John Baskerville, an English businessman, was born in Wolverley, Worcestershire on January 28, 1706. When he was growing up, he had admired the concept of letters being created. With his passion for letters, in 1723, he became a skilled stonecutter for tombstones, and a writing teacher. By 1726, he moved to Birmingham, England, and became a master writing teacher. In 1737, he opened a school in the Bull Ring, Birmingham. Baskerville was brilliant in picking the Bull Ring as the location because it is Birmingham’s historic market centre, which brought its reputation as “The City of a Thousand Trades.” This helped him continue teaching bookkeeping and continue his work as a stonecutter, and later lead to his success.
Even though his desire to continue working with his passion on lettering, he also had a desire to obtain money. By doing so, he set himself on the path of learning the fascinating techniques of japanned ware. Japanned ware was an early form of coating or decorating metallic or hard objects with enamel. Around 1740, Baskerville sets up his japanning business on Moor Street, Bull Ring. He hand painted fruits and flowers on the objects (which included frames, clock cases, tea trays, candlesticks, and boxes), then he used a glassy substance (usually varnish) to coat the objects with finishing touches, usually for ornament and as a protective coating.
Due to his successful manufacturing of japanned ware, he made a great fortune; it offered a nice push towards his first passion of lettering. In 1751, Baskerville was known “…an innovator who broke the prevailing rules of design and printing in the books he produced at his press in Birmingham, England.” In his involvement with the bookmaking process, he took the opportunity to work with designing, casting and setting type, which gives him the advantage of improving the printing press. Instead, with his printing experiments, he took the liberty to find the resources to bring perfection to book design and production. His experimentations included in the making of paper, manufacture of opaque black ink, and designing a new type.
First, Baskerville’s experimentations helped him invent a nice, opaque ink, which the black has a nice shine to it. This invention was the result of a trial and error; the ink was composed of boiled linseed oil or amber resin, and lampblack. He also experimented with paper to create a better printing surface. Development from laid paper to hot-pressed wove paper, which improves the quality and elegance in books. The wove paper was manufactured by a mold that had a finer screen made of wires (like a cloth), which doesn’t create a texture on the paper. For the paper not to roughen in texture when it’s moist, Baskerville hot...