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You say Bodoni, I say Bodoni

By: Dave Farey
THE AMERICAN TYPE DESIGNER Sumner Stone said, (in the context of a discussion of revivals and digital releases) that "the types of the 19th century are rushing to meet us." Some late -18th- century classics are also now coming within the gravitational pull of our own times, with the recent revivals of two families, Bulmer from Monotype Typography and ITC Bodoni, whose original styles date from the 1790s.

Naming revivals with the original maker´s name, as in these two cases, can be seen as a way of honoring the original. But to the many users of fonts who have neither the time nor inclination to compare the subtle differences among fonts from different foundries, it doubtless appears that there are as many Bodonis and Garamonds as there are stars in the sky.

The reasons why foundries over the years and across technologies wish to create their versions of classics using the original name are understandable from a commercial view, but there comes a point when a traditional name repeated willy-nilly by manufacturers causes confusion in the market and is eventually self-defeating. Nowhere is this more true than in the proliferation of Bodonis. By Dave Farey.


SINCE THE EARLY 20TH CENTURY, Bodoni faces from a variety of metal foundries have been a long-term success. In the UK during the 1950s, Vincent Steer published a regular analysis in Advertiser´s Weekly which showed the constant popularity of Bodoni as a generic family outperforming all other serif faces, including Times Roman.

There are two problems with Bodoni. Firstly, although not everyone is enamored with it, everyone has an opinion. It´s similar to the way we British feel about our Royal family: if you are a pro-Bodoni monarchist then the face can do no wrong, but if you are a republican then the whole mystery and romance of Bodoni is just a subterfuge, which at best should be ignored and at worst needs to be done away with.

The second difficulty surrounding Bodoni is one of proliferation: there are numerous siblings, third and fourth cousins, plus poor relations of doubtful parentage, cloaked under the protection of the Bodoni name, creating confusion and ultimately disenchantment.

Not every Bodonified type designer is guilty of name-dropping. The late Aldo Novarese had a direct way of describing his own designs based on classical influences; he divides them into four categories, one classification being Bodoniennes; that is, influenced by, or in a contemporary style of, Bodoni. His design Fenice is a Bodonienne. Similarly, Adrian Frutiger acknowledged the model of Bodoni for his Iridium family for Stempel in 1972, but thankfully did not call it "Stempel Bodoni."


ALL FACES bearing the Bodoni name generally claim one thing in common; namely, that they are based upon and are a true interpretation of the sanctified original by Giambattista Bodoni.

Up until now the widest gulf has been between Morris Fuller Benton´s design of the Bodoni family for American Type Founders in 1907 (which in turn was used as the model by a great number of foundries, including Monotype in the 1930s) and the Bauer Bodoni designed by Henrich Jost in 1926. The Bauer version is far more delicate, producing a different color at all sizes than other versions.

Technically, both ATF/Monotype Bodoni and Bauer Bodoni are at fault in relation to the original. Both make a definite statement with their uncompromising and unbracketed serifs, and neither attempts to get close to the original italics, instead taking a little bit hereand a little bit there from Fournier and Didot models. Bauer Bodoni is unquestionably a beautiful and unique face in the modern classification, but if it claims descent from the 18th century Bodoni, it can only be as a bastard.

To add more confusion to the Bodoni family tree, there are two versions from the Berthold foundry. Bodoni-Antiqua was started in 1930 via the ATF model and resurrected in the 1970s by Gunter Gerhard Lange for photo composition. This led to a lighter version, created by Karl Gerstner´s version, created by Karl Gerstner´s for the European identity of IBM in the late 1980´s. Gerstner´s version compounds and continues with the fatal unbracketed serifs. Berthold, describing the face´s cleanliness, states: "Bodoni-Antiqua"provides a particularly appropriate typographic appearance for "technology."Not bad for an 18th-century face!

The second Berthold Bodoni, called Bodoni Old Face (with no apologies for this contradiction in terms), was designed in 1983 by G.G. Lange, who claimed then, quite rightly, that a face closer to the authentic version could be developed. Lange´s version credits the little-known Bodoni Modern designed by R.H. Middleton in the 1930s for the American Ludlow foundry, as Berthold´s Bodoni Old Face followed the same original sources (that is, samples of 18th-century Bodoni publications) as Middleton´s.


