From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search
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

Baskerville is a 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 old style typefaces of the period, such as those 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.[1] 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 typefaces remain very popular in book design and there are many modern revivals, which often add features such as bold type which did not exist in Baskerville's time.[2]


The Folio Bible printed by Baskerville in 1763.

Baskerville's typeface was the culmination of a large series of experiments. Baskerville, a wealthy industrialist, sought to develop new and higher-quality methods of printing, developing also finely pressed, smooth paper and a high quality of ink.[3][4] The result was a typeface that reflected Baskerville's ideals of perfection, where he chose simplicity and quiet refinement.[5] 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. At the start of his edition of Paradise Lost, he wrote a preface explaining his ambitions.[6]

The perfection of his work seems to have unsettled his contemporaries, and some claimed the stark contrasts in his printing damaged the eyes.[6] Abroad, however, he was much admired, notably by Pierre Simon Fournier, Giambattista Bodoni (who intended at one point to come to England to meet him), and Benjamin Franklin.

After falling out of use with the onset of Didone and Scotch Roman 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.

The 'Canada' wordmark

The font is used widely in documents issued by the University of Birmingham (UK) and Castleton State College (Vermont, USA).[7] 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. Monotype Baskerville is often used by the band Chvrches.

Hot type versions[edit]

Baskerville showing its key features: a nearly vertical axis of thinnest points (a), a high stroke contrast and nearly-vertical serifs which are sharp points. This compares to earlier types (below) with a diagonal axis and more wedge-shaped serifs.

The following foundries offered versions of Baskerville:

  • The original punches were sold by Baskerville's widow and eventually ended up in the possession of Deberny & Peignot by way of Beaumarchais. Charles Peignot donated them to Cambridge University Press in 1953.[8][9]
  • The Fry type foundry of Bristol cut its own version in the late eighteenth century, presumably by house designer Isaac Moore who later showcased them on a specimen.[10] With Baskerville's equipment unavailable in France it experienced considerable success.[11] Moore's designs feature a slightly different a at large sizes followed in many revivals.[a]
  • When Fry's successors closed, this version was acquired and issued (or possibly recut) in hot metal by Stephenson Blake under the name "Baskerville Old Face".[12] Moore's italic was considered substandard by revivalist printers, and Baskerville Old Face revivals have tended to either synthesise their own or offer none.
  • The Fry Foundry version was also sold by American Type Founders with an italic designed in 1915 by Morris Fuller Benton.
  • Lanston Monotype's Baskerville was cut in 1923 under the direction of Stanley Morison. Italic and bold versions were cut by Sol Hess. These versions were modified slightly and then offered by Intertype. As with other Monotype revivals, the design is sometimes called Baskerville MT. It is bundled with OS X.[13][14]
  • Schriftgießerei D. Stempel issued a revival in 1926 under the name "Original-Baskerville".
  • Linotype AG, the German arm of Mergenthaler Linotype, adapted the Stempel cutting of the face for linecasting in 1927. [15]
  • Linotype's Baskerville was cut in 1923 by George W. Jones, though it was subsequently re-cut in 1936. A bold version was cut by Chauncey H. Griffith in 1939. It may sometimes be called Baskerville LT.

More loosely, the Scotch Roman genre of transitional types reflects the influence of Baskerville's work, with increasing influence of Didone type from the continent around the beginning of the nineteenth century; the font Georgia is influenced by this genre. Due to the cachet of the name, other completely unrelated designs were named 'Baskerville' in the hot metal period.[16][17]

Cold type versions[edit]

Two Baskerville revivals. The top design is more suitable for headings and that below with its thicker strokes for body text. The top design is based on Isaac Moore's recreation, distinguishable by the slightly different curve of its 'a'.

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, Varityper, Hell AG and Monotype, all sold the face under the name Baskerville, while Graphic Systems Inc. offered the face as Beaumont.[18]

Digital versions[edit]

Baskerville revivals take a variety of approaches and the differences are often particularly visible in italic. Monotype’s, at top, favours historical accuracy and a quite light appearance, retaining the elegant swashed N, Q and T of Baskerville’s original. ITC’s uses conventional capitals, presumably to offer a more homogenous appearance. Berthold’s revival makes the same choice on a thicker structure, more suitable for book printing and other use at small sizes, as does Impallari's. (Berthold also later created a separate ‘Berthold Book’ revival, not shown here, which is slightly lighter and uses the original capitals.) URW’s bizarrely does not even have an italic, instead only (and rather lazily) featuring an oblique.

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.[19] Among recent digitisations, František Štorm's extremely complete range of versions features three optical sizes, the text version having thicker strokes to increase legibility as metal type does.[20] Meanwhile, the common URW digitisation of Baskerville Old Face features dramatic contrasts between thin and thick strokes. This makes it most suited to headings, especially since it does not have an italic.[21][22] Another common question facing revivals is what to do with some letters such as 'N' in italics. On faithful revivals such as the Storm digitisation (shown at top) they have a swash, but this may be thought too distracting for general use or to space poorly in all-caps text. Accordingly, many revivals substitute (or offer as an alternate) capitals without swashes.

