Baskerville 20th century revival

ncaleffi's picture

I'm interested in Baskerville's typeface revival produced in the first half of 20th century. There seems to be at least two other versions besides Monotype's. I'm quoting Tipowiki here:

"Interest in Baskerville seems to have revived in the early 20th century, with Bruce Rogers among others taking an interest in him. (...) Not surprisingly, therefore, the type was revived for mechanical composition in the 20th century. ATF was first, followed by English Monotype in 1923, and thereafter other manufacturers (notably linotype) followed suit. Monotype Baskerville (Series 169), perhaps the best-known of these revivals was a commercially successful type despite (or perhaps because) it was heavily "cleaned up" by the Monotype drawing office Monotype's was based on a font designed for use at a fairly large size in an edition of Terence's comedies published in 1772. ATF and Linotype used strikes from genuine punches of a smaller size type; it is not therefore surprising that different versions of Baskerville look noticeably different: they are (or may) still be 'authentic'".

So the questions are:
1. Did Bruce Rogers ever made a revival himself or he just "suggested" to make one?
2. Since Monotype's version was based on a large size and was "cleaned up", how were, if anybody ever saw them printed in books or in specimens, ATF and Linotype cuts?
3. More specifically, is there any way to have a look at some ATF or Linotype Baskerville specimens?

David Rault's picture

I strongly suggest you to have a look at Yves Perrousseaux encyclopedia of typefaces volume 3, in which Baskerville and its revivals are greatly addressed and illustrated:

(unfortunately this book is only in french for now, and it's a pity considering it's the most definitive and incredibly well illustrated encyclopedia of typography available today, without any equivalent in english)

kentlew's picture

Nicola -- I'm travelling right now amd don't have access to my library. But when I get home next week, I can look for some information on Linotype's Baskerville. I think I might have some Griffith notes.

And if no one comes forth sooner with images, I can produce a few scans for you.

William Berkson's picture

AFT and Linotype Baskervilles are in both Jaspert et al. Encyclopaedia of Typefaces and Mac McGrew's American Metal Typefaces of the Twientieth Century.

Nick Shinn's picture

If you can get hold of a copy of Fortune magazine from the 1930s, it showcases Baskerville for editorial text, in body and display, on coated and rag.
There are a lot around still - real "keepers".

quadibloc's picture

I'm surprised, though, that Monotype Baskerville is referred to as "heavily cleaned up". Because of the press techniques Baskerville himself used, and the care he took in making his type, the original Baskerville type was already "slick" and at least approached the modern standards of mechanical perfection that the use of the pantograph later established.

So, while I don't dispute that Monotype's Baskerville did not leave in any humanizing imperfections... that would still have been a light cleanup, because in the case of Baskerville, there wasn't much there to clean up. (And, of course, I am inclined to go even further, and express doubt that the cleanup really contravened Baskerville's intentions either.)

William Berkson's picture

IMHO Monotype Baskerville, in letter press, was a great typeface. The digital ones are generally too anemic, but I hear good things about Storm's Baskervilles.

ncaleffi's picture

Thanks everyone for their inputs; it would be helpful to see some samples posted here. It is curious that the Monotype version of Baskerville, based on a large size, thus - presumabily - a "lighter" typeface, has somehow come to define the "standard" Baskerville text type in the digital era (the fact that it is pre-installed on many machines didn't help either). It would be nice to see other metal reinterpretations also because nowadays there are half a dozen digital versions of Baskerville available, and they all look different; much different, I would say:

From top to bottom: Berthold, Classico (Franko Luin), Fountain, ITC New Baskerville, Monotype, Scangraphic/Elsner & Flake, Storm.

Apart from ITC and Monotype, it seems like each of these typefaces was cut from a very different source.

Antonio Cavedoni's picture

Nicola, you should also try to get ahold of one of the new books by the Voland publishing company (from Italy). Luciano Perondi recently designed for them a custom version of Baskerville with low contrast and a bigger x-height than original sources.

I believe it was made to somewhat match the proportions of Simoncini Garamond, but Luciano will know more about it.

kentlew's picture

Nicola —

Regarding your first question:

> 1. Did Bruce Rogers ever made a revival himself or he just "suggested" to make one?

Bruce Rogers was more a book designer and typographer than a type designer. He has only two type designs to his credit: Centaur, and the obscure Montaigne. He certainly never attempted a revival of Baskerville.

And it’s not even a case of him “suggesting” one.

But Bruce Rogers did take a strong interest in Baskervilles types at that time, and he did make a discovery which may have encouraged at least one of the revivals.

In 1920, before he left England to return to America, Rogers happened upon an original Baskerville specimen in a Cambridge bookstall. From that, he was able to identify some types then currently offered by Fonderie Bertrand in France as being actually cast from the original Baskerville matrices.

He had a font of these “original” Baskerville types, in 14-point size, shipped to America, where he used them in several books he designed for the Harvard University Press.

At this time, however, ATF had already produced its Baskerville, based on material from Stephenson, Blake & Co., which in turn was derived from Fry’s imitations of Baskerville’s types. So, it’s not like there weren’t contemporary Baskervilles already on the market.

The revival of a Baskerville by English Monotype came about in the early 1920s, about the time of Rogers’s discovery of the French Baskervilles. It’s possible that Rogers was in some direct communication with Stanley Morison about this, as they had some relationship. But I haven’t seen any direct evidence that he suggested or consulted on their Baskerville or any other.

Here is an image taken from a facsimile of one of BR’s books printed in those 14-point types cast from the original Baskerville matrices.

This image (along with much of my information above) was taken from Joseph Blumenthal’s excellent biography: Bruce Rogers: A Life in Letters [Austin: W. Thomas Taylor, 1989].

jason's picture

For more on the original types & punches, I recommend John Dreyfus' book The Survival of Baskerville's Punches. It's not only very informative, and includes a full-sized fascimile of a 1777 Baskerville specimen put out by Baskerville's widow (photo below), but it's a very entertaining book as well.

On the contemporary front, Russell Maret has recently designed and printed (from polymer) a new take on Baskerville. It can be seen in his latest Swan & Hoop book, A Roman Inscription.

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