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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 and cut by John Handy. Baskerville is classified as a transitional typeface, a refinement of the old style typefaces of William Caslon. Compared to earlier designs, Baskerville 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 in higher-quality printing 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 typefaces such as Bulmer, Bell, Didot and Bodoni, Baskerville was revived in 1917 by Bruce Rogers, for the Harvard University Press and released by Deberny & Peignot. Modern revivals have added features, such as italics with extra or no swashes and bold weights, that were not present in Baskerville's original work.

Hot type versions[edit]

The following foundries offered versions of Baskerville:

Due to the cachet of the name, other Baskerville-named, but completely inauthentic, designs, were offered during the hot metal period.[5][6]

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.[7]

Digital versions[edit]

Two Baskerville revivals. The top design is more suitable for body text and that below with its finer strokes for headings.

Digital versions are available from Linotype, URW++, Monotype (installed on Macs as part of OS X), 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.

As a somewhat precise design that emphasises contrast between thick and thin strokes, different digitisations provide a variety of interpretations of what Baskerville intended and of how the digitisation should compensate for ink spread on paper. Designers may therefore prefer different designs for different text sizes, papers and printing methods, since a design intended for large text sizes could look too spindly for body text. Among recent digitisations, František Štorm's version features thicker strokes to reflect how smaller text appears on paper, while Baskerville Old Face in the common URW digitisation features dramatic contrasts between thin and thick strokes, more suitable for headings.


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.[8] 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.

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.[9]


Some examples of volumes published by Baskerville.


  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. ^ "Baskerville Old Face". Microsoft. Retrieved 24 June 2015. 
  3. ^ Mosley, Professor James. "Comments on Typophile thread". Typophile (archived). Retrieved 24 June 2015. 
  4. ^ MacGrew, Mac, American Metal Typefaces of the Twentieth Century, Oak Knoll Books, New Castle, Delaware, 1993, ISBN 0-938768-34-4, p. 27.
  5. ^ Hoefler, Jonathan. "What's in a font name?". Hoefler & Frere-Jones. Retrieved 2 July 2015. 
  6. ^ Specimens of Type. London: Caslon & Co. 1915. p. 64. 
  7. ^ Lawson, Alexander, Archie Provan, and Frank Romano, Primer Metal Typeface Identification, National Composition Association, Arlington, Virginia, 1976, pp. 34 - 35.
  8. ^ "Castleton State College: Athletic Logo Usage and Style Guidelines" (PDF). Castleton State College. August 2008. Retrieved August 18, 2012. 
  9. ^ 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]