The Typehead Chronicles: Baskerville
      Of Thomas Christensen, ABCedminded Typesetter  

homeward bound



Berthold Baskerville Book

Identifying Characteristics

  •  tail on lowercase g does not close
  •  swash-like tail of Q
  •  small counter of italic e compared to italic a
  •  J well below baseline
  •  high crossbar and pointed apex of A
  •  top and bottom serifs on C
  •  W and w have no middle stroke
  •  long lower arm of E
  • Many version feature a calligraphic J
  • T has wide arms


John Baskerville. Baskerville, who had made a fortune in japanning before turning to printing when in his midforties, was responsible for several advances in printing technology, improving press platens and packings, formulating darker and faster-drying inks, and inventing wove paper, which was smoother than the old laid papers with their vertical ribbing. all of this enabled him to employ a typeface with sharper definition and thinner elements than was previously possible. This marks the move from the "garalde" to the transitional faces.

Unfortunately, Baskerville could not compete economically with printers using the cheaper, established technology. His matrices were sold by his widow, and changes hands several times, disappearing into obscurity until they were rediscovered and made known by Bruce Rogers around 1920.

"Foundry" or "Fry" Baskerville is a later face based on the original Baskerville, which was cut by the Joseph Fry foundry in 1764. This cutting takes the face more in the direction of the Didots. Rogers used it for display with the original Baskerville as text font.

Mrs. Eaves

Mrs. Eaves, by Zuzana Licko, is a revival of Baskerville that attempts to soften its hard edges by reducing its contrast, lowering the x-height, and widening the lower case. Mrs. Eaves (named for Baskerville's companion) is a popular and attractive face that includes a number of ligatures and other features. But some say it has spacing problems. Hrant H Papazian, for example, wrote on the typophile forum, "The problem with Mrs Eaves isn't just that the spacing is messy (with only 40-something kerning pairs to patch things up) it's that its overall loose spacing goes against all its other parameters, like the tiny x-height, and the lightish color. You can't use it small, and you can't use it large." I've never used it at all, so send me an e-mail if you have opinion.

Say What?

  • "The epitome of neo-classicism and eighteen-century rationalism in type."
       —Robert Bringhurst
  • "Baskerville's design shows more originality and personality than Caslon's."
       —Stanley Morison
  • "His types are rather more modelled and their shading more vertical than that of the Caslon letters."
       —A.F. Johnson





mrs. eaves

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