Saturday, 2 June 2012

John Baskerville

John Baskerville was actually born in Wolverley, Worcestershire in 1706. In 1725 he moved to Birmingham where Baskerville House and the Baskerville steps in Centenary Square are testament to his memory.

Originally he was a printer and publisher and worked for a time as a printer to Cambridge University. He is known for his type faces which were popular in France and Italy and in pseudoclassical style. In 1750 he set up on his own with a type foundry and printing works. His first printed book was an edition of Virgil. This was followed by an edition of John Milton's "Paradise Lost" . Whilst at Cambridge he produced several editions of the "Book of Common Prayer" and the New Testament in Greek type that he designed.

His work is noted for being of excellent quality. What is often not known is the fact that he was also a skilled engraver of tombstones and a teacher of writing. He also set up a japanning business which made him a wealth man. The present day Baskerville House is on the orginal site of his eight acre estate and house.

John Baskerville is famous for his Baskerville font but he also improved the way in which metal type was made. This enabled him to produce better quality printing of a standard not possible previously. He invented his own ink and used wove paper invented by James Whatman which was much smoother than traditional paper. He also modified the printing process. The results placed him at the top of his profession as an innovator and producer of fine publishing and set the standards of printing for years to come.

John Baskerville died in 1775 and was buried in his garden. In an interesting twist his body was moved around over a number of years to several locations with refusals by numerous churches to allow his burial on account of his being an atheist. He was finally laid to rest in a chapel in Warstone Lane which has since been demolished.

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