John Baskerville (1706 – 1775) was an innovative printer, engraver, businessman, typeface designer, and all-around cool dude. Born in Wolverley, Worcestershire, and making his home in Birmingham, Baskerville made a fortune in japanned furniture before, at the age of 44, he dedicated himself to advancing the art of printing.
Baskerville spent years perfecting a richer black ink, a whiter smoother paper, and his signature achievement: the typeface that bears his name. Baskerville – the type – represents the peak of transitional typefaces, and bridges the gap between Old Style and Modern type design. Benjamin Franklin, a printer himself, greatly admired Baskerville, adopting the typeface for most government publishing. A recent study found people were more likely to agree with a statement written in Baskerville than any other typeface. It’s great!
John Baskerville’s folio Bible for the University of Cambridge in 1763 is a landmark in printing and bookmaking. Despite being an avowed and outspoken atheist, Baskerville’s Bible set a new standard in design, with modern wide margins and greater leading between lines, that continues to influence artists today.
Baskerville had a colorful life and death. He lived out of wedlock with his partner, Sarah, for years – scandal! He refused to be buried on church ground, choosing to be interned in his own garden – blasphemy! His lead coffin was exhumed, put into storage, and briefly used as a workbench – kinda gross! Sadly, Baskerville was eventually reburied in consecrated ground at Warstone Lane Cemetery.
A hero of Birmingham, John Baskerville is honored with a sculpture in front of Baskerville House, the former city hall. We’re proud to continue on Baskerville’s legacy of innovation, being cool, and doin’ things our own way. Yeah!
Here are some fun (maybe) facts about John Baskerville.
- He first profession was as a tombstone engraver. This is fact as well as foreshadowing.
- Baskerville the typeface is inarguably more attractive than Times New Roman or Cambria, which have both held default settings in Microsoft Word.
- His typefaces did not become famous until well after his death.
- Baskerville’s name is engraved in his coffin in Baskerville.