Simon Pascal Klein

Excerpts from “An Atlas of Typeforms”

Posted by Simon Pascal Klein on February 5th 2009 10:40 AM

A friend pointed out to me that in her copy of An Atlas of Typeforms (Sutton, J. 1988, An Atlas of Typeforms, New Edition, Wordsworth Editions, Ware, Hertfordshire, UK) there were a few extra notes on the Baskervilles. I’ve copied it out below purely for research purposes:

[Page 59]

The designer who made the first original contribution to type design in England, John Baskerville, had little commercial success in his lifetime though versions of his types are among the most popular book faces today. He was a Birmingham japanner, a letter cutter and a writing master, and in his roman of 1754 three disciplines produced magnificently controlled, generously proportioned letterforms. It is an original design of great distinction, which echoes the architecture of the Augustan Age in its serenity and masculinity; it holds a central position in the transitional group of typefaces.

Baskerville made a number of important innovations in ink and papermaking and printing. Passing wove paper through hot copper cylinders produced a smooth white surface that showed off the black type magnificently. He also developed a new open typographic style with wide margins and leading between the lines. This gave the page an austere brilliance. Instead of illustration, the letters decorate the pages. But while Baskerville was not commercially successful in England, his work was admired and imitated here and abroad.

[Page 62]

Baskerville’s types have been as important a source for modern designs as have those of Garamond, and are the major source of mid-Transitional types. The Monotype version of 1923 is a regularised version of the 1757 Virgil Great Primer fount, and in 1931 Linotype brought out a fairly true recutting of he Deberny & Peignot version which was actually cast from matrices made from Baskerville's punches. Fry's Baskerville is much later in feeling than the original, and has more in common with Bell or Scotch Roman than with Baskerville. This ‘improved’ version was cut by Isaac Moore for Dr Fry in 1769, and reproduced by Stephenson Blake in 1913. The 30pt and larger sizes were engraved and cut by them; an italic exists, but is not supplied by the founder. Georian (1925, G.W. Jones) is primarily based on a design by Alexander Wilson of about 1790, perhaps also for Dr Fry. Fontana (1936, under the direction of Dr Giovanni Mardersteig) was designed for William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd for their exclusive use and was closely copied from a fount of Alexander Wilson of about 1760. The height of the capitals has been slightly reduced, but it is otherwise fairly accurate. In 1961 it was made generally available.

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Open Baskerville is an open source project to create a digital revival of the famous ‘Baskerville’ typefaces. To be more exact, Open Baskerville is based upon Fry’s Baskerville, a Baskerville derivative created by Isaac Moore, a punchcutter who worked for John Baskerville. work. The font is to be licensed under either the SIL OFL or the GNU GPL v3.

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