This book is concerned with the eighteenth-century typographer, printer, industrialist and Enlightenment figure, John Baskerville (1707-75). Baskerville was a Birmingham inventor, entrepreneur and artist with a worldwide reputation who made eighteenth-century Birmingham a city without typographic equal, by changing the course of type design. Baskerville not only designed one of the world’s most historically important typefaces, he also experimented with casting and setting type, improved the construction of the printing-press, developed a new kind of paper and refined the quality of printing inks. His typographic experiments put him ahead of his time, had an international impact and did much to enhance the printing and publishing industries of his day. Yet despite his importance, fame and influence many aspects of Baskerville’s work and life remain unexplored and his contribution to the arts, industry, culture and society of the Enlightenment are largely unrecognized. Moreover, recent scholarly research in archaeology, art and design, history, literary studies and typography, is leading to a fundamental reassessment of many aspects of Baskerville’s life and impact, including his birthplace, his work as an industrialist, the networks which sustained him and the reception of his printing in Britain and overseas. The last major, but inadequate publication of Baskerville dates from 1975. Now, forty years on, the time is ripe for a new book. This interdisciplinary approach provides an original contribution to printing history, eighteenth-century studies and the dissemination of ideas.
Reviews'A fascinating account of the printer, type designer, and manufacturer, John Baskerville, which sheds new light on the history of this polymathic figure. Focusing on previously unexplored details of his personal life, the book explores his contribution to fields beyond printing, and his relationship with the broader technologies and ideas of Enlightenment Birmingham.'
Dr Freya Gowrley, University of Edinburgh