Page 10 - October 2017
P. 10

|  In praise of Baskerville (1706 – 1775)  | |  John Tittley (10440}  |

               y admiration for John         experimentation with printing technology.
               Baskerville’s typeface developed   John pioneered a diff erent way of
       Mwithout my understanding why.        working, creating denser and blacker
       True, its legibility was a factor, yet the   inks by processing and boiling the best
       way it allowed the paper and the space   quality linseed oil and pigments before
       between letters to be an important part of   allowing the resulting mixture to mature
       the reading process also made an impact;   for months, then adding resin, which was
       the paper was allowed to be a part of the   followed by a lengthy grinding process. An
       legibility.                           ink with such dense ‘blackness’ had not
         Obviously, the way we view typefaces is   previously been available to printers. He
       subjective: all of us will have a favourite   also produced a very white, wove paper
       family with which we prefer to work, and   on which he printed successfully. Many
       I do use others which I fi nd attractive.   other printers found it too ‘glossy’ and
       Having said that, in my opinion Baskerville   would not use it, but John is credited with
       is unique in the way it allows the white   introducing ‘wove’ paper to the industry.
       space of the page to burst through,     Printers in general guarded closely
       enhancing contrasting ink colours in a   the methods they employed in their own
       pleasing aesthetic, thus making it balanced   print shops, and would be reluctant in
       and clear. His letters have pronounced   the extreme to reveal their own practices.
       gracefulness. Rounded and open, they are,   That John Baskerville took a keen interest
       I would suggest, very pleasing to the eye.   in what ingredients other printers were
       It is referred to as a transitional typeface.   buying and using has led to suggestions of
       This, to me, is its charm. Standing on the   industrial intelligence at work. However
       edge of the new technology Baskerville   he came to develop his ink and paper, his
       looks back and acknowledges classical   technique raised the standards for 18th
       lettering and the fi rst ‘printers’ – those   century presses. Although reasonably
       monks who toiled in scriptoria year after   successful in other areas of his working
       year leaving us a wealth of information.   life, his great skill was as a typographer.
       When the fi rst printing presses burst   Giambattista Bodoni, Pierre Fournier and
       across medieval Europe, that information   Benjamin Franklin admired and promoted
       was disseminated and made available to   his typeface.
       anyone who could read. The increase in     Unfortunately, despite such illustrious
       the number of books in Europe alone was   promotion, his typeface eventually fell out
       phenomenal.                           of fashion and even in Birmingham, then
         John Baskerville, printer and designer   a bastion of free thinking and atheism,
       of a distinctive typeface bearing his   John Baskerville was tainted by his
       name, was born in 1706 in Wolverley,   humanism and radicalism. Neglected and
       Worcestershire. Taking advantage of   forgotten, even in death he was not given
       improving technology in papermaking,   the respect I believe he was due. Buried
       ink manufacture and improved press    and disinterred three times he lies now
       methodology, together with the use of   in a bricked up vault in Warstone Lane
       wider page margins and letters, he has   cemetery. A sad resting place for John
       left a legacy showing us some of the   Baskerville, the man who created the most
       fi nest examples of the art of printing.   elegant, graceful and beautiful capital Q in
       Baskerville typeface grew out of ongoing   typography.
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