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For other uses, see Baskerville (disambiguation).
Category Serif
Classification Transitional serif
Designer(s) John Baskerville
Foundry Deberny & Peignot
Variations John Baskerville
Mrs Eaves
Shown here Baskerville Ten by
František Štorm
The Folio Bible printed by Baskerville in 1763.

Baskerville is a transitional serif typeface designed in 1757 by John Baskerville (1706–1775) in Birmingham, England. Baskerville is classified as a transitional typeface, positioned between the old style typefaces of William Caslon, and the newer styles of Giambattista Bodoni & Firmin Didot.

The Baskerville typeface is the result of John Baskerville's intent to improve upon the types of William Caslon. He increased the contrast between thick and thin strokes, making the serifs sharper and more tapered, and shifted the axis of rounded letters to a more vertical position. The curved strokes are more circular in shape, and the characters became more regular. These changes created a greater consistency in size and form.

Baskerville's typeface was the culmination of a larger series of experiments to improve legibility which also included paper making and ink manufacturing. The result was a typeface that reflected Baskerville's ideals of perfection, where he chose simplicity and quiet refinement. His background as a writing master is evident in the distinctive swash tail on the uppercase Q and in the cursive serifs in the Baskerville Italic.

In 1757, Baskerville published his first work, a collection of Virgil, which was followed by some fifty other classics. In 1758, he was appointed printer to the Cambridge University Press. It was there in 1763 that he published his master work, a folio Bible, which was printed using his own typeface, ink, and paper.

The perfection of his work seems to have unsettled his contemporaries, and some claimed the stark contrasts in his printing damaged the eyes. Abroad, however, he was much admired, notably by Pierre Simon Fournier, Giambattista Bodoni (who intended at one point to come to England to work under him), and Benjamin Franklin.

After falling out of use with the onset of the modern typefaces such as Bodoni, Baskerville was revived in 1917 by Bruce Rogers, for the Harvard University Press and released by Deberny & Peignot.

Hot type versions[edit]

The following foundries offered versions of Baskerville:

Cold type versions[edit]

As it had been a standard type for many years, Baskerville was widely available in cold type. Alphatype, Autologic, Berthold, Compugraphic, Dymo, Star/Photon, Harris, Mergenthaler, MGD Graphic Systems, and Varityper, Hell AG, Monotype, all sold the face under the name Baskerville, while Graphic Systems Inc. offered the face as Beaumont.[3]

Digital versions[edit]

Digital versions are available from Linotype, URW++, Monotype, and Bitstream as well as many others. The Baskerville typeface was used as the basis for the Mrs Eaves typeface in 1996, designed by Zuzana Licko.


The 'Canada' wordmark

The font is used widely in documents issued by the University of Birmingham (UK) and Castleton State College (Vermont, USA), with the latter using the New Baskerville typeface.[4] A modified version of Baskerville is also prominently used in the Canadian government's corporate identity program—namely, in the 'Canada' wordmark. Another modified version of Baskerville is used by Northeastern University (USA), and the ABRSM.

Typeface notes: British printer John Baskerville of Birmingham created the types that bear his name in about 1752. George Jones designed this version of Baskerville for Linotype-Hell in 1930, the International Typeface Corporation licensed it in 1982. An excellent text typeface, this Baskerville design has a delicacy and grace that come from long, elegant serifs and the subtle transfer of stroke weight from thick to very thin. The high-contrast, sparkly look of ITC New Baskerville is well-suited to longer texts and display uses

Effect on readers[edit]

A research study showed that the use of the Baskerville font increased the likelihood of the reader agreeing with a statement by 1.5% as compared to the average of five other fonts, including Comic Sans which had the most negative influence on agreement of the six, and also used as a great font on inspiring messages.[5]


  1. ^ Jaspert, W. Pincus, W. Turner Berry and A.F. Johnson. The Encyclopedia of Type Faces. Blandford Press Lts.: 1953, 1983, ISBN 0-7137-1347-X, p. 15
  2. ^ MacGrew, Mac, American Metal Typefaces of the Twentieth Century, Oak Knoll Books, New Castle, Delaware, 1993, ISBN 0-938768-34-4, p. 27.
  3. ^ Lawson, Alexander, Archie Provan, and Frank Romano, Primer Metal Typeface Identification, National Composition Association, Arlington, Virginia, 1976, pp. 34 - 35.
  4. ^ "Castleton State College: Athletic Logo Usage and Style Guidelines" (PDF). Castleton State College. August 2008. Retrieved August 18, 2012. 
  5. ^ Errol Morris, "Hear, All Ye People; Hearken, O Earth", The New York Times 
  • Lawson, Alexander S. (1990), Anatomy of a Typeface, Boston: Godine, ISBN 0-87923-333-8 .
  • Meggs, Philip B. & Carter, Rob (1993), Typographic Specimens: The Great Typefaces, New York: Van Nostrand Reinhold, ISBN 0-442-00758-2 
  • Meggs, Philip B. & McKelvey, Roy (2000), Revival of the Fittest, New York: RC Publications, ISBN 1-883915-08-2 .
  • Updike, Daniel Berkley (1980) [1937], Printing Types Their History, Forms and Use II (2nd ed.), New York: Dover Publications, ISBN 0-486-23929-2 .

External links[edit]