The Elegance of Bodoni Typeface

Graphic Designers that have worked with the typeface of Bodoni appreciate its clarity and grace.  Giambattista Bodoni was the creator of this classic sans-serif typeface.


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“This biographical sketch … was delivered … at a meeting of the Society of Printers in Boston, April 22, 1913”–Verso of half title



Giambattista Bodoni was the son of an Italian printer and worked for a time at the press of the Vatican. Under the patronage of the Duke of Parma. In 1768 he assumed management of the Royal Press of the Duke of Parma. He produced stately quartos and folios with impressive title pages and luxurious margins. His beautiful, elegant books were made to be admired for typeface and layout and not actually to be studied or read. The quality of Bodoni’s design and printing were greatly admired however his scholarship and proofreading were often somewhat lacking.

He and Firmin Didot in Paris were the fathers of modern type design. Bodoni was a highly skilled craftsman, and he was an expert in every aspect of hand making fine books. The most skilled typographers were acknowledged with kudos and prestige and became as famous as the best painters and sculptors.

Bodoni was tremendously influential in the 18 century with his elegant and graceful designs. Benjamin Franklin a fellow printer was said to be an admirer of Bodoni’s typeface. There is some likelihood that Bodoni sent Franklin some gift samples of his type.

A sample of Bodoni from the Manuale of Tipogragifica (1818)

Bodoni typeface was widely used in the United States for book and periodical composition. These versions were not considered copies but versions retaining the principle of modern letter design.


The lessened degree of contrast between its thick and thin lines make it gain in reading ease. Bodoni is a refined and crisp typeface, and it is at its best when it is presented in black and white. The high contrast thick and thin relationship of its strokes is compromised when printed in any other colour combination.

As a display face, Bodoni is everywhere and has found a niche as a newspaper headline type. In the modern setting, Bodoni is associated with classicism and history.

William Morris, the American graphic designer, took an immense dislike to Bodoni he remarked that it was “the most illegible type that was ever cut, with its preposterous thick and thins.”

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