DT&G Magazine Editor's Column
The Design Center / DT&G / Typography Department / Famous Names in Typography  

Famous Names in Typography

Anna from Toronto Canada wrote in to ask:
      "I was wondering how can a student get any of his work published, or even reviewed? Also, if you know (for research), in which order were the following typefaces created Caslon, Jenson, Garamond, Bodoni? Thanks a lot.

First, you can get your work reviewed and possibly published by sending a request to the editor including a little information on yourself and why you'd like to be seen in the Design & Publishing Center.

And now, here's our brief overview of the history of type. Beware, the samples open in a pop-up window. If you have pop-ups disabled or are using a blocker, you won't be able to see them.

1438 - Johann Gutenberg the first Movable Type

Sometime around 1438 AD, Gutenberg was working on a plan to break out of the current methods of printing text of books using wood blocks. He knew there must be an easier way. He set about carving individual letters, along with an associate Johann Fust, a goldsmith, developing a method to cast single letters in single pieces that varied in width but were precisely the same height. They then built precision molds for casting the letters in lead. These letters were positioned in a "chase" which aligned and blocked the type on a modified grape press which would become the first printing press.

1458 - Nicholas Jenson the first Old Style Faces

Gutenberg TexturaNicholas Jenson, a French engraver, settled in Italy working as an artisan in the early printing establishments here. His true distaste for Gutenberg's "Gothic Textura" lettering inspired him to begin developing his own style of lettering. He worked from the preferred Roman style letter that was more open and round, merging it with characteristics of Rotunda lettering. Jenson is attributed with developing the first pure Roman typeface. This new style showed little contrast between thick stem and thin hairline strokes because of the primitive carving methods of the times. His serifs were blunt and heavily bracketed; caps were shorter in height than the ascenders so that more lines could fit on a page. The lowercase "e" had a distinctive slanted cross stroke Jenson's Cloister Oldstyle became the first Old Style type face. Read more.

1476 William Caxton the first English Books

William Caxton was an English merchant and diplomat under the employment of the Duchess of Burgundy translating French literature into English. He watched as the work of the printing industry unfolded and as a natural extension of his translation work he became intent on bringing the printing and publishing arts to England. Around 1476 he produced and printed the first book written in the English language, and went on to open the first printing house in England. A font which is named after Caxton reflects the character forms of those developed by Jenson.

1492 - Aldus Manutius the first Publisher

Aldus Manutius entered the time line not as printer or typographer but rather as scholar and above all businessman. He instantly recognized the profit potential of Gutenberg's printing press and Jenson's Roman style movable type. About the time that Columbus was discovering America, Aldus set up the first publishing company. His profitable innovation published books in quantity which were smaller and easier to hold and read. He applied a "new" look to printed books featuring clear, more open pages -- without the illumination of the past -- and with wide, unprinted margins on the pages. His interest in the profitability of books fired his demand for quality content that all people would want to read, produced in the most affordable way.
      His employee, Francesco Griffo da Bologna was the first modern type designer, in the sense that he devised types for the mechanical craft of printing and not for an alternative to hand-written manuscript. His initial project in Venice was to invent a typeface called Bembo, which is regarded as the most modern in appearance of all 15th century types. "Griffo has never received adequate recognition for his enormous contribution to type design -- yet his "Bembo" influenced the industry throughout Europe through some 1,200 book titles published.

1530 - Claude Garamond the first type founder

Claude Garamond was a punch cutter fashioning type in France in the printing business. His great attention to detail and his finely tuned skills in carving the molds produced type characteristics which worked better for metal than any before. His "fonts" became sought after by the better printers of the times. He established the first type foundry -- a business set up specifically to market "type faces" to printers. Through this enterprize, he is also attributed for being the first to develop italic Romanesque type faces, and then to establish the relationships between the postures of the type into type family relationships. His classic Old Style type face "Garamond" is considered one of the best in all typographic history. Read more.

1725 - William Caslon the first British type standard

William spent his youth as an apprentice, journeyman and master in metal tooling. His specialty was gun-barrel engraving. During the early 1700s his concern grew to notariety and he became quite well known. He went on to found his own type foundry by developing his own variation of Garamond's classic type styles. His "Caslon" became so popular that in 1730 it was adopted by British newspapers to become a standard. It was used for the printing of the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution of the United States. Today Caslon is considered one of the most beautiful of the Old Style families for its openness and its delicate yet uniform serifs.

1730 - John Baskerville the first Book font, hot press paper

As the printing industry expanded into an important segment of society, the 1700s saw many innovations and diversifications. Baskerville was an English typographer and printer. Above all however he was an inventor and perfectionist. Somewhat dissatisfied with the type styles of Jenson and Garamond he saw the profitability of Caslons newly established standard in western Europe. So he began developing his own style which was much more delicate and distinctive than others. He studied the ease of reading in various faces and found that fine-stroked types were actually easier to read when printed in smaller sizes -- a characteristic essential for books. He developed not only his own type styles, but a new, more precision printing press along with his own inks which optimized the finer type style. More importantly however was his research and development of a new method for processing paper. Obviously with finer type, you would need smoother paper. His "Hot Pressed" paper method yielded paper far superior to the 'book' papers of the day. Baskerville's type style Baskerville is still celebrated as one of the best type styles for printed books.

1780 - Giambatista Bodoni father of the Modern type style

As the fine art of typography and printing flourished throughout Europe, the Italians were not to be left behind. Bodoni, an Italian type designer and printer was an admirer of Baskerville and the work he developed in inks and papers. He was also heavily influenced by the works of Didot and his type styles which pushed Caslon's details even finer. But Bodoni was also an artist. He aspired to produce type that was both communicative and art at the same time. He went on to produce the whole Bodoni family -- several dozen iterations -- which would set the stage to push typography into the "Modern" era of fine hairline serifs and heavy contrast between thick and thin strokes.



See my Type Bibliography at: www.design-bookshelf.com/Type/biblio/index.html

See: The Middle Ages of Type: www.graphic-design.com/Type/medieval/index.html

Participate in your Design Center

Lots of fun and information for all... don't forget, any community is only as good as the participation of its members. We invite your tips, tricks, comments, suggestions and camaraderie.

Advertise your products or services among these pages! Call: 540-433-8402 for details.