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Category Serif
Classification Vox-ATypI: Didone
British: Didone
Bringhurstian: Romantic
Designer(s) Giambattista Bodoni
Date created 1798
Variations Berthold Bodoni Antiqua
LTC Bodoni 175
Linotype Bodoni
Bauer Bodoni
Shown here ITC Bodoni Seventy Two
Facsimile of lines from Dante's "La Vita Nuova" first published with Bodoni types by the Officina Bodoni in 1925. Actual font is the digital Bodoni Monotype published in 1999.

Bodoni is the name given to the serif typefaces first designed by Giambattista Bodoni (1740–1813) in the late eighteenth century and frequently revived since.[1] Bodoni's typefaces are classified as Didone or modern. Bodoni followed the ideas of John Baskerville, as found in the printing type Baskerville: increased stroke contrast reflecting developing printing technology and a more vertical axis, but took them to a more extreme conclusion. Bodoni had a long career and his designs evolved and varied, ending with a typeface of a slightly condensed underlying structure with flat, unbracketed serifs, extreme contrast between thick and thin strokes, and an overall geometric construction.[2]

When first released, Bodoni, and other didone fonts, were called classical designs because of their rational structure. However, these fonts were not updated versions of Roman or Renaissance letter styles, but new designs. They came to be called 'modern' serif fonts and then from to mid 20th century they were known as Didone designs.[3] Though Bodoni's later designs are rightfully called "modern", the earlier designs are "transitional".

Some digital versions of Bodoni are said to be hard to read due to "dazzle" caused by the alternating thick and thin strokes, particularly as the thin strokes are very thin at small point sizes. This is very common when optical sizes of font intended for use at display sizes are printed at text size, at which point the hairline strokes can recede to being hard to see. Versions of Bodoni that are intended to be used at text size are "Bodoni Old Face", optimized for 9 points; ITC Bodoni 12 (for 12 points); and ITC Bodoni 6 (for 6 points).

Massimo Vignelli stated that 'Bodoni is one of the most elegant typefaces ever designed.'[4] In the English-speaking world, 'modern' serif designs like Bodoni are most commonly used in headings and display uses and in upmarket magazine printing, which is often done on high-gloss paper that retains and sets off the crisp detail of the fine strokes. In Europe, they are more often used in body text.


The 1818 Manuale-Tipografico specimen manual of Bodoni's press, published after his death.

Bodoni admired the work of John Baskerville[5] and studied in detail the designs of French type founders Pierre Simon Fournier and Firmin Didot. Although he drew inspiration from the work of these designers,[6] above all from Didot, no doubt Bodoni found his own style for his typefaces, which deservedly gained worldwide acceptance among printers.

Although to a modern audience Bodoni is best-known as the name of a typeface, Bodoni was an expert printer who ran a prestigious printing-office under the patronage of the Duke of Parma, and the design of his type was permitted by and showcased the quality of his company's work in metal-casting, printing and of the paper made in Parma.[7] The hairline serifs and fine strokes reflected a high quality of casting, since on poor-quality printing equipment serifs had to be large to avoid wear snapping them.[8] The smooth finish of his paper allowed fine detail to be retained on the surface. Bodoni also took care in the composition of his printing, using hierarchy and borders to create an appearance of elegance, and his range of type sizes allowed him flexibility of composition.

Writing of meeting him in the year 1786, James Edward Smith said:

A very great curiosity in its way is the Parma printing-office, carried on under the direction of Mr. Bodoni, who has brought that art to a degree of perfection scarcely known before him. Nothing could exceed his civility in showing us numbers of the beautiful productions of his well as the operations of casting and finishing the letters...his paper is all made at Parma. The manner in which Mr. Bodoni gives his works their beautiful smoothness, so that no impression of the letters is perceptible on either side, is the only part of his business that he keeps secret.[7]

Distinctive visual characteristics[edit]

Distinctive characteristics of this typeface include:

Lower case:

  • Round dot over the letter i.
  • Slanted-top t.

Upper case:

  • The tail of the Q is centered under the letter.
  • The J has a slight hook.
  • There are two versions of R, one with a straight tail and one with a curved tail.

