from one of Baskerville's Books
John Baskerville was born in Worcestershire, England. At
age 17, he began engraving tombstones and working as a calligrapher. After
amassing a fortune in the japanning trade, he then took up printing
and typefounding as a hobby. Baskerville sought to improve
upon the typefaces of William Caslon.
His first work
in type, the Virgil, was published in 1757, in royal quarto (12
1/2" x 10"). His typeface designs were in the modern,
pseudoclassical style, with level serifs and with emphasis on the
contrast of light and heavy lines, they were more delicate, with
more contrast in stroke widths. This style influenced
that of the Didot family in France and that of Bodoni in Italy.
These designs were unusual and innovative.
introduced new printing technology in order to use them. In particular,
Mr. Baskerville was credited with the invention of hot-pressing:
pressing the wet printed sheets between copper plates, thereby smoothing
the paper and setting the ink. Books printed by Baskerville
are typically large, with wide margins, made with excellent paper
and ink. His work was known for its austere, unornamented style,
and was widely criticized in his lifetime. Today, his
typefaces are seen as a transition between the "old style" type
such as Caslon and the "modern" type style exemplified by Bodoni. Among
Baskerville's publications in the British Museum are Aesop's Fables
(1761), the Bible (1763), and the works of Horace (1770). John Baskerville
died in 1775.
Britannica: Biography of John Baskerville
Exemplars from RIT Library of John Baskerville's work