As part of my recent trip to Birmingham, I visited an old concrete friend – the monument to type founder, printer and print innovator John Baskerville. The Portland stone sculpture, Industry and Genius, proudly (and aptly) stands in Centenary Square, near the city’s wonderful new Library of Birmingham. The block of individual type characters in the Baskerville-designed font is a timely reminder of the importance of his contribution to type design and the wider dissemination of information through the printed word. Baskerville and other European type founders of the 18th century, created a group of fonts known collectively as ‘transitional’. This refers to the transition from ‘old-style’ fonts with thicker strokes, such as Plantin and Garamond and ‘Modern’ serif fonts with thinner and straighter strokes, such as Bodoni and Didot. Each were carefully designed to look good and print well at a range of sizes and weights, but some, like Baskerville, have also been found to be work well on screen. This is why Baskerville is still around and popular after more than 250 years. I’m not sure if we’ll be saying the same about Geneva in the year 2263. So before you casually select Arial or Tahoma for the text font in your layout, article, thesis or office document, just think – you could choose to make it more beautiful and interesting to read, courtesy of John Baskerville.
Baskerville: back to where it all began
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