Finding Bodoni

My mission for this week was to learn more about the specific font used in the novel To Have and to Hold by Mary Johnston. I knew that the book was copyrighted in 1899, so I attempted to research fonts used in that era; however, I was unsuccessful. Thus, I resorted to Google.  I stumbled upon two websites, Identifont and What the Font, which both help to identify fonts. By using those sites, I found that the font used in my novel of interest is called Bodoni, and that it is a font that was created by Italian printer Giambattista Bodoni (pictured below).


Giambattista Bodoni

His father and grandfather were both printers, and soon enough, he ended up following in their footsteps. Bodoni is considered a leader in originating pseudoclassical typefaces, which means that his characters have very thin, hairline strokes, but contrast those strokes with thicker lines that compose the main stems. Because of this, the font was difficult to use in printing, and it required extra care to ensure its proper appearance. From what I’ve read and researched, pseudoclassical fonts are also called modern fonts. At one time, King Louis XIV created a committee to put fonts on grids and base them on mathematical principles in order to create cleaner characters. This, in addition to the hairline strokes paired with thick strokes, garnered the title “modern fonts” although this occurred around the late 17th century.

When creating his own characters, Bodoni was also greatly influenced by his role model, John Baskerville. John Baskerville was a renowned typographer, and his fonts are still used to this day. Many tend to say that Bodoni’s work grew out of Baskerville’s, but if you look closely, Bodoni took great care to make a brand new typeface in regards to angles, strokes, verticalness, etc. In essence, he chose to accentuate aspects of Baskerville’s font by increasing stroke contrast, slightly condensing the uppercase letters, and more.



Original sketches by Bodoni located in the Bodoni Museum in Parma, Italy

When Bodoni died in November of 1813, post-examinations showed a deep scar in his chest caused by the bar of the printing press and the countless hours spent there. Although he died in 1813, his work lives on. Bodoni Museum was opened in Parma, Italy in 1963 in remembrance of his work, and his typeface remains one of the most popular of our time. As a matter of fact, you’ve probably seen his work without even knowing it. Some current-day uses of Bodoni and its variations include the logotype for Lady Gaga and Nirvana as well as the cover of Vogue Magazine.

Bodoni Museum in Parma, Italy

Bodoni Museum in Parma, Italy


Lady Gaga’s logotype in Bodoni


Nirvana’s album cover in Bodoni


Vogue cover in Bodoni

Various Bodoni-related YouTube videos


One response to “Finding Bodoni

  1. Pingback: Solving the Typography Teaser « Sandra's Blog·

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