Early Typographers

The years between the mid-15th century and the early 18th century proved to be a time of many changes and developments in the world of typography. The development of the printing press influenced the development of full typefaces and their production rather than the job-specific approach that most typography was developed for. Nicholas Jenson was responsible for the development of the first full roman typeface, which was based on humanistic characteristics and was highly legible. Aldus Manutius proved influential in the world of printing and production while his punch cutter Francesco Griffo developed the first italic as a handwritten style designed to conserve space so that the books Manutius published could take a smaller form.

The Italian Renaissance of roman typography influenced the French which led to a period in which many developments occurred in both typography and printing. The push towards a higher quality of printing was led by several printers including Robert Estienne, Simone de Colines and Geofroy Tory. Apprenticing for de Colines and Estienne, Claude Garamond learned the trade of punch cutting and printing. After Estienne died, Garamond became the first to produce and sell typefaces to other printers. His style of type design moved even further from the style of calligraphy and his type designs were further developed by Jean Jannon who produced a set of roman and italics which were mistakenly attributed as Garamond's all the way into the 20th century because of their resemblance.

All printers and book publishers during the time produced samples of their typefaces for publication in small specimen books. The most notable is from Pierre Simon Fournier whose details of the practices of book publishing, punch cutting and typography provided a historical reference for the development of the trades. He also developed a system of type measurement, which was further developed by Francois Didot into the point based system that still exists today. Francois' son, Firmin Didot, was one of the typographers responsible for the development of the modern roman style of type design, which is emphasized by a high contrast of strokes and hairline serifs. Giambattista Bodoni was the other typographer responsible for the development of the modern roman style and was instrumental in chronicling, developing and refining the production and use of metal type. He based his work on four properties that mad typography beautiful, uniformity of design, smartness and neatness, good taste, and charm.

In the early 18th century William Caslon led an effort to remove the English dependence on the production of Dutch typefaces and produced several types that, while somewhat retrogressive and more related to classical roman styles than the modern styles of Didot and Bodoni, quickly became the standard in the expansion of the British empire. The British empire spread the Caslon typefaces across the world and it was the standard of American printing for many years. An English businessman by the name of John Baskerville designed type that was based on the style of engravers rather than based upon handwriting. His transitional style bridged the gap between the classic roman and modern roman typefaces.