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.

Among 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


Sample: Baskerville Old Face

g glyph baskerville old face

g glyph from Baskerville Old Face


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


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

Birmingham’s tribute to John Baskerville

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