The effective use of Bodoni in modern printing poses challenges common to all Didone designs. While it can look very elegant due to the regular, rational design and fine strokes, a known effect on readers is 'dazzle', where the thick verticals draw the reader's attention and cause them to struggle to concentrate on the other, much thinner strokes that define which letter is which.[9][10][11] For this reason, using the right optical size of font has been described as particularly essential to achieve professional results.[12] Fonts to be used at text sizes will be sturdier designs with thicker 'thin' strokes and serifs (less stroke contrast) and more space between letters than on display designs, to increase legibility.[13][14] Optical sizes were a natural requirement of printing technology at the time of Bodoni, who had to cut each size of type separately, but declined as the pantograph, phototypesetting and digital fonts made printing the same font at any size simpler; a revival has taken place in recent years as automated font development has become possible.[15][16] French designer Loïc Sander has suggested that the dazzle effect, common to all Didone designs, may be particularly common in designs produced in countries where designers are unfamiliar with how to use them effectively and where the fonts that are easily commercially available will tend to have been designed for headings.[17] Modern Bodoni revivals intended for professional use such as Parmagiano and ITC Bodoni have a range of optical sizes, but this is less common on default computer fonts.[17][18][19][20]

Foundry type revivals and variants[edit]

A title page printed by Bodoni, 1796
Proofs of page decorations from the Bodoni printing house

There have been many revivals of the Bodoni typeface; ATF Bodoni and Bauer Bodoni are two of the more successful.

  • ATF's Bodoni series created in 1909,[21] was the first American revival of the face. All variants were designed by Morris Fuller Benton who captured the flavor of Bodoni's original while emphasizing legibility rather than trying to push against the limits of printing technology. This revival is regarded as "the first accurate revival of a historical face for general printing and design applications".[22]
    • Bodoni (1909)
    • Bodoni Italic (1910)
    • Bodoni Book (1910)
    • Bodoni Book Italic (1911)
    • Bodoni Bold + Italic (1911)
    • Bodoni Bold Shaded (1912)
    • Bodoni Shaded Initials (1914)
    • Card Bodoni (1915)
    • Card Bodoni Bold (1917)
    • Bodoni Open (1918)
    • Bodoni Book Expanded (1924)
    • Ultra Bodoni + italic (1928)
    • Bodoni Bold Condensed (1933)
    • Ultra Bodoni Condensed + extra condensed (1933)
    • Engravers Bodoni (1933), designed in 1926.
    • Bodoni #175 + italic (1911)
    • Bodoni #375 + italic (1930), based on the Benton version.
    • Recut Bodoni Bold + italic
    • Bodoni Bold Condensed (Sol Hess, 1934)
    • Bodoni Light + italic (Robert Wiebking, 1923)
    • True-Cut Bodoni + italic (Wiebking, 1923), based on actual specimens at the Newberry Library.
    • Bodoni Bold + italic (Wiebking, 1930)
    • Bodoni Modern + italic (R. Hunter Middleton, 1936), probably the most faithful recutting.
  • Damon Type Foundry offered a Bodoni under the name Bartlet.
  • Linotype and Intertype also produced matrices for machine composition that were somewhat narrower than the fondry type versions.[23]
  • Haas Type Foundry produced a version which was then licenced to D. Stempel AG, Amsterdam Type Foundry, and Berthold.[24]
  • The Bauer Type Foundry version was drawn by Heinrich Jost in 1926. The Bauer version emphasizes the extreme contrast between hairline and main stroke. The series included the following weights:
    • Bodoni Roman
    • Bodoni Title
    • Bodoni Bold
    • Bodoni Italic
    • Bodoni Italic Bold[25]

Cold type versions[edit]

As it had been a standard type for many years, Bodoni was widely available in cold type. Alphatype, Autologic, Berthold, Compugraphic, Dymo, Harris, Mergenthaler, MGD Graphic Systems, and Varityper, Hell AG, Monotype, all sold the face under the name Bodoni, while Graphic Systems Inc. offered the face as Brunswick and Star/Photon called their version BodoniStar.[26]

Digital versions[edit]

Digital revivals include Bodoni Antiqua, Bodoni Old Face, ITC Bodoni Seventy Two, ITC Bodoni Six, ITC Bodoni Twelve, Bodoni MT, LTC Bodoni 175, WTC Our Bodoni, Bodoni EF, Bodoni Classico, and TS Bodoni. Zuzana Licko's Filosofia is considered by some to be a revival of Bodoni, but it is a highly personal, stylish, and stylized spinoff, rather than a revival. Although intended to be usable at text sizes, it represents the early period of the designer's career when interletter spacing was yet to be conquered, so has found use primarily in advertising. A particularly carefully optically-sized Bodoni is Sumner Stone's ITC version in three sizes (6 point, 12 point, 72 point). Another important Bodoni optimized for book printing (9 point) is Günther Gerhard Lange's "Bodoni Old Face" from the Berthold library. Most other versions are best used at display sizes.[citation needed]

Poster Bodoni[edit]

Poster Bodoni is a variant created for posters, designed by Chauncey H. Griffith in 1929.[27]


