Designer: John Baskerville
Foundries: Deberny & Peignot, Monotype, Linotype
Classification: Transitional serif
With its round features it is typically set wide. Great for text and display.1
The 18th century saw subtle changes in the design of typefaces. The beginning of the century brought about old-style typefaces. At the end was the rise of modern style typefaces. Baskerville belonged to a style of type called transitional, nestled in between the old and modern styles.2
When the typeface was created it was used for private press work. After John Baskerville's death a French foundry acquired the typeface. By the late 1700s the typeface was considered to have been lost until the Monotype Revival brought the typeface to popularity.3 During its early years Baskerville was not as popular. Detractors of the typeface argued that the sharpness and contrast hurt their eyes. Benjamin Franklin sent a letter to Baskerville telling him of how he ripped the foundry name off of a specimen sheet for Caslon. Then Franklin proceeded to show the sheet to a detractor of Baskerville. He proceeded to ask the detractor what he found wrong with the type face. From which he was told it gave the detractor a headache.5
Baskerville was an attempt to improve on Caslon Old Style.2 Its forms "echoes the architecture of the Augustine Age in its serenity and masculinity".4 John Baskerville made the vertical axis of the letters more vertical. He increased the contrast between thick and thin strokes. He made the serifs more tapered and sharp. Some character were widened and made more round. Signs of his in calligraphy show through in the swash tail of the Q and in the "cursive serifs in Baskerville italic".2 Other key characteristics of the face include the long arm of the uppercase E that protrudes like an under bite. Or the open bowl of the lower case g and the spur of the uppercase G.
If a typographer is looking to add "length and importance to a short manuscript" it was important to use Baskerville because of the amount of space it took up. Baskerville is not recommended for use in tight spaces.3 Nor for use in poster designs because of the thin strokes in the face.1 Because of its design Baskerville is well suited for use in long text.3 Versatile enough to be used as text or display Baskerville exudes a classical and elegant nature.2