John Baskerville of Birmingham was a writing-master and stone-cutter whose experiments with the printed book were of profound typographical importance. While Caslon had had been strongly influenced by the Dutch letter, Baskerville broke with tradition and reflected in his type the rounder, more sharply-cut letter of eighteenth-century stone inscriptions and copy books. His types foreshadow the ‘modern’ cut in such novel characteristics as the increase in contrast between thick and thin strokes and a shifting of the stress from the diagonal to the vertical.
Born in 1706, it was not until 1750 (after he had amassed a fortune in the japanning business) that Baskerville turned to type-cutting and printing. He realised that his new style of letter would be most effective if cleanly printed on smooth paper with really black ink. He built his own presses, experimented with ink and evolved a method of hot-pressing the printed sheet to a smooth, glossy finish. It was this that gave his books a machine-made appearance very different from the hand-made look of normal eighteenth-century presswork.
Baskerville’s types never entered in to general commercial use in England (the eighteenth-century printer and the nineteenth-century revivalist remained satisfied with their Caslon), but their recutting by the Monotype Corporation in 1923 achieved such immediate success that other foundries and composing-machine manufacturers followed suit.
Although widely set, Baskerville’s letters combine well into words, and it benefits from being widely set. The consistent proportioning of the capitols harmonises well with the lower case. The form of the letters is arranged so that the upright strokes and curves support and compliment each other, and their general width and roundness avoid the aridity of the typical ‘modern’ face.
A fount of 24-point Baskerville.
Cast at the Whittington Press using hardened Monotype.