Journal de Bruxelles, was a French revolutionary republic newspaper edited during the French occupation of Brussels. The typeface used is Bodoni.
  • Bodoni has been used for a wide variety of material, ranging from 18th century Italian books to 1960s periodicals. In the 21st century, the late manner versions continue to be used in advertising, while the early manner versions are occasionally used for fine book printing.[citation needed]
  • Poster Bodoni is used in Mamma Mia! posters.[28]
  • Bodoni is one of the two typesets that is used by Hilton Hotels for restaurant or bar menu content.
  • Sony's Columbia Records (owned by CBS from 1938 to 1989) also utilizes Bodini for their wordmark.
  • Nirvana's logo is written with Bodoni(specifically Bodoni Poster-Compressed).
  • Bauer Bodoni Black is used for Carnegie Mellon University's wordmark.
  • Bauer Bodoni Roman is used for Brandeis University's wordmark.
  • Tom Clancy used Bodoni font for the artwork of all his affiliated works until his novel Dead or Alive.
  • A variation of Bodoni called "Postoni" is the primary headline font for The Washington Post newspaper.[29]
  • Bodoni was the favorite typeset of Ted Hughes, UK Poet Laureate, 1984–1998.[30]
  • Roman Bauer Bodoni is used in Slow Food's logotype[31]
  • Bodoni has been used in Manila Bulletin's headline text until the early 2000s.


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  7. ^ a b Smith, James Edward (1793). A Sketch of a Tour on the Continent, in the Years 1786 and 1787. London. pp. 36–38. Retrieved 11 August 2015. 
  8. ^ Hansard, Thomas Curson (1825). Typographia, an Historical Sketch of the Origin and Progress of the Art of Printing. p. 370. Retrieved 12 August 2015. 
  9. ^ Berkson, William. "Reviving Caslon, Part 2". I Love Typography. Retrieved 21 September 2014. 
  10. ^ Cees W. De Jong, Alston W. Purvis, and Friedrich Friedl. 2005. Creative Type: A Sourcebook of Classical and Contemporary Letterforms. Thames & Hudson. (223)
  11. ^ Katz, Joel (2012). Designing information : human factors and common sense in information design. Hoboken, NJ: Wiley. p. 140. ISBN 9781118420096. 
  12. ^ Coles, Stephen. "Trianon review". Identifont. Retrieved 10 August 2015. 
  13. ^ "HFJ Didot". Hoefler & Frere-Jones. Retrieved 10 August 2015. 
  14. ^ Sowersby, Kris. "Why Bembo Sucks". Retrieved 30 June 2015. 
  15. ^ Ahrens and Mugikura. "Size-specific Adjustments to Type Designs". Just Another Foundry. Retrieved 21 November 2014. 
  16. ^ Coles, Stephen. "Book Review: Size-specific Adjustments to Type Designs". Typographica. Retrieved 21 November 2014. 
  17. ^ a b Sander, Loïc. "Parmigiano review". Typographica. Retrieved 10 August 2015. 
  18. ^ Twemlow, Alice. "Forensic Types". Eye Magazine. Retrieved 6 October 2014. 
  19. ^ "Surveyor overview". Hoefler & Frere-Jones. Retrieved 11 August 2015. 
  20. ^ McNaughton, Melanie. "Martha Stewart's Graphic Design for Living". Retrieved 7 October 2014. 
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  22. ^ Clair, K. and Busic-Snyder, C. (2005). A typographic workbook. Hoboken, N.J.: Wiley, p.272.
  23. ^ MacGrew, Mac, American Metal Typefaces of the Twentieth Century, Oak Knoll Books, New Castle Delaware, 1993, ISBN 0-938768-34-4, p. 45.
  24. ^ 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. 25.
  25. ^ Specimen Book of Bauer Types (second edition), Bauer Type Foundry, Inc., New York City, c. 1938, pp. E2 – E10.
  26. ^ Lawson, Alexander, Archie Provan, and Frank Romano, Primer Metal Typeface Identification, National Composition Association, Arlington, Virginia, 1976, pp. 34 – 35.
  27. ^ Clair, K. and Busic-Snyder, C. (2005). A typographic workbook. Hoboken, N.J.: Wiley, p.273
  28. ^ "Posters, Signposting & Calendars". Retrieved 2013-04-15. 
  29. ^
  30. ^ "Hughes, Collected Works (preface, p. v". Retrieved 2013-04-15. 
  31. ^


  • Carter, Rob, Ben Day, and Philip Meggs. Typographic Design: Form and Communication. John Wiley & Sons, Inc: 1993. ISBN 0-471-28430-0.
  • Dodd, Robin. From Gutenberg to Opentype. Hartley & Marks Publishers, Inc.: 2006. ISBN 0-88179-210-1.
  • Friedl, Friedrich, Nicholas Ott, and Bernard Ott. Typography: an Encyclopedia Survey of Type Design and Techniques Throughout History. Black Dog & Leventhal Publishers, Inc: 1998. ISBN 1-57912-023-7 .
  • Frey, David. X-Height FontHaus’s Online Magazine. DsgnHaus, Inc. 2006.
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  • Nesbitt, Alexander The History and Technique of Lettering Dover Publications: 1975. ISBN 0-486-20427-8

External links[edit]