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v r e i k l s l e a b e s choo

Baskerville is a transitional serif typeface, known most for its crisp edges, high contrast, and generous proportions. Characterized by the play between thick and thin strokes, the serifs became sharper and more tapered, the axis of rounded letters became more vertical, curved strokes are even more circular, and the characters each became more regular. It grew out of an ongoing experimentation with printing technology by John Baskerville. Existing printing presses could not capture the subtleties of this soft typeface, so he chose to redesign the press, which in turn caused a development of higher standards for presses altogether. All of this allowed for a more consistent typeface in size and form. Regular 10 pt | Semibold 35 pt 1

the man behind the face

John Baskerville John Baskerville was an English businessman in areas including japanning and papier-mâché, but he is best remembered as a printer and type designer. A member of the Royal Society of Arts, and associate of some of the members of the Lunar Society, Baskerville published a quarto edition of Virgil using his own type in 1757. It took him three years to complete, but it made such an impact that he was appointed to printer to the University of Cambridge the following year. Baskerville also printed a splendid folio Bible in 1763. His typefaces were greatly admired by Benjamin Franklin, who took the designs back to the new United States, where they were adopted for most federal government publishing. Jealous competitors crticized Baskerville’s work and it soon fell out of favour, but his most notable typeface, “Baskerville,” represents the peak of transitional type face and bridges the gap between Old Style and Modern type. Also responsible innovations in printing, paper, and ink production, Baskerville pioneered new styles of typography with wide margins and leading.


Italic 35 pt | Regular 59 pt, 10 pt

ABCDEFGHIJKLM NOPQRSTUVWXYZ abcdefghijklm nopqrstuvwxyz 0123456789 !@#$%^&*( ) Bold 35 pt


working for perfection Top and bottom serif

High crossbar and pointed apex

No middle stroke

A g E C Q w T Tail does not close

Long lower arm

Baskerville is categorized as a transitional typeface, in between the classical and modern faces. John Baskerville believed that the mathematically-drawn characters of the classical typefaces felt cold, which prompted him to create a softer typeface with rounded serifs and a vertical axis. The strong weight contrast between the thick and thin strokes made the serifs appear wider, sharper, and more tapered. The axis of the rounded letters was shifted to a more vertical positiona nd the curved strokes became more circular in shape. 4

Swash-like tail

Very wide arms

The typeface is a culmination of a larger series of experiments to improve legibility and greatly reflects John Baskerville’s strive for perfectionism. He chose simplicity and quiet refinement that carries elegance and tradition. All of this made Baskerville to be a very readable typeface, that readers subconsciously consider to be trustworthy.

Italic 35 pt | Regular 59 pt, 10 pt | Semibold Italic 10 pt

rville e k s a B ville r e k s a B

Regular, 35 pt

er ville k s a B erville k s a B erville k s a B

Italic, 35 pt

Semibold, 35 pt

Semibold italic, 35 p

erville k s a B


Bold, 35 pt

Bold Italic, 35 pt


a popular choice

Franklin’s Inf luence Baskerville was designed in 1754 with an intent to improve upon the types of William Caslon, and has a less calligraphic flow than most of these earlier typefaces. During Baskerville’s lifetimes his types had little influence in his home country. However, in 1758 Baskerville met Benjamin Franklin who returned to the U.S. with someo f Baskerville’s type, popularizing it through is adoption as one of the standard typefaces employed in federal government publishing. Franklin was a huge fant of Baskerville’s work, and in a letter to Baskerville (1760) he enthusiastically defends Baskerville’s types, recounting a discussion he had with an English gentleman who blaimed that Baskerville’s ‘ultra-thin’ serifs and narrow strokes would blind its readers. Franlin mischievously tore off thetop of a Caslon specimen (to remove any mention of Caslon, of course), and whoed it to the gentleman, claiming that it was the work of Baskerville. The gentleman examined the specimen, and thinking that it was indeed a Baskerville specimen, started to point out the worst features of ‘Baskerville’s’ type. 6

Italic 35 pt | Regular 59 pt, 10 pt

It is difficult to appreciate the qualities of Baskerville without first understanding the process of its creation. Baskerville grew out of an ongoing experimentation with printing technology. John Baskerville developed his own method of working, resulting in beautifully bright woven paper and darker inks. He created an intense black ink color through the tedious process of boiling fine linseed oil to a certain thickness, dissolving rosin, allowing months for it to subside and finally grinding it before use. As printers would not willingly reveal the methods within their print shops, Baskerville followed other printers closely and made the same purchases as them in hopes of setting up the same press. This routine resulted in the development of higher standards for presses altogether. Existing printing presses did not capture the subtleties of his type, so Baskerville redesigned the press replacing the wooden platen with a brass one in order to allow the planes to meet more evenly. The wooden platens were usually covered with thick tympanum which helped to absorb pressure and reduce type depth, however, Baskerville’s press used thin tympanum around the metal and the platens were even heated before using them. It was the combination of the contrasting cut in his letterforms, the process of printing, the gloss of his paper and the intensity of his inks that made each print so refined. 7

sored by n o sp

Bold 35 pt


“A love of letters is the beginning of typographical wisdom. That is, the love of letters as literature and the love of letters as physical entities, having abstract beauty of their own, apart from the ideas they may express of the emotion they may evoke.� John R. Biggs, 1949


Baskerville Type Specimen Book  

GRPH 206 Final Project

Baskerville Type Specimen Book  

GRPH 206 Final Project