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Baskerville in later life, oil on canvas by James Millar.
Baskerville types in a 1761 title page.
John Baskerville (28 January 1706 - 8 January 1775) was an English businessman, in areas including japanning and papier-mâché, but he is best remembered as a printer and typographer.

Life

Baskervillle was born in the village of Wolverleymarker, near Kidderminstermarker in Worcestershire and was a printer in Birminghammarker, Englandmarker. He was a member of the Royal Society of Artsmarker, 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.

John Baskerville printed works for the University of Cambridgemarker in 1758 and, although an atheist, printed a splendid folio Bible in 1763. His typefaces were greatly admired by Benjamin Franklin, a printer and fellow member of the Royal Society of Artsmarker, who took the designs back to the newly-created United Statesmarker, where they were adopted for most federal government publishing. Baskerville's work was criticized by jealous competitors and soon fell out of favour, but since the 1920s many new fonts have been released by Linotype, Monotype, and other type foundries – revivals of his work and mostly called 'Baskerville'. Emigre released a popular revival of this typeface in 1996 called Mrs Eaves, named for Baskerville's wife, Sarah Eaves.

Baskerville also was responsible for significant innovations in printing, paper and ink production. He developed a technique which produced a smoother whiter paper which showcased his strong black type. Baskerville also pioneered a completely new style of typography adding wide margins and leading between each line.

Baskerville, an atheist, was buried at his own request in unconsecrated ground in the garden of his house, Easy Hill. When a canal was built through the land his body was placed in storage in a warehouse for several years before being secretly deposited in the crypt of Christ Church (demolished 1899), Birmingham. Later his remains were moved, with other bodies from the crypt, to consecrated catacombs at Warstone Lane Cemeterymarker. Baskerville Housemarker was built on the grounds of Easy Hill.

Commemoration

A Portland stone sculpture of the Baskerville typeface, Industry and Genius, in his honour stands in front of Baskerville House in Centenary Squaremarker, Birminghammarker. It is by local artist David Patten.

Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, who once lived in Birmingham, may have borrowed Baskerville's surname for one of his Sherlock Holmes stories, The Hound of the Baskervilles - which, in turn, was borrowed by Umberto Eco for the character William of Baskerville in his best-selling novel, The Name of the Rose (Sean Connery played the character in the film based on the book).

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