The elegant letterforms of the Baskerville typeface were not widely appreciated when they were first introduced in 1754. The face is best known for its crisp edges, high contrast and generous proportions. It grew out of John Baskerville’s obsession with quality.
He developed his own way of working, combining bright woven paper and darker inks that showed off his typeface to perfection. He created a rich black ink by boiling up linseed oil to a desired thickness and then leaving it for and finally grinding it before use.
So crisp and clear was the result that the belief arose that reading text set in Baskerville would blind the reader – a pre-echo of current concerns that e-readers and high contrast iPads can damage vision in some people.
For a while the typeface was highly unpopular, as the eighteenth century equivalent of the Health and Safety brigade campaigned against it, and it took the intervention of some eminent worthies of the day, including Benjamin Franklin to put things in perspective.