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Cleaning your old car at finest

This period in type history lasts from the late-15th century all the way until the early 1700s, and the type created in this period has shown remarkable longevity. “Garalde” itself is a hybrid term borrowed from the names of two notable type designers of the era, French punchcutter Claude Garamont and the Venetian Aldus Manutius. The category is occasionally called “Aldine” after Manutius.

There are many similarities to the Humanist faces, but things are moving in a particular direction, as we’ll see with the consecutive categories of Transitional and Didone. You can see the type designers treating type as different from the written word, losing some of the idiosyncrasies of handwriting that the Humanist designers retained, while carrying over others. The axis of the stress straightens, and while it still has an angle, it is subtler. The serifs become more carefully formed, and characters are designed more proportionately. One of the most obvious differences is the crossbar of the lowercase “e,” which, while remaining angled in the Humanist typefaces, drops to a horizontal position in the Garaldes. Also, the difference between heavy and light stroke weights increased, and everything became more precise, perhaps due to the progress in technical aspects of making type.

Two of the biggest names in type during this period were John Baskerville and Pierre Simon Fournier. Baskerville, an entrepreneur who dabbled in multiple businesses, developed quite an interest in printing and eventually designed his own type in order to improve on Caslon’s work. This did not please most of the printing world at the time, and Baskerville endured harsh criticism, despite having such luminaries as Benjamin Franklin as friends and advocates of his work. You may have read of the humorous encounter in which Franklin outwitted a critic of Baskerville. Numerous revivals, both metal and digital type, that draw on Baskerville have been made.

Fournier was among the printers who praised Baskerville’s type, reserving particularly high compliments for his italics. Fournier was highly respected in his lifetime, and despite having consulted royalty both within France and internationally on type design and having established printing houses, Fournier is primarily remembered today for introducing the point system as a way to measure type sizes. Pierre Fournier, uncannily sharing a name with an acclaimed 20th-century cellist, also had an interest in music and developed a new style of typography for musical notation.

As strange as it seems, what we call modern typefaces first appeared in the second half of the 1700s. Therefore, I will call them by their less absurd name — and who can argue that saying “Didone” is not more fun than saying simply “Modern”? Bringhurst terms them Romantics.

Through the 18th and 19th centuries, France witnessed a small printing dynasty in the Didot family. Over multiple generations, the family made major contributions to printing. One of the most remarkable members was Firmin Didot, who, with Giambattista Bodoni, ushered in and now acts as a namesake for this part of type history.

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