Welcome to Open Baskerville, an open source project to create a digital revival of the famous ‘Baskerville’ typefaces. To be precise, Open Baskerville is based upon Fry’s Baskerville, a Baskerville-inspired derivative created by Isaac Moore, a punchcutter who worked for the type foundry of Joseph Fry. The font is dual-licensed under the Open Font License and the GNU GPL version 3.
With the written word an absolute fundamental component of daily communication, typography and fonts are vital to providing aesthetic harmony and legibility to our textual works. There are thousands of fonts available, of which only a small number are useful or any good for setting vast quantities of text, and of which an even smaller number are available to be freely distributed and shared. This project aims to help close that hole, beginning with a Baskerville revival.
The project has an issue tracker and messaging board (we will move to GitHub entirely at some stage), and for ease of contribution the font source UFO files are available via a Git repository on github.com. To get started you’ll want to ‘fork’ a copy of the files. From there everyone can make their edits and still have their changes merged back into the main ‘trunk’ of the project. The alternative is to grab the files in a ZIP bundle.
Please feel free to download the files and add to the font — you could add a glyph for a character that is missing or adjust the kerning for glyph combinations. To have your changes merged back into the main trunk of the project for others to benefit from please email me.
Obtaining Git is easy, whether you’re using Windows, Mac OS X, or flavours of Linux, using your favourite package manager. Once you have Git installed, sign up to GitHub. You’ll want to fork my repository and clone it, making your changes. This allows you to make all the edits you desire and when you want to push the changes back up, you can send me a pull request for me to pull your changes up for merging. Let’s revise:
$USERis your GitHub username):
git clone firstname.lastname@example.org:$USER/open-baskerville.git
git commit -am
For more information on this workflow see the GitHub guides.
For historical specificity and correctness, and entertain typophiles, Open Baskerville is to be a revival of a Baskervillian ‘clone’ by Isaac Moore, a punchcutter who worked for the type foundry of Joseph Fry in Bristol and later in London. It is believed that he did so because Baskerville had little financial success, never selling his types which were at their making considered vulgar in their stark contrast of the letter-shapes and ‘damaging to the eyes’. Further, no other printer had the technology to accurately print with the high-contrast, sharp hairline punches at the time anyway. Fry’s Baskerville was created as a derivative of Baskerville that could be used with the less expensive papers, presses, and the inks that were common.
Moore created a huge series of fonts in this style, complete with ornaments, a (subjectively weak) italic, and old-style figures for the text weights. The typeface was cut around 1766 and the original matrices still exist. They were purchased from the Fry foundry by Stephenson, Blake & Co. in 1910 having already acquired the Fry foundry materials off the Sir Charles Reed foundry. The surviving punches and even original matrices are in the collection of the Type Museum, London and The Smithsonian National Museum of American History, though both inaccessible, the latter due to their location in a warehouse containing asbestos.
Sadly only two complete original specimens exist, both in libraries that are currently inaccessible. The first, a broadside specimen printed in Bristol in 1766 is currently housed at the Providence library and the second specimen is in the Royal Library in Stockholm. A copy of the 1766 specimen was reprinted in Updike’s Printing Types, figure 276 though obtaining a high-quality scan is desirable. A contact attempt was made at the Providence with no luck whereas the cost of having a Stockholm copy digitised is presumed to be around the USD $100 mark — this is an option worth considering. There is a very large, multi-page specimen in the Library of Congress, but it only shows the ‘
Quosque Tandem…’ quote and it cannot be photographed. Stephenson, Blake are likely to have edited and extended the typeface, as there are subtle variations and differences in the 24-, (possibly 30-,) 36- and 48-point specimens that were made in 1913 and consequently most of the accessible specimens feature them. Below are featured two extracts from two separate scans of Stephenson, Blake specimens. They are both of the Stephenson, Blake Fry’s Baskerville, which in some sizes was produced entirely from the original matrices. In the smaller sizes the letters with descenders were replaced with shorter descenders in the twentieth century when the baselines of of metal type were standardised. (These are cropped exports; → the full-sized version with u&lc characters, additional ligatures and lining figures: one and two respectively.)
Morris Fuller Benton revived the Moore design for ATF and it first appears in the 1923 ATF specimen (also note a 12pt scan from 1923), as well as later again in the 1934 ATF specimen and in the 1941 ATF specimen. Interestingly Benton did not choose to use Moore’s italic, instead opting for an italic which was in fact copied from the type of Richard Austin that English Monotype later made under the name of ‘Bell’ and also very similar to ‘Bulmer’. So also up for discussion is the selection of an italic; Moore’s italic has been received poorly and as just noted, even Benton choose to replace it. We may do the same, using or basing it off an existing italic or if we’re feeling particularly fruity, draw our own.
For further information please see the colloquy over Fry’s Baskerville at Typophile.com.
Since commencing the project has received a number of contributions, large and small. We have a long way to go before we can present a font worthy of easy use for typesetting blocks of text beyond a few lines or a heading. Besides implementing the roman, we would like to also support a bold, italic, and small capitals as well. At the present moment (mid 2012–) there is little movement on the project as all our major contributors have many other obligations (I myself study), but please check back sometime or watch the project on GitHub to remain up to date.
For those who have emailed changes, thank-you very much for your interest and work. I will respond to you as soon as I can. Changes can be made easier and in a more automated way via GitHub as I am always a wee bit behind in email. (: