Design: The Baskerville Poster

by Max on April 25, 2004

As part of my Graphic Design studies in MSUM, Prof. Allen Sheets included several font studies in his curriculum, which I found to be incredibly impacting to my type utilization and appreciation. One of those memorable type faces was Baskerville, the better Caslon!

Wikipedia tells us the following about the creator:

The Baskerville typeface is the result of John Baskerville’s intent to improve upon the types of William Caslon. He 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. 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 typeface was the culmination of a larger series of experiments to improve legibility which also included paper making and ink manufacturing. The result was a typeface that reflected Baskerville’s ideals of perfection, where he chose simplicity and quiet refinement. 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. The refined feeling of the typeface makes it an excellent choice to convey dignity and tradition.

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 he published his master work, a folio Bible, which was printed using his own typeface, ink, and paper.

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

Rest assured though, your eyes will wink in excitement rather than pain when you encounter this beautiful type. Here’s my first and final draft of the Baskerville poster. Enjoy!

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