Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Happy birthday, typographer John Baskerville

It is the birthday of English printer John Baskerville (1706), who is best remembered for his enduring typeface, which is named for him. Scholars say Baskerville was an attempt to improve on the old-style typefaces of William Caslon, and represents a transition between them and more modern fonts, such as Bodoni and Didot. It is marked by more thick and thin strokes, and a refined simplicity. (Note the graceful swash of the Q). Baskerville’s first published book was a collection of works by the Roman poet Virgil in 1757. The following year Baskerville became printer of Cambridge University Press. He printed more than 50 classics in his lifetime, including his best known work, a folio Bible (1763). Benjamin Franklin was a huge fan and brought the typeface to America, where it was used to print many early government documents. Baskerville (the typeface) fell out of favor in printing circles for awhile but was revived in 1917. A related font, Mrs Eaves, was produced in 1996, and is named for Baskerville’s wife.

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