The ITC New Baskerville font family is based on a design that was first shown by John Baskerville of Birmingham in 1724. It is important historically because it represented a deliberate move away from the Old Style faces of the preceding centuries, and foretold the Moderns that were to follow. ITC New Baskerville imparts an elegant and distinctive look without distracting the reader.
John Baskerville was a 17th century publisher who developed many innovations across different elements of printing, including paper stocks, inks, and typefaces. He was much admired by Benjamin Franklin, his contemporary on the North American side of the pond. Franklin– a printer himself, of course– popularized Baskerville’s work in the Colonies, eventually making the Baskerville typeface one of the official typefaces of the Federal government after the Revolution.
After falling out of favor for a time, American typographer Bruce Rogers reintroduced the world to Baskerville’s work in 1917 by using a re-engraving of original Baskerville punches done by French type foundry Deberny & Peignot in several Harvard University Press releases. The success of these releases inspired the many revivals of Baskerville’s work that would follow, including Monotype’s version.
Monotype Baskerville, which is attributed to the Monotype Design studio as a whole, modeled its version on a quatro of Terrence’s Comoediae printed by Baskerville in 1772. It is a cleaner typeface than the original– the design studio seems to have streamlined much of the rougher characteristics in Baskerville’s work, giving Monotype Baskerville a finer, more modern edge.
Monotype Baskerville is often used for book text. Monotype Baskerville is a popular display fonts in many books, including a few landmark publications in design that have been catalogued by the AIGA, including 1953’s Persepolis: Volume I. Structures, Reliefs, Inscriptions, by H.J. Bauman and Greer Allen, and China in the Sixteenth Century: The Journals of Matthew Ricci, 1583–1610 by Peter Oldenburg.