A few days ago I’ve acquired the new Taschen edition of Bodoni Manual of Typography (image above). It’s a reprint of the original copy owned by Staatsbibliothek zu Berlin. It was an impulse purchase made after the printed Taschen catalog arrived at my mailbox — it’s a very recent title — but it was well worth every cent!
It reproduces the original prints (in italian), but in a pocket of the inner back cover there’s a small stapled booklet with an historical perspective that explains many of Bodoni’s aspects and historical relevance (it’s a must read!) and, finally, a translation of the texts in the Manual.
I’ve learned a lot from these late XVIII century texts. They’re incredibly updated (from our present standards) and they provide an uncanny insight to Bodoni’s aproach to Type Design and page layout.
One thing stood out from all others—to Bodoni, the secret of Typography resided on the uniformity of typefaces, crispness and smoothness of the punches, the choice of the most beautiful forms and the graceful elegance of the type:
“Tanto più bello sarà dunque un carattere, quanto avrà più regolarità, nettezza, buon gusto, e grazia.”
(from the preface, p. 18-19)
This formula reminds me of something that Dino dos Santos said last April at a presentation in ESAD, about teaching type design. If I remember correctly, he said that for someone to learn how to design typefaces, one had to achieve three key abilities:
- Parallelism and regularity of strokes;
- Rigorous drawing of proportional shapes;
- Good taste.
If we trace a comparison to Bodoni’s formula, we can link the Dino’s regularity to Bodoni’s “regolarità”. The second one to Bodoni’s “nettezza e forbitura”. And finally, even if in today’s digital workflow we can learn how to achieve “technically correct” and elegant shapes, the third ability mentioned by Dino, refers to Bodoni’s “buon gusto e grazia”. Unfortunately, as Dino said, he could only teach the first two…
It was a very positive experience to testify that, although being over 200 years old, Bodoni’s writings are so current and still applicable to the digital workflow. It’s a must have for every typophile!