As part of their Bibliotheca Universalis series, art book publishing house Taschen have rereleased their meticulous printing of Giambattista Bodoni’s masterwork. Bodoni’s Manuale Tipografico, originally published five years after his death in 1818 (with the assistance of his widow Margherita and foreman Luigi Orsi), set a definitive standard for the printing of text, with a focus on elegance and technical refinement. Official printer for the Duke of Parma, Bodoni declared that well-designed type derives its beauty from four principles: uniformity of design, sharpness and neatness, good taste, and charm. Bodoni, the typeface, continues to be used in both print and digital media to this day.
Look familiar? In addition to book printing and body text, variations of, and Bodoni-influenced type are prominent in fields like branding, advertising, and magazine publishing (where high gloss paper retains the crisp detail of fine serifs.)
The book consists of 142 sets of roman and italic typefaces, as well as Greek, Hebrew, Russian, Arabic, Phoenician, Armenian, Coptic, and Tibetan alphabets, and also includes field-specific and decorative print elements. One often understands typeface simply as a shape for print, but this manual illustrates the importance of script variation and character specificity Bodoni found essential to printing books in multiple languages, with sophistication and retention of nuance. He admired the work of John Baskerville, and studied the artistry of typographic masters Pierre Simon Fournier and Firmin Didot, but in the composition of this manual, Bodoni proceeded to create a print style that was all-new. Considering it necessary for good typography to carry a collection of main fonts large enough so that the difference between the adjacent sizes is not easily seen by a trained eye, Bodoni’s system speaks to his consummate dedication to the craft, and virtually revolutionary approach to printing before the advent of digital typography.
The manual, in this new smaller format, is not only an excellent compendium for a typophile or those interested in printing from a historical standpoint, but a great work of artistry and elegance. As a companion to the original character sets, the book includes an essay by print expert Stephan Füssel, who serves as director of the Institute of the History of the Book at the Johannes Gutenberg University of Mainz.
While we are on the subject of type, it is worth mentioning the terminology associated with printed and digital text and characters; there is a piece worth checking out at Co.Design that thoroughly (but in a way that is easy to understand) explains the difference between “typeface” and “font.”
More at: Taschen