Massimo Vignelli´s DISMISSAL of Emigre as "a garbage pail of design"will be remembered long after his Bodoni for the World Typeface Corporation in 1989. Entitled WTC Our Bodoni, it is a nice enough reconstructed version along the lines of the ATF style, although lighter and with a more generous x-height, but it lacks subtlety or ingenuity compared to the 18th century original. Vignelli´s Bodoni is really a display face (and the rule is, a well-designed text face can be used for display, but not the other way around).

Despite its shortcomings, Vignelli´s Bodoni was the most notable digital font using the name until 1994, when FontShop International launched FF Bodoni Classic, designed by Gert Weischer. Not surprisingly, the claim for FF Bodoni was that it was "intended to be the first truly authentic Bodoni, according to Bodoni´s specimens in the "Manuale Typographicum"(sic) complete with all imperfections."

The FF Bodoni family took Weischer approximately two years to complete and is genuinely one of the closest versions to the original Roman, with a variety of authentic Bodoni ornaments. The italic also represents true Bodoni letter shapes, but falls shy of the 18th-century italic angle, preferring the 20th century norm of II to I3 degrees instead of the 16 to 18 degrees for the period.

The face includes some delightful eccentricities, particularly the ball serif on the diagonal of the capital R. which is clearly represented in Bodoni's originals, but overlooked, deliberately or otherwise, by all subsequent interpreters until FF Bodoni. Authenticity is also displayed in certain italic lower case letters (the v, w, x and y, for example) in which the italic design precludes the normal diagonal. As in Bodoni´s original, these letters are sensitively curved, whereas a number of Bodoni interpretations ignore this detail in favor of a hybrid Didot solution.

Unfortunately for FF Bodoni Classic, but happily for Bodoni fans, less than six months later ITC released their version of Bodoni. In fairness, ITC had been preparing its family for over three years and the faces might have been released sooner if ITC had not decided to create three distinct cuts of the face for specific size ranges-72-point, 12-point and 6-point-initially in book and bold weights with accompanying italics.

ITC Bodoni is a much warmer and more humanistic design than previous interpretations, retaining Bodoni´s original characteristics and leaving out the hard geometry injected by most of the other foundries. Similarly to FF Bodoni Classic, ITC´s version also includes the balled capital R and a sensitive solution to the lower-case italic diagonals, but this time the angles of the italics are more adventurous at the display sizes. Jim Parkinson designed the "s"for the lower-case italics, and is delighted with the controversy that it has provoked. ITC Bodoni also has a set of Bodoni ornaments and flowers which are different from those included with FF Bodoni Classic, but equally authentic to Bodoni.

Sumner Stone art-directed the design team for ITC Bodoni, which included Holly Goldsmith and Jim Parkinson. Recently, Sumner has continued with the ITC Bodoni range, adding a sumptuous series of 72-point swash capitals for the italics in both weights, as well as developing a selection of one hundred ornaments from the great variety in the original Bodoni sources.

Of all the Bodoni faces created over the years, these latest two, FF Bodoni Classic and ITC Bodoni, come closed to deserving the use of the name by means of their diligent research and interpretive design. Even so, there are bound to be other adaptations of Bodoni in the coming years. It would be a fitting tribute if a future version could be named for the wife of Giambattista, who published his complete works, the Manuale Tipografico, in 1818, five years after his death. Without Margherita DallÓAglio´s devotion to her husband´s craft and memory, it is doubtful whether there would have been this rich source of reference that continues to inspire generations of type designers and typographers.END


DAVE FAREY admits to having had alter-ego bouts of Giambattista Bodoni. Oz Cooper and Eric Gill. At the moment, he has a tingling feeling of Robert Hunter Middleton coming on. Farey´s Bodoni period developed crab-wise through a revival of the Torino family from the Italian Nebiolo foundry, and then by assisting Gerry Giampa to inject new life into Sol Hess´s Lanston Type Bodoni family, including the Fournier numerals. Richard Dawson and Dave Farey, at Panache Typography in London, have created more than two hundred digital fonts for the commercial market and commissioned client use. Farey recently completed the first digital revival of Aries, a typeface by Eric Gill.

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