Berthold Bodoni® Antiqua is a modern slab serif released by the Berthold Foundry in 1930 and enhanced in the 1970’s to add condensed versions and in the 1980’s with the expert series. It was based upon the great works of 18th century Italian master printer Giambattista Bodoni.
Berthold Bodoni Antiqua History
Giambattista Bodoni came from a printing family with both his father and grandfather being printers. A prolific publisher and expert typographer, Bodoni’s life works as an engraver, printer and typographer became well known and he even has a museum dedicated to him in Parma in Italy, the city where he eventually died in 1813. During his busy career, after starting as a promising apprentice in the Vatican’s own publishing arm – even being allowed as an apprentice (unusually for the day) to publish books under his own name. His mastery of ancient languages and typefaces was well appreciated by the print masters of the Vatican.
After recovering from malaria, Bodoni was retained on commission by Duke Ferdinand of Bourbon-Parma to develop La Stamperia Reale (The Royal Print) into one of the finest printing houses in Europe. His experience and wide knowledge soon brought prestige to this printing house and once it was established, he was permitted to open up under the Bodoni name; Officina Bodina (The Office of Bodoni).
Elsewhere in Europe was another type designer named Didot who himself came from generations of printers and typographers – his whole family has a long list of achievements in the field of printing and typesetting. The Didot print works was a great competitor of Bodoni but undeterred by the competition Bodoni engraved an impressive 298 typefaces over his busy and productive life. Although the Didot family had an advantage over Bodoni, he is still held up as the master of pseudo-classical typeface design and produced some highly stylistic typographic representations that in some cases, as he remarked himself, “were more to be admired than read”. His later career involved being the Court typographer for Charles III of Spain whose commissions were for the stylized typefaces that Bodoni has mastered.
Bodoni came up with an elegant version of a John Baskerville typeface with increased contrast between the stroke widths and sharper more tapered serifs which became known as the “Bodoni typeface” and has been copied and used as a design basis for many typefaces over the years.
The Bodoni style today is seen as one of the basic design statements of the late 18th/early 19th centuries. Unlike earlier serif typefaces, the x-height was not so high and there are the characteristic thick stroke verticals and thin strokes to contrast with them that the Bodoni style is famous for.
One very notable difference with the serifs in the Bodoni font is that they are slab-like. This is in contrast to the serifs of the day which tended to be sloped and often adjoined a crossbar such as in the lower case “t”. The flat appearance and thin strokes makes the serif wider in stroke than the actual letter strokes adding uniqueness to the Bodoni font family.
The Bodoni typeface became extremely popular, partly due to Bodoni’s own success, but also as it was becoming a standard readily available and functional typeface, many printers began to favor it over the Didot typefaces that were common at the time. The Bodoni typeface has stood the test to time and is still in common use today. The Berthold Bodoni Antiqua font family remains true to the original design of the revered printer who created the original.
Berthold Bodoni Antiqua Usage
IBM is the most notable user, with Berthold Bodoni Antiqua forming a prominent part of the IBM corporate identity. Berthold Bodoni Antiqua has also appeared on countless posters and ad campaigns from a broad spectrum of other businesses represented in many languages.
Centuries of book and other publishing has made the Bodoni font family one of the most recognizable design features of the last 200 years. Bodoni is truly one of the kings of typography and Berthold Bodoni Antiqua appears regularly in all types of books and advertisements.