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History of Lettering

‘…the soft curves of Caslon…the sterner qualities of Baskerville…’

So wrote Paul Johnston in his Biblio-Typographica (1930), a copy of which I picked up last week from my favourite secondhand bookshop.

He goes on: “The punches of the latter [Baskerville] went to France where they were accepted with more respect…Baskerville’s type also became the basis of a new form of letter design called Modern, which was bought to its best development by Didot and Bodini. And where the Baskerville type had been frowned upon in England, its derivatives were received with enthusiasm a few years later. They superseded Caslon’s letters and the French distortions and exaggerations of their design were imitated in England. Thus Baskerville’s type, by a roundabout way, and quite without their maker’s intention, brought English printing to the lowest state it had ever known; the period of heavy-weight modern types” (p.185).

Quite a paragraph. And for what it counts I have always detested the Caslon upper case A with its pretentious top. [Illustrations from my copy of an undated Monotype catalogue.}