The lowercase serifs they are refering to are the little end strokes, the little ticks, on letters like v, w, y, n, m. They are almost parallel to the baseline (the line the font sits on) and they are finer than the bold stroke width. The emphasis is the thicker stroke width, which with this font is vertical, or perpendicular to the baseline. Look at the crossbar on the lowercase e, it is quite thin as compared to the down stroke of the lowercase l (did I explain that properly, John? Correct me if I didn’t, I would like to learn, too!)

  13. Lauren
    You’ve done an excellent job. Looks like you’re my new assistant editor.

    The English in the original quote is a little confusing. The author is French, so his turn of phrase is parfois un peu français. I think you’ve deciphered this quotation very well, Lauren. I should replace the original quotation with yours;)

    I think he’s also referring to the stress of the letterforms being more perpendicular (in contrast to the earlier Humanist and Old Style forms),

  14. :D Thanks John! That’s quite a compliment coming from you. It makes sense that this wasn’t originally in English; the wording was a little strange. Oh, and I even took the quote a little out of context, the original author was talking about this redesign of Baskerville as compared to the previous ones.

  15. Hello,

    It was wonderful reading your post.
    I am currently working on a type specimen for “Baskerville” typeface (my final project for the semester, which ends in 4 weeks). And unfortunately, we have no books about Baskerville specifically in our university library, And bookstores on this part of the world are not particularly into type :( . I was looking for his ornamental work. I would very much appreciate any information you can give me.

    Sincerely,
    H

  16. very nice read on John Baskerville - Hadeyah - here is a link to more about Baskerville http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_Baskerville - if it is not too late for your project maybe it will help you

  17. Hadeyeh
    Yes, I have some material for you. Though I guess it’s too late?

    Logo Designers
    Thanks for the link. I do plan to extend this article with some material from Bringhurst’s and Chappell’s A Short History of the Printed Word. Will be adding biographies of other type-related characters soon. I think Zuzana Licko is next on my list. Thanks for dropping by.

  18. Aside from the Caligraphic (does it work as an adjective?) typeface, is the whole Bible set in what we now know as “Baskerville”?

  19. Roger
    Which version/translation of the Bible did you have in mind?

  20. Johno, thank you for the reply, but it is too late :)

    i am currently working on another project, “catalog raisonne” :D

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