Who is John Baskerville? Baskerville was born in the village of Wolverley, near Kidderminster in Worcestershire and was a printer in Birmingham, England. He was a member of the Royal Society of Arts, and an associate of some of the members of the Lunar Society. He directed his punchcutter, John Handy, in the design of many typefaces of broadly similar appearance.
John Baskerville printed works for the University of Cambridge in 1758 and, although an atheist, printed a splendid folio Bible in 1763. His typefaces were greatly admired by Benjamin Franklin, a printer and fellow member of the Royal Society of Arts, who took the designs back to the newly-created United States, where they were adopted for most federal government publishing.
The Folio Bible
The Folio Bible printed by Baskerville in 1763.
A towering figure in the history of English typography, he broke one tradition and started another. Before Baskerville, the standard English type of the early 18th century was Caslon - a tradition which stretched back to Aldus Manutius of the 15th century. John Baskerville improved existing types, ink and presses and produced a clearer blacker type than any of his contemporaries. Unfortunately, his type was severely criticised due to the thinness of the strokes. Critics maintained that his type "hurt the eye" and would be "responsible for blinding the nation". It was a commercial failure and wasn't revived until the early 20th century.
Response… He has been called "the greatest printer England ever produced" but was very much disliked by his contemporaries. He was regarded as nouveau-riche, provincial, and had unpopular anti-establishment views on religion. He insisted on being buried standing up in a special building in his garden and was thence branded an atheist. In 1820, his body was dug up and used as a sort of local peepshow. The curious could view it for the sum of 6 pence.
Baskerville now… Since the 1920s many new fonts have been released by Linotype, Monotype, and other type foundries – revivals of his work and mostly called 'Baskerville'. Emigre released a popular revival of this typeface in 1996 called Mrs Eaves, named for Baskerville's wife, Sarah Eaves.
Baskerville is a transitional serif typeface designed in 1757 by John Baskerville (1706-1775) in Birmingham, England. Baskerville is classified as a transitional typeface, positioned between the old style typefaces of William Caslon, and the modern styles of Giambattista Bodoni and Firmin Didot.
The Baskerville typeface is the result of John Baskerville's intent to improve upon the types of William Caslon. He increased the contrast between thick and thin strokes, making the serifs sharper and more tapered, and shifted the axis of rounded letters to a more vertical position. The curved strokes are more circular in shape, and the characters became more regular. These changes created a greater consistency in size and form.