The Bodoni types were widely copied while the printer was still alive, but most of the imitations were less inspired and more mechanically rigid than the originals. For example, the Bodoni serif in the capitals had the same weight as the thin stroke but joined with a very slight fillet (bracket) and the lowercase serifs were slightly concave, copies cut by his French rivals, the Didots, features straight-edged serifs that were unbracketed.[13]

The English type, designed in 1790 by William Martin for the Shakespeare Press of William Bulmer has many Bodoni characteristics, although still maintaining some of the warmth of the transitional style. A successful version of that time, was the one cut by Justus Erich Walbaum in Germany. A recent writer has called Walbaum’s roman “one of the most important vehicles of typographic expression in the German language during the 19th century”.[14]

[13] [14] Lawson, Alexander S., Anatomy of a Typeface, David R. Godine Publisher, Boston, 1990, p.202 / 205
William Somervile, The Chase, William Bulmer, London, 1796
Walbaum Antiqua, Kursiv und Fraktur by Justus Erich Walbaum, Goslar and Weimar, 1800

THE INDUSTRIAL REVOLUTION

At the beginning of the 19th century the need for a distinction between book and news types was for the first time becoming a manifest. Until then, printed materials like newspapers, advertisements, tickets, etc., were alike composed in the current book types. The need of the industrialised society had forced the appearance of new forms, in order to satisfy the demand of a more visual material, often directed to people with no reading habit.[15]

The wide variety of new mediums made the book lose the privileged and the exclusive position it had enjoyed until then. Old types were no longer suitable for the printing required by new manufacturers, methods and markets. The new formats required a more colorful typographic material and that could adequately articulate the information. Many new designs derived from the modern style urge from the many advances that were made in the fields of production. The influence of the Industrial Revolution, which grew in power until it swept all before, led to a wide popularity of British innovations like the Fat Face and the Slab Serif.

[15] Corbeto, Albert and Marina Garone, Historia de la tipografía La evolución de la letra desde Gutenberg hasta las fundiciones digitales, Ed Mileno, Lleida, 2015, p.154

THE METAL TYPE ERA

At the end of the 19th century the neoclassic typefaces attracted criticism, even abuse; William Morris so vehemently condemned them “the vicious thickening and thinning which made difficult to read, the later compression that was the result of commercial exigency, and the basic crudity that was inherent when craftsmanship was ignored”.[16] In fact, the contempt for the modern typefaces so characteristic of Morris’s career was also a constant in Updike’s work, aware of the need to return to classical designs in the face of the corruption that throughout the 19th century had suffered the types originated from the models designed by Grandjean, Baskerville, Bodoni or Didot. Updike believes that their designs “had a malicious influence on typographic forms; from the derivations towards the types that made his work popular, culminating in a type of letter of great vulgarity and degradation… Perhaps Bodoni and the other great personalities quoted were not bad in their time, but they put typography in the bad way”.[17]

Sooner or later every foundry and hot metal composing machine company at the beginning of the 1900s was to cut a modern typeface. Inevitably there was a wide variation between the designs labelled Bodoni or Didot that were marketed in Europe and the United States. The interest was renewed with one Bodoni inspired cutting, issued by the Italian foundry Nebiolo in 1901. But probably the first most important revival of the style was that of Morris Benton for the American Type Founders in 1911. Henry L. Bullen, the printing historian who was ATF’s librarian, wrote that Benton had received guidance from Italian sources in his recutting, but did not attempt an exact copy of the original Bodoni type. The result was a typeface that drew liberally from both Didot and Bodoni models and included what appeared to be some features of Benton’s own invention.

The most notable departure from the Bodoni face is the use of flat, unbracketed serifs in the uppercase letters and in the bottom serifs of the lowercase ones. Benton’s typeface also included a rather oversimplified and overly symmetric geometry which resulted in some rather un-Bodoni-like features as in the joinery of the finials in the C and G. Benton’s 1911 Bodoni was subsequently copied by the Monotype, Haas, Intertype and Ludlow foundries, and is still widely used, especially in Europe.[18]

[16] Morison, Stanley, A tally of types: with additions by several hands, past and present, David R. Godine, Publisher Boston, London, 1999, p.14[17] Updike, Daniel, B., Printing Types, their History, Forms and Use: a Study in Survivals, vol. II, Harvard University Press, 1922, p. 179.[18] Lawson, Alexander S., Anatomy of a Typeface, David R. Godine Publisher, Boston, 1990, p.205
ATF Bodoni
Bauer Bodoni

The European foundries that began to produce copies, were inclined to freely adapt the Bodoni idea of high contrast without following through on his details of serif structure. In 1923, when Giovanni Mardersteig established the Officina Bodoni in Switzerland, he received permission from the Italian authorities to recast some of the original Bodoni matrices. His production of fine books using the original Bodoni led to a heightened interest in Bodoni’s output, and was particularly influential in the development of the Bauer type foundry version of Bodoni in 1026. Design by Heinrich Jost and punch-cutter Louis Holl, Bauer Bodoni was noticeably more refined representation of the Bodoni style. The proportions of letterforms far better matched the stateliness of Bodoni’s originals and the stroke weights were adjusted to achieve more accurately the much-admired sparkle of Bodoni’s types. The Bauer Bodoni design also restored important details including the pointed apex of the A, the slight bracketing of the serif, the distinctive nick in the upper and lowercase J, curved brackets on the finials and more graceful concavities in the ascenders. In contrast to the Bodoni’s of the time, Bauer Bodoni was hailed as the most accurate rendering of the Bodoni style and remains the Bodoni of choice for many contemporary designers.[19]

