No designer’s work has been more often imitated than that of Giambattista Bodoni. This is hardly surprising. Bodoni was a genius who created some of the most beautiful and majestic typefaces ever produced. Yet the designs of this 18th century master are also among the most difficult to accurately revive.
ITC Bodoni Twelve History
The reason for this difficulty is Bodoni’s own prolific creativity. Bodoni cut so many typefaces, in so many sizes, that choosing a design source from which to work is problematic. Even experts disagree over which is the best foundation for a proper revival of Bodoni’s work.
There’s also the challenge of how to accurately represent Bodoni’s incredibly rich stylistic palette. Bodoni cut over two hundred fonts, all in the same basic style, but varying in size, proportion and weight. Much of the strength and power of Bodoni’s printing results from his ability to use the absolutely optimal design for any given application. In addition to impeccable taste, Bodoni always had exactly the font he wanted.
The first step was a trip to Parma, Italy, the city where Bodoni worked and where his punches are now stored. In Parma, recalls Sumner Stone, the project’s art director, “the search for Bodoni took on a new dimension and meaning. We were there not only to look at old books and original metal punches. We traveled to Parma to find the spirit of Bodoni - the real Bodoni.”
In addition to Stone, the Bodoni design team included Holly Goldsmith, Jim Parkinson and Janice Prescott Fishman. After Parma, the band of travelers returned home to draw letters, starting with the romans. The small size (based on the font Bodoni called “Filosofia”) required a good deal of interpretation. The challenge here was to preserve the feeling and gesture of the original Bodoni letters, without making the type a mock-antique that incorporated every bump. The end result, according to Stone, “is grouchy, not photo-realistic.”
Once preliminary sketches had been made for the foundational characters in the large and small fonts, the design team returned to Parma to confirm that the chosen design direction was the right one, using an original copy of Bodoni’s 1818 Manuale Tipografico as a benchmark for accuracy. Subtle modifications were made on the spot, and the rewarding but arduous process of drawing the complete family began.
ITC Bodoni’s middle weight was digitally interpolated from the large and small designs. In Stone’s words, “After some trial and error, we produced a text size which has not only the right weight but also a distinct Bodoni flavor - a flavor every bit as strong as the rich porcini mushrooms in a Parma risotto.” That a computer could make a new font for text sizes by “averaging” the very small and large sizes is testament to the strength and clarity of Bodoni’s original vision, which he developed and maintained over many years.
The completed family consists of ITC Bodoni Six, designed for small captions and settings, ITC Bodoni Twelve, specifically for text copy, and ITC Bodoni Seventy-Two, for use in display applications. Each size-specific design comes in two weights: Book and Bold, with matching italics. ITC Bodoni Seventy-Two also includes two swash fonts for the italics.
Now the ITC Bodoni family is available as a suite of OpenType Pro fonts. Graphic communicators can now work with this versatile design while taking advantage of OpenType’s capabilities, including the automatic insertion of old style figures, ligatures and small caps.
The new ITC Bodoni Pro fonts also offer an extended character set supporting most Central European and many Eastern European languages.
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