Italian Paleography


Chicago, Newberry Library, VAULT Case Wing MS folio Z 311 .B6297
Giovanni Battista Bodoni
Giovanni Battista Bodoni’s Notes
Parma, between 1780 and 1789

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Giambattista Bodoni (1740-1813), type designer, punch cutter, and printer, is sometimes called “the king of typographers and the typographer of kings.”  He got his start at the press of the Propaganda Fide in Rome, but by 1768 he had taken charge of the Stamperia Reale in Parma, where he began to cut his own types, eventually producing over 200 different fonts.  Although he created many styles of type, he is best known for his “modern” typefaces featuring highly contrasted thick and thin strokes and unbracketed hairline serifs.  His wide range of fonts in different styles, sizes, and weights gave Bodoni exacting control over the appearance of his work.  He produced not only books, but also ephemeral items like announcements, certificates, and invitations; his renown was such that his workshop was a popular stop for travelers on the grand tour.

This undated document, possibly in Bodoni’s hand, likely dates from the late 1780s and may have served as a companion to his Manuale Tipografica (1788), a collection of specimens of his type.  Each entry lists the name of the typeface, the size and number of sheets that can be set in either roman/round type (tondo) or italic (corsivo), and the cost per pound in baiocchi (a subdivision of the Roman scudo).  Given that only ten of Bodoni’s types are included, the list may reflect those that were most used or requested.  The entries are organized by size of type, ranging from the smallest (Testino) to the largest (Cannone), and provide a glimpse into the labor of setting type: two folio sheets set in tiny Testino cost twice as much as the same set in the next largest style of type (Garamone).  Bodoni’s myriad typefaces, and this list of their prices, suggest that customers could buy made-to-order printed work to fit their needs and tastes.


Corsiva (sec. XVIII fine) usuale, legata, di modulo grande.
Da notare: la t in un sol tratto (r. 1: tutti); la z poggiata sul rigo (r. 30: prezzo); il legamento ss (r. 24: grosso).

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