[19Meggs, Philip B. and Roy McKelvey, Revival of the Fittest: Digital Versions of Classical Typefaces, RC Publication, New York, 2000, p.58
Bauer Bodoni
Bauer Bodoni
ATF Bodoni

The success of ATF and Bauer Bodoni led to a number of interesting but decidedly ahistorical additions to the family. The standard series of weights includes the variants Book, Regular, and Bold. Bauer has ventured into the extra-bold version, which is surprisingly, since the type lends itself better than most romans to changes in weight without loss of character. There are, in addition, a number of other types that trade on the Bodoni name, including Ultra Bodoni and Poster Bodoni. Ultra Bodoni and its variations are now well established under de Bodoni name, but historically they are more related to the 19th century English fat faces. One reviewer called Ultra Bodoni “an old Bruce face with a few redrawn characters”. Actually is was entirely redrawn, but the resemblance is there. The Ultra Bodoni do not have the long ascenders and descenders, and the transition from thick and thin is more abrupt. Ultra Bodoni and Italic designed by Morris Benton in 1928 for ATF were also made by Monotype; Intertype made them as Bodoni Modern and Italic. Linotype had Poster Bodoni and Italic similar to Ultra Bodoni.[20]

In 1930, the Berthold Type Foundry released Bodoni Antiqua, which was modelled closely on the Benton face, but was extended to include a condensed version. Bodoni Antiqua features a reduced contrast between thick and thin strikes to improve legibility when used for running text, and shortened ascenders and descenders. An immediate success, the face was adopted and is still used as IBM’s corporate typeface.[21]

[20McGrew, Mac. American Metal Typefaces of the Twentieth Century, Oak Knoll Books New Castle, Delaware, 1993, p.43
ATF's Ultra Bodoni, 1928

In 1930, the Berthold Type Foundry released Bodoni Antiqua, which was modelled closely on the Benton face, but was extended to include a condensed version. Bodoni Antiqua features a reduced contrast between thick and thin strikes to improve legibility when used for running text, and shortened ascenders and descenders. An immediate success, the face was adopted and is still used as IBM’s corporate typeface.[21]

[21Meggs, Philip B. and Roy McKelvey, Revival of the Fittest: Digital Versions of Classical Typefaces, RC Publication, New York, 2000, p.58
ATF Bodoni Roman
Bodoni Antiqua Regular
Bodoni Antiqua Condensed

DIDOT

Typeface revived under the Didot name have not had anywhere near the currency of Bodoni releases. Jaspert, Berry and Johnson’s Encyclopaedia of Type Faces lists four entries under “Didot” but the only version widely available outside of France is Monotype’s Neo Didot (design by the Monotype staff in 1904). Because of its similarity to Bodoni, and the liberal blend of features in early Bodoni revivals, it seems that Didot had become relegated to use mostly as display type. For this purpose, its highly etched hairlines create a distinctive identity of sophistication. [22]

Around 1950 Didot has seen a vast increase in popularity thanks to many brands and magazines that began to use and adapt the typeface as part of their identity. Alexey Brodovitch implemented the usage of Didot in Cahiers d’Art and Harper’s Bazaar.

[22] Meggs, Philip B. and Roy McKelvey, Revival of the Fittest: Digital Versions of Classical Typefaces, RC Publication, New York, 2000, p.59
Vogue, 1950
Elle, 1953
Harper's Bazaar, 1959, cover by Alexey Brodovitch

In 1959, Lou Dorfsman, Creative Director at CBS made one of the most important contributions to their CBS corporate image, created with help of ATF alum Freeman “Jerry” Craw an expounding high contrast Didone design called CBS Didot.

CBS logo
CBS Didot
CBS advertising

THE PHOTO-TYPE ERA

In designing revivals for photo-type-settings, many typeface designers were concern less with authenticity than with exploiting photo-type’s expand range of possibilities. Photographic processes can hold finer detail than metal types. This technical evolution inspired designers to push the design parameters. Ultra-light serifs, fat-faces with extreme stroke contrast, and other exaggerated design elements were commonplace. Many revivals from the period were not revivals at all, but rather, mannerist reinterpretations. Exaggerated serpentine curves, and overstated details typify the sensibility. Between modern inspired photo-compositor typefaces were Pistilli Roman designed by Herb Lubalin and John Pistilli in 1964 and Carrousel by Gary Gillot for the International Type Corporation (ITC).

Designers: Herb Lubalin, John Pistilli, Design date: 1964, Publisher: Visual Graphics Corporation
Designers: Gary Gillot, Design date: 1966, Publisher: Linotype

This article is part of my final project for the Advanced Typography Master 2016—2017 at EINA, Centre Universitari de Disseny i Art de Barcelona — The Revival of the Neoclassic Typefaces, tutor: Albert Corbeto