Giambattista Bodoni (1740 – 1813)

Born in Saluzzo (Piedmont), on February 16, 1740 was an Italian engraver, publisher and printer and typographer, remembered chiefly for the typeface which carries his name called Bodoni. He eventually left home to go to Rome, where he served as an apprentice at the Vatican’s Propaganda Fide printing press. Bodoni’s contemporaries of the time, were astounded by the young man’s gift for detail and mastery of ancient languages. In 1768, Bodoni became the head of the Royal Press “Stamperia Reale”, then later became inspired by the typefaces of Pierre Fourier and John Baskerville to begin making his own typefaces. Soon after he developed his first four pattern book entitled “Saggio tipografivo di fregi e maiuscole”. During the same period the publishing house began producing popular classical literary works such as Gerusalemme Liberate of Torquato Tasso and Homer’s ‘Iliad’.

The typeface that carried the “Bodoni” name first appeared in 1789 and was concerned with proportionality, boldness, drama and symmetry. Bodoni’s type featured vertical alignments with sloped swellings in the bowls of letters, horizontal serifs which were thin and uniform and an increased contrast between stems and serifs. Bodoni’s typefaces showed a formal sense illustrated in the simplified forms infused with the purity of materials. Many artists and other professionals eventually became his admirers and imitators until his popularity soon overtook that of other well known typographers.

It is said that Bodoni was personally responsible for engraving up to 298 typefaces and as the leader of many publishing houses throughout his life, he aided in the development of twelve hundred fine editions. Some notable publications which he was credited for are Horace, the Divine Comedy and Virgil. Bodoni also known as the “prince of typographers”, died in 1813 and his most important work, the “Manuale tipografico” was published posthumously in 1818 by his widow, Margherita Dall’Aglio.

Giambattista Bodoni Artwork


Manuale tipografico (1818), Giambattista Bodoni


Original Bodoni (1798), Giambattista Bodoni

Giambattista Bodoni Inspired Artwork


Nirvana ‘Nevermind’ Album Art (1991), Robert Fisher


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