The transitional Baskerville typeface is the result of years of formalization and innovation on the behalf of its designer John Baskerville. Baskerville appears to have been a man driven by a sense of perfectionism, and strongly influenced by his earlier careers in related industries. It was these unique qualities that drove the creation of the long-lasting Baskerville font, that is still widely used in the modern day.
John Baskerville was born in England in 1706. Early in his life he was a “writing master”, but later went on to make a fortune in the japanning business before finally finding his vocation as a printer 1750.
It was at this time, that French typographers were beginning to make the first steps towards revising the traditional old-style typefaces. Round characters were becoming more perpendicular and serifs became thinner with less bracketing. These French innovations greatly influenced type designers in the eighteenth century, particularly John Baskerville.
In designing his typeface, Baskerville increased the contrast between thick and thin strokes, and made the serifs sharper and more tapered. He also shifted the axis of rounded letters to a more vertical position. In addition, the curved strokes became more rounded in shape and the characters more regular. These changes were groundbreaking in the sense that they created greater consistency in size and form than had been seen in printed type up to that time.
While Baskerville himself was not a punch-cutter or typefounder, he did design his typefaces which quickly gained a reputation for innovation. While the Baskerville Typeface may not seem particularly remarkable to today’s eye, John Baskerville made several innovations that made his work stand out amongst his contemporaries According to Pierre Simon Fournier, a contemporary typographer: “Baskerville…has spared neither pains nor expense to bring these (type) to the highest perfection. His type is cut with much spirit,...
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