Typography & Formatting

November 15, 2019

Finding the Perfect Font: Baskerville

Baskerville is the grand daddy of the typefaces for print. It is a steady and traditional typeface that when placed on a printed page demands the reader pays attention to the words. Before Amazon hired Dalton Maag to design Bookerly for the Kindle, it used Baskerville as the default. However, because it’s the grand daddy, there are a lot of versions available and not all of them are built equally.

John Baskerville designed the typeface all Baskerville’s are based on to resemble hand lettering and the characters had a distinct warmth to them that continues in the current versions. I would argue that Baskerville is probably one of the most popular typefaces for fiction and for good reason. 

Classification: Transitional

Traits: A serious typeface for serious books. Beautifully drawn. Strong enough to be used as the only typeface in a book’s design. Is available from several different foundries. Frequently found in fiction. Universally recognized by readers, even if they can’t identify the typeface by name. Storied. Respected. Trustworthy. Versatile.

Efficiency: This is not an efficient typeface. But then, Baskerville  wasn’t designed to conserve space on a page.

Page Specs: 6 1/2 pages (1650 words)
All of the typefaces in this series are set using identical (same font size (11), leading (14), trim size (5″ x 8″), and margins) settings on a sample chapter so it’s easy to compare a typeface’s efficiency with another typeface. In all fairness, it would be highly unusual to use identical settings for all typefaces.

Best Genre Fit: Fiction with serious or darker themes. Good for Literary works.

Voice: Dramatic and traditional

Best Quality: Even if readers can’t identify the typeface by name, they will recognize it and give the words on the page more weight. Because of the character shapes, it can handle increased letter and word spacing which can boost a page count.

Recommended Versions: Baskerville Original (Stormtype), Baskerville 1757 (Fountain), ITC New Baskerville (not my personal favorite, but it’s a decent version),

Alternatives: Athelas, FF Clifford, Harriet

Notes: If you decide to go with Baskerville, I strongly recommend Baskerville Original. Of all the available version, Storm’s Baskerville Original is often credited as being the best by designers and deserves all the praise it receives. Baskerville Original 10 is intended for font sizes 10 and smaller, 120 is intended for font sizes 12 and larger. This can cause a problem because Storm’s version is one of the most expensive; each font file costs $54 and or $433 for the entire family. You don’t want to limit your books to a font size of 10 points and smaller or 12 pints and larger, but grabbing the necessary files in both optical sizes increases the cost. However, Storm Type offers an affordable licensing option.

Storm Foundry has created a license that is perfect for the needs of a self-publisher. For $333, they offer a single-user license for a large collection of typefaces (including Baskerville Original). The single-user license means it can only be used on a single computer (most font licenses allow installation for up to five computers). For a self-publisher or someone interested in designing books for print, this collection is a great way to get an amazing library of fonts without investing thousands of dollars or relying on Adobe Fonts. Storm Type is a highly respected foundry that provides several beautifully designed typefaces with well-built font files.

If Baskerville Original is not an option, don’t worry. The other versions available are good options. They just aren’t as drool worthy. 

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