Researching the history of Baskerville typeface-“the King of fonts”

“Having been an early admirer of the beauty of letters, I became insensibly desirous of contributing to the perfection of them. I formed to myself ideas of greater accuracy than had yet appeared, and had endeavoured to produce a set of types according to what I conceived to be their true proportion”.
—John Baskerville, preface to Milton, 1758 

The creation of Baskerville typeface?

John Baskerville was an inspired business man and industrial entrepreneur. He was a perfectionist and self-taught printer from Birmingham, with a combined passion for design and technology. He had been working as a servant until his employer discovered his penmanship and sent him to learn how to write. The designer was highly interested in calligraphy before developing his own method of writing, resulting to bright woven paper and using dark inks. After his death in 1775 a sculptural tribute was created for the designer called the ‘Industry and genius’, the word only civic monument to a typeface.

I got my information from the following website.

History behind the type?

The traditional typeface was created in 1757 with a unique colour, a glossy, oily and near purple ink mixed with ‘fire-black’ soot gathered from glass and soldered lamps. The Baskerville typeface was not always a popular typeface but was appreciated mainly for its legibility, its beauty, crisp edges, high contrast and generous proportions. John Baskerville made many improvements to the typeface such as creating them so that they were more accurate and consistent. The designer switched to creating a softer typeface with much rounded serifs. The purpose of the typeface was to be used in private press work, and shortly after John Baskervilles death in 1775 it was acquired by the French foundry. By the late 1700s the type was considered to be lost before gaining its popularity after the monotype revival.

I got this information from the following website.

Examples of the typeface being used?

  • The Metropolitan Opera (ticket poster)
  • American Gangsters poster
  • Books
  • It’s a very traditional font so it can be used to make posters and books look more elegant and mature in design.
  • Found on the ‘Better homes and Gardens’ magazines
  • Greeting/occasion cards
  • ‘Woodford’ Reserve whiskey’.

The font always been popular for its unique beauty and elegance. It is mainly used in books, book covers, magazine covers and poster headings, that are trying to create a classical, elegant or traditional theme. Examples of the font being used in a more traditional form is on the poster of the film ‘American Gangster’. The font is also used for prestigious events due to its elegance and classical looks it’s the number one choice for the ‘The Metropolitan Opera’ tickets. Another use of the font is found on ‘Woodford reserve whiskey’, who said, “When I pick up a bottle of whiskey, I expect to see typography that conveys tradition, craft, and age” it fits in well with the branding and product. I would not expect to see this typeface used for such products as Facebook who tend to use “Stainless” a squarish, modern typeface with some striking similarities to Kavita, this is the basis for Facebook’s logo.


Photos from this website.


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