IntroductionBodoni, the modern typeface created in the eighteenth century. Giambattista Bodoni(1740-1830) created the foundation of modern type design by creating four fundamental rules. By following these methods “beauty would seem to proceed”.
One of his most famous typefaces is Bodoni, (Named after himself) uses thick and thin lines and abrupt changes in weight to create contrast. The new serif typeface was in high demand right up until the mid-nineteenth century and it is still having an impact on modern-day design. My favourite typeface is Bodoni and in this essay, I will discuss why this typeface is so unique and the many influences behind it. Furthermore, I will examine the creator, Giambattista Bodoni and the extensive impact it had on design as a whole.
Giambattista BodoniGiambattista Bodoni is the man behind one of the most elegant typefaces in history. He was born in Saluzzo, Italy in 1740, where he was one of the youngest sons of the print master, Francesco Agostino Bodoni. In his early years, he left home to work in a printing press for the Catholic church. It was here in Rome that Giambattista Bodoni started to perfect and refine his skill as a typographer by working in the Vatican printing press.. He left Rome and when to visit Britain to study the work of Neoclassical typefaces create by John baskerville.
He grew ill in Britain and had to return home, if Bodoni had stayed and continued his work he would have met John Baskerville in person.. He returned home to manage over the ‘Stamperia Reale’, the royal printing press in Parma; it was here the Bodoni flourished. When first employed, Bodoni used fonts with large amounts of decorative detail, adjusting his typography to along the lines of the type designer Pierre Simon Fournier.
Soon after, the work of the French typographer Pierre Didot caught Bodoni’s eye and over time he started using Didot’s methodology. Bodoni started to create his own typefaces and progressively they had less and less detail. In 1775, Bodoni created and printed the ‘Epithalamia exoticis linguis reddita’, the book was printed in 25 different languages; each language required a typeface which Bodoni handcrafted himself. Five years after his death in 1788, the ‘Manuale tipografico’ was published. The book is of historical importance in the world of typography as it contained his life works and the refinement of his typefaces. It contained 291 different roman and italic typefaces and also contains fragments of Greek, Hebrew, Russian, Arabic and Phoenician typefaces that Bodoni had created throughout his career as a typographer.
By the time of his death in 1813, he had accumulated a large following and was known internationally. Travellers would come from all around to see his type foundry, collectors would search for his books and the Pope even gave him a personal compliment.The Bodoni TypefaceGiambattista Bodoni created one of the best typefaces known to the world of typography. Bodoni is a very well known transitional, sans-serif typeface and it changed the world of typography, transitioning out old decorative types for his new simple and modern typefaces. Before Giambattista Bodoni and other typographers from that period in time, most of Europe used Gothic typefaces, which contained great amounts of decorative detail and had very little difference in stroke thickness. Furthermore, old style typefaces consisted of harsh straight lines and jagged strokes.
These typefaces referenced the human hand and mimic calligraphy; they try and mirror the effect of writing with pen and ink. Transitional typefaces arose during the 17th century during the period of time called the enlightenment, were people encouraged scientific evidence to superstitious thought; the Bodoni typeface is a perfect personification of the time of enlightenment. Bodoni consists of thick and thin strokes which in turn makes the typeface less legibly, although, Bodoni seen type as works of art rather than a form of communication. In addition, the typeface contains unbracketed hairline serifs and heavy vertical stress in curved stokes. Furthermore, it has ‘swoops’ that connect the crossbars on letters such as the ‘T’ and the typeface make use of vertical elliptical counter spaces.
Giambattista Bodoni’s typeface is not distinct when used with a small font size or when the typeface is used for a paragraph of text as it may look too heavy. However, it excels when used in title fonts or when it is implemented into branding. The four rulesIn one of Bodoni’s most famous books ‘Manuale tipografico’, he goes on to talk about how you can improve and refine your typography. It total, there are four rules starting with ‘regolarita’, The similarity and unity between all the letters in the typeface.
The second rule is ‘Inettezza e forbitura’, the lettering has to have a certain precision and crispness, by boing this your typeface will look modern and elegant. In addition the third rule is ‘il sceglie le form piu vaghe’, your type will have very appealing composition, by doing this your type will look beautiful. Finally, the last rule is ‘grazia’, your type will need to display a certain elegance otherwise it will fall apart. Bodoni was a true master of his craft and his rules have been created over the four decades that he refined his craft. Bodoni concludes with “A typeface will, therefore, be all the more beautiful the more uniformity, crispness, good taste and elegance it possesses”.
Inspiration John Baskerville(1706 –1775) and Pierre Didot(1761-1853) were two typographers who Bodoni admired and studied; they influenced his craft greatly but they later grew to become major competitors in the world of printing. Their typeface at first look very similar, however, that is not to say they are identical if you take a closer look they are completely different. Born in France, Didot achievements were many: his folio consitied over 100 works of art and illustrations, Furthermore, he created masterpieces like the Nicolas Boileau-Despréaux and the works of works of Virgil. Bodoni followed the same principles at Didot in context to line composition and weight. Although in contrast, the line width of Bodoni increases and decreases gradually but in Didot the line width changes sharply.
The typographer John Baskerville was born in Wolverley, Worcestershire and created Neoclassical typefaces which had a huge influence on Bodoni. Both their typefaces share similarities which include a contrast in line weight and composition of letters. Bodoni took a great liking to his baskerville typefaces and took great influence from the crisp and elegant type used in John Baskerville’s ‘works of virgil’. Another designer Bodoni studied was Pierre Simon Fournier (1712 –1768). He too create sans-serif, transitional typefaces that has less vertical stress than old style type.
These four type designers advanced the field of typography greatly, pushing people into the new age of enlightenment by create crisp type through the harmony and unity of letters. Modern-Day UseOver its lifetime, the Bodoni typeface has had many adaptations and is still used today in the modern age. Giambattista Bodoni created the first of his Bodoni typefaces in 1798, however, he continued to work and refine his type. During some of his most productive years, Bodoni personally handcrafted around 55,000 matrices for his prints. Before his death in 1813 he had mastered the craft of printing and typography; he had created hundreds of typefaces in several different languages. During the early 20th century the typeface was remastered for more modern-day use although before this time people used his type haphazardly and without context.
In 1910, Morris Fuller Benton began a reconstruction of the Bodoni roman typefaces by submitting the new designs to the American Type Founders. After it’s reconstruction, the new Bodoni/Benton typeface was obtained by the Italian type foundry, Nebiolo. They used the typeface in their prints and by 1913 it had widespread use all over Italy. In 1924, Heinrich Jost was commissioned to recut the same Bodoni typeface by the type foundry he worked in Frankfurt, Germany. Jost’s remastered version of Bodoni is said to be the most beautiful of its kind.
Finally in 1983, the head director of Berthold AG, Günter Gerhard Lange, reconstructed ‘Bodoni Old Face’, which was designed from Bodoni’s 1796 ‘Saggi e caratteri’. This typeface is extremely important in typography as it is used everywhere in the present day. Bodoni Old Face has seen use in many catalogs, posters, magazines and calling cards.
In addition, the typeface is is mainly referred to as the ‘body type’ as many printers and publishers use it to communicate large amounts of text. ConclusionThe age of enlightenment was ushered in by Giambattista Bodoni, his works and his skill as a typographer. The highlight of his career the collection of typefaces called ‘Bodoni’, they advanced typography away from big and bulky letters into clean and smooth type. Without Bodoni’s expertise, the typography would not be the same today and printing would not be as big and beautiful industry as it would today. These are the reasons for my favorite typeface being Bodoni, the beauty of his modern typefaces cannot be replicated as his craft was truly ahead of his time.