Dieter Hofrichter, who assisted Günter Gerhard Lange in designing a Baskerville revival for Berthold around 1980, commented:

We went to Birmingham where we saw original prints by Baskerville. I was quite astounded by how sharp the printing of his specimens is. They are razor-sharp: it almost hurt your eyes to see them. So elegant and high-contrast! He showed in this way what he could achieve. That was Baskerville's ideal - but not necessarily right for today.[23][24]

Many companies have provided digital releases (some of older Baskerville revivals), including Linotype, URW++, and Bitstream as well as many others. These may have varying features, for example some lacking small caps. Monotype Baskerville is installed on Macs as part of OS X, while many Windows computers receive Moore's adaptation under the name of Baskerville Old Face in the URW digitisation (that described above) without an italic or bold weight.


A particularly idiosyncratic Baskerville revival is Mrs Eaves (1996), designed by Zuzana Licko.[25] Named after Baskerville's housekeeper-turned-wife, it uses a low x-height to create a bright page without reducing stroke width. It is often used on book titles and headings.[26][27][28] It uses a variety of ligatures to create effects with linked characters popular for titling use.[29] Harriet is an adaptation by Okaytype inspired by American nineteenth-century printing.[30] Big Moore by Matthew Carter is a recent, complex digitisation of the larger sizes of Isaac Moore's early adaptation, that often called Baskerville Old Face, adding an italic.[31][32][11][10]

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.[33]


Some examples of volumes published by Baskerville.


  1. ^ Phinney, Thomas. "Transitional & Modern Type Families". Graphic Design & Publishing Center. Retrieved 30 October 2015. 
  2. ^ Coles, Stephen. "Top Ten Typefaces Used by Book Design Winners". FontFeed. Retrieved 2 July 2015. 
  3. ^ John Baskerville : type-founder and printer, 1706 -1775. [S.l.]: Cambridge Univ Press. 2014. ISBN 9781108076227. 
  4. ^ Hansard, Thomas Curson (1825). Typographia, an Historical Sketch of the Origin and Progress of the Art of Printing. p. 355. Retrieved 12 August 2015. 
  5. ^ Bartram, Alan (2004). Bauhaus, modernism and the illustrated book. New Haven, CT: Yale Univ. Press. ISBN 9780300101171. 
  6. ^ a b Loxley, Simon (2005). Type: the secret history of letters. London [u.a.]: I. B. Tauris. ISBN 9781845110284. 
  7. ^ "Castleton State College: Athletic Logo Usage and Style Guidelines" (PDF). Castleton State College. August 2008. Retrieved August 18, 2012. 
  8. ^ 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
  9. ^ Lawson, Alexander. Anatomy Of A Typeface. David R. Godine, Publisher, Inc.: 1990, p. 194
  10. ^ a b "A Specimen by Isaac Moore & Co., 1766". Providence Public Library. saac Moore & Co. Retrieved 30 October 2015. 
  11. ^ a b "Baskerville Old Face". Microsoft. Retrieved 24 June 2015. 
  12. ^ Mosley, Professor James. "Comments on Typophile thread". Typophile (archived). Retrieved 24 June 2015. 
  13. ^ MacGrew, Mac, American Metal Typefaces of the Twentieth Century, Oak Knoll Books, New Castle, Delaware, 1993, ISBN 0-938768-34-4, p. 27.
  14. ^ "Monotype Baskerville specimen book" (PDF). Monotype. Retrieved 30 October 2015. 
  15. ^ Lawson, Alexander. Anaotomy Of A Typeface. David R. Godine, Publisher, Inc.: 1990, p. 192
  16. ^ Hoefler, Jonathan. "What's in a font name?". Hoefler & Frere-Jones. Retrieved 2 July 2015. 
  17. ^ Specimens of Type. London: Caslon & Co. 1915. p. 64. 
  18. ^ Lawson, Alexander, Archie Provan, and Frank Romano, Primer Metal Typeface Identification, National Composition Association, Arlington, Virginia, 1976, pp. 34 - 35.
  19. ^ Coles, Stephen. "Top Ten Typefaces Used by Book Design Winners". FontFeed. Retrieved 2 July 2015. 
  20. ^ Twardoch, Adam. "Baskerville 10". Typographica. Retrieved 12 July 2015. 
  21. ^ "Storm Type Baskerville Original Pro". MyFonts. Monotype. Retrieved 9 July 2015. 
  22. ^ "Baskerville Old Face". Fonts In Use. 
  23. ^ Reynolds, Dan. "Dieter Hofrichter". MyFonts. Monotype. Retrieved 17 June 2015. 
  24. ^ "Baskerville Book Pro". Berthold. Retrieved 13 July 2015. 
  25. ^ Eye, Number 43, Volume 11, Spring 2002.
  26. ^ `. "Introducing Mrs Eaves XL" (PDF). Emigre. Retrieved 6 November 2014. 
  27. ^ "Mr Eaves". Emigre Fonts. Retrieved 6 November 2014. 
  28. ^ "Mr Eaves specimen". Emigre. Retrieved 6 November 2014. 
  29. ^ "Mrs Eaves Design Information: Emigre Fonts". Retrieved 2012-08-13. 
  30. ^ Mora, André. "Harriet series". Typographica. Retrieved 19 October 2015. 
  31. ^ "Introducing Big Moore". Font Bureau. Retrieved 9 July 2015. 
  32. ^ "Big Moore FB". Font Bureau. Retrieved 9 July 2015. 
  33. ^ 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 .
  1. ^ Moore was a Birmingham native, but does not appear to have had any connection with Baskerville himself.

External links[edit]