John Baskerville (
January 28, 1706- January 8, 1775) was born in the village of Wolverley, near Kidderminsterin Worcestershireand was a printer in Birmingham, England. He was a member of the Royal Society of Arts, and an associate of some of the members of the Lunar Society. He directed his punchcutter John Handy in the design of many typefaces of broadly similar appearance.
His businesses included
japanningand papier-mâché, but he is best remembered as a printer and typographer. He printed works for Cambridge University in 1758 and although an atheist, printed a splendid folio Biblein 1763. His fonts were greatly admired by fellow member of the Royal Society of Arts, Benjamin Franklin, who took the designs back to the newly-created United States, where they were adopted for most federal government publishing. His work was criticized by jealous competitors and soon fell out of favor, but since the 1920s many new fontshave been released by Linotype, Monotype, and other type foundries – revivals of his work and mostly called 'Baskerville'.
Arthur Conan Doyle, who once lived in Birmingham, may have borrowed Baskerville's surname for one of his Sherlock Holmesstories, " The Hound of the Baskervilles" - which, in turn, was borrowed by Umberto Ecofor the character William of Baskerville in his best-selling novel, " The Name of the Rose" ( Sean Conneryplayed the character in the movie based on the book).
As an atheist, Baskerville was buried, at his own request, in
unconsecratedground in the garden of his own house, "Easy Hill". When a canalwas built through the land his body was placed in storage in a warehousefor several years before being secretly deposited in the cryptof Christ Church (demolished 1899), Birmingham. Later his remains were moved, with other bodies from the crypt, to consecrated catacombs at Warstone Lane Cemetery. Baskerville Housewas built on the grounds of "Easy Hill".
Portland stone sculptureof the Baskerville typeface,, "Industry and Genius", in his honour stands in front of Baskerville House in Centenary Square, Birmingham. It is by local artist David Patten. [http://www.birmingham.gov.uk/baskerville] .
He is the subject of an animated film, due for completion in October 2008.
* [http://www.birmingham.gov.uk/baskerville Birmingham City Council page on "Industry and Genius"] (includes picture)
* [http://www.birmingham.gov.uk/GenerateContent?CONTENT_ITEM_ID=76113&CONTENT_ITEM_TYPE=0&MENU_ID=5396 Birmingham City Council page on Baskerville]
* [http://www.revolutionaryplayers.org.uk/home.stm Revolutionary Players website]
* [http://jquarter.members.beeb.net/morejbask.htm Extract from John Baskerville - Man with a mission (about the movement of his coffin)]
* [http://www.baskervilleproject.com/ Baskerville the Animated Movie]
* [http://www.alain.les-hurtig.org/baskerville/ Some typographical studies] on the use of the Baskerville font (in French).
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