A critical appreciation of Bodoni’s romans and italics
Since his death in 1813, much has been written about Giambattista Bodoni. While Anglo-saxon historians have tended towards severe criticism of his types – we remember William Morris’s extreme and unwarranted pontification “[…] the sweltering hideousness of the Bodoni letter” – the Italians have often gone in the opposite direction, as in the case of Franco Maria Ricci who talks of the “melancholic intimacy” and “magic” of Bodoni’s typefaces.
What has been missing until recently is a real analysis of Bodoni’s typographical output. In this talk I will discuss his romans and italics (and other species of his latin types) within the historical and artistic context of his times. We shall compare his types with those of Pierre Simon Fournier, who greatly influenced him, and we shall also look at Bodoni's development of the “modern” face in relation to Didot. While we shall appreciate Bodoni’s amazing dexterity in the very rare art of punchcutting and the refined elegance of some of his typefaces, we shall not shirk from investigating some of the more puzzling and shadier areas of his production, especially in the light of certain psychological considerations.