The designer and history behind Baskerville font starts with John Baskerville, 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.
However, during those seven years he was an impressive innovator, not only in the construction of the printing press but even in the inks and papers he prepared. Among Baskerville’s most noted works are Milton’s Paradise Lost and Paradise Regained, Book of Common Prayer, and his Bible of 1763 — generally considered to be his finest achievement. As Cambridge University owned the patent to that Bible version and the Prayer Books, they stipulated that Baskerville should actually take his printing presses to Cambridge to print them.
It wasn’t until the 1920s that Baskerville finally won the attention he had always merited.
The American classical typographer Bruce Rogers (designer of the Centaur typeface, among others) was in large part behind the modern revival of Baskerville’s typefaces. Now, dozens of type foundries have their own versions and derivatives. Benjamen Franklin (who already had a successful printing business) was an admirer of Baskerville (they met in Birmingham in 1758), and returned to the US with Baskervilles’s work, popularising it through its adoption as one of the standard typefaces employed in federal government publishing Then along came a revival of Baskerville called Mrs. Eaves, by Zuzana Licko, is a 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.
The identifying characteristics of Baskerville are: tail on lowercase g does not close, swash-like tail of Q, small counter of italic e compared to italic, 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, and T has wide arms.