Monday, January 28, 2013
Type founder and printer John Baskerville was born on January 28, 1706, in Worcestershire, England. In his Birmingham print shop he directed the design of typefaces marked by simplicity and quiet refinement. The Baskerville typeface was an improvement on those of William Caslon, then in wide use. He increased the contrast between thick and thin strokes, made serifs sharper and more tapered, moved rounded letters’ axis more vertical, and made characters more regular and consistent in size and form. This was part of his larger effort to improve legibility, including smoother, whiter paper and innovations in printing and ink production. Though he was an atheist, he printed a remarkable folio Bible in 1763 (pictured) for the University of Cambridge. Baskerville’s typefaces were admired by Benjamin Franklin, who took them back to the United States, where they were adopted for most federal government publishing.