Bodoni is the name given to the serif typefaces first designed by Giambattista Bodoni (1740–1813) in the late eighteenth century and frequently revived since. Bodoni's typefaces are classified as Didone or modern. Bodoni followed the ideas of John Baskerville, as found in the printing type Baskerville—increased stroke contrast reflecting developing printing technology and a more vertical axis—but he took them to a more extreme conclusion. Bodoni had a long career and his designs changed and varied, ending with a typeface of a slightly condensed underlying structure with flat, unbracketed serifs, extreme contrast between thick and thin strokes, and an overall geometric construction.
When first released, Bodoni and other didone fonts were called classical designs because of their rational structure. However, these fonts were not updated versions of Roman or Renaissance letter styles, but new designs. They came to be called 'modern' serif fonts and then, until the mid-20th century, they were known as Didone designs. Bodoni's later designs are rightfully called "modern", but the earlier designs are now called "transitional".
Some digital versions of Bodoni are said to be hard to read due to "dazzle" caused by the alternating thick and thin strokes, particularly as the thin strokes are very thin at small point sizes. This is very common when optical sizes of font intended for use at display sizes are printed at text size, at which point the hairline strokes can recede to being hard to see. Versions of Bodoni that are intended to be used at text size are "Bodoni Old Face", optimized for 9 points; ITC Bodoni 12 (for 12 points); and ITC Bodoni 6 (for 6 points).
Massimo Vignelli stated that "Bodoni is one of the most elegant typefaces ever designed." In the English-speaking world, "modern" serif designs like Bodoni are most commonly used in headings and display uses and in upmarket magazine printing, which is often done on high-gloss paper that retains and sets off the crisp detail of the fine strokes. In Europe, they are more often used in body text.
The 1818 Manuale-Tipografico specimen manual of Bodoni's press, published after his death.
Bodoni admired the work of John Baskerville and studied in detail the designs of French type founders Pierre Simon Fournier and Firmin Didot. Although he drew inspiration from the work of these designers, above all from Didot, no doubt Bodoni found his own style for his typefaces, which deservedly gained worldwide acceptance among printers.
Although to a modern audience Bodoni is best known as the name of a typeface, Bodoni was an expert printer who ran a prestigious printing-office under the patronage of the Duke of Parma, and the design of his type was permitted by and showcased the quality of his company's work in metal-casting, printing and of the paper made in Parma. The hairline serifs and fine strokes reflected a high quality of casting, since on poor-quality printing equipment serifs had to be large to avoid wear snapping them. The smooth finish of his paper allowed fine detail to be retained on the surface. Bodoni also took care in the composition of his printing, using hierarchy and borders to create an appearance of elegance, and his range of type sizes allowed him flexibility of composition.
A very great curiosity in its way is the Parma printing-office, carried on under the direction of Mr. Bodoni, who has brought that art to a degree of perfection scarcely known before him. Nothing could exceed his civility in showing us numbers of the beautiful productions of his press...as well as the operations of casting and finishing the letters...his paper is all made
at Parma. The manner in which Mr. Bodoni gives his works their beautiful smoothness, so that no impression of the letters is perceptible on either side, is the only part of his business that he keeps secret.
The effective use of Bodoni in modern printing poses challenges common to all Didone designs. While it can look very elegant due to the regular, rational design and fine strokes, a known effect on readers is 'dazzle', where the thick verticals draw the reader's attention and cause them to struggle to concentrate on the other, much thinner strokes that define which letter is which. For this reason, using the right optical size of font has been described as particularly essential to achieve professional results. Fonts to be used at text sizes will be sturdier designs with thicker 'thin' strokes and serifs (less stroke contrast) and more space between letters than on display designs, to increase legibility. Optical sizes were a natural requirement of printing technology at the time of Bodoni, who had to cut each size of type separately, but declined as the pantograph, phototypesetting and digital fonts made printing the same font at any size simpler; a revival has taken place in recent years as automated font development has become possible. French designer Loïc Sander has suggested that the dazzle effect, common to all Didone designs, may be particularly common in designs produced in countries where designers are unfamiliar with how to use them effectively and where the fonts that are easily commercially available will tend to have been designed for headings. Modern Bodoni revivals intended for professional use such as Parmagiano and ITC Bodoni have a range of optical sizes, but this is less common on default computer fonts.
Proofs of page decorations from the Bodoni printing house
There have been many revivals of the Bodoni typeface; ATF Bodoni and Bauer Bodoni are two of the more successful.
ATF'sBodoni series created in 1909, was the first American release to be a direct revival of Bodoni's work. All variants were designed by Morris Fuller Benton who captured the flavour of Bodoni's original while emphasizing legibility rather than trying to push against the limits of printing technology. This revival is regarded as "the first accurate revival of a historical face for general printing and design applications". However, some details were less based on Bodoni than on the work of his French contemporary Firmin Didot, for example a 't' with a flat rather than slanted top.
Digital revivals include Bodoni Antiqua, Bodoni Old Face, ITC Bodoni Seventy Two, ITC Bodoni Six, ITC Bodoni Twelve, Bodoni MT, LTC Bodoni 175, WTC Our Bodoni, Bodoni EF, Bodoni Classico, and TS Bodoni. Zuzana Licko's Filosofia is considered by some to be a revival of Bodoni, but it is a highly personal, stylish, and stylized spinoff, rather than a revival. Although intended to be usable at text sizes, it represents the early period of the designer's career when interletter spacing was yet to be conquered, so has found use primarily in advertising. A particularly carefully optically-sized Bodoni is Sumner Stone's ITC version in three sizes (6 point, 12 point, 72 point). Another important Bodoni optimized for book printing (9 point) is Günther Gerhard Lange's "Bodoni Old Face" from the Berthold library. Most other versions are best used at display sizes.
Bodoni has been used for a wide variety of material, ranging from 18th century Italian books to 1960s periodicals. In the 21st century, the late manner versions continue to be used in advertising, while the early manner versions are occasionally used for fine book printing.
^Clair, K. and Busic-Snyder, C. (2005). A typographic workbook. Hoboken, N.J.: Wiley, p.272.
^Mosley, James. "The Trieste leaf: a Bodoni forgery?". Type Foundry (blog). Retrieved 26 March 2016. Bodoni never used the flat-topped letter t (a French innovation) that was added to the ATF typeface.
^MacGrew, Mac, American Metal Typefaces of the Twentieth Century, Oak Knoll Books, New Castle Delaware, 1993, ISBN0-938768-34-4, p. 45.
^Jaspert, W. Pincus, W. Turner Berry and A.F. Johnson. The Encyclopedia of Type Faces. Blandford Press Lts.: 1953, 1983, ISBN0-7137-1347-X, p. 25.
^Specimen Book of Bauer Types (second edition), Bauer Type Foundry, Inc., New York City, c. 1938, pp. E2 – E10.