/ single-hand writing / Classic Antiqua Baroque and Antiqua - Aesthetics, engineering and systematization 10 minutes to read

/ single-hand writing / Classic Antiqua Baroque and Antiqua – Aesthetics, engineering and systematization 10 minutes to read


Continue with series “Typography: The journey from printing to a science and art subject”We’ll talk about the development of fonts over the 500 years since Gutenberg’s invention. This content is divided into three parts, including:

  • Part 1: Fraktur and Antiqua typefaces, Antiqua Renaissance – When new industrial typography and printing techniques appeared
  • Part 2: Classic Antiqua Baroque and Antiqua typefaces – Aesthetic, technical and systematic
  • Part 3: Square and Grotesque Antiqua Serif typefaces – Industrialization, urbanization and modernization

And here is Part 2!


Le Huong Mi (Huong Mi Le) is currently a Lecturer in Graphic Design History and Typography at Monster Lab Art & Design Academy, translator, book editor and freelance art project manager. Besides, Mi is also a poet and a visual artist, working under the name mi-mimi.


French Renaissance Antiqua or Venice are the early steps of the industrialization of handwriting, the form of the typeface still bearing much of the mark and spirit of handwriting or handwriting. By the time of Antiqua Baroque and Antiqua Classic, in typographic design and textual presentation there were many developments in terms of aesthetics, engineering, and systematicity. The development of the legal character thus reflected the development of science, which was also spurred on by the advent of Gutenberg’s printing technique, during these centuries.

1. Antiqua Baroque

a. History

This typeface is so called by the Germans because it was created during the so-called Baroque period in Western artistic and cultural history. However, from baroque does not completely reflect the nature of this typeface. According to the philosopher Jean-Jacques Rousseau, baroque just the “overdoing”, “bizarre, insignificant, or decadent”, and so is even the complete opposite of Antiqua “Baroque”. For the British, French, and Italian, this typeface is often called “transitional” (transitional). In the history of French characters in general, this typeface can be called the ‘pre-Classical’ period, between the Renaissance Antiqua and Classic Antiqua periods.

Pre-Classical Antiqua gradually appeared in the first half of the 18th century. The basis for the development of this typeface was probably Claude Garamond’s legendary Antiqua, which conquered Europe as a modified version. slightly edited by French-Swiss French character Jean Jannon.

In the Netherlands, Germany, and Italy, French characters and printers all have their own creations and achievements that contributed to the development of Pre-Classical Antiqua. However, it was the British French characterists who really shaped this typeface and made London the next capital of French characters, along with Paris.

Caslon typeface in a font brochure in 1915
Title of the book Publii Virgilii Maronis Bucolica, Georgica, et Æneis in 1757 by John Baskerville

In 1722, the French characterist William Caslon released “Ancient Roman and Italic Letters of Caslon” (Caslon Old Face Roman and Italic), which is possible that he created on the basis of the typeface of the Dutch French character Christoffel van Dijick. This typeface is regarded as the national typeface of England at the time. In 1750, John Baskerville designed his purest and most graceful transitional typeface, Baskerville font, which became one of the most distinctive transitional typefaces and later turned Baskerville into a monument. The other player who plays an equally competitive role with pre-Classical Antiqua is Pierre Simon Fournier from Paris with his typeface. romain italique (1734) and metrology rule system cicéro for his typography design (1742).

Pre-Classical Antiqua is believed to be the first typeface consistently designed and systematically based on a built-in metrological norm for legal characters.

The structure of the letter M is in Fournier’s grid system

b. Characteristics

  • Roof or letterhead: slanted
  • The upper part from the x-height of the lower case letter: ends at the top of the letter H (line H), however the nose or the roof of the letter may protrude more than the height x.
  • Axis of the letter e: vertical, the eye of the letter is horizontal.
  • Optical axis of circular shape: tilt slightly to the left or right or upright
  • Transition to serif: round
  • Side of serif: straight
  • The bottom edge of the serif: slightly curled upwards right above the base line of the text
  • Stroke contrast: strong
  • Some typical fonts: Apollo, Baskerville New ITC, Bookman ITC, Caslon 224 ITC, Century Old Style, Clearface ITC, Cochin, Concorde, Concorde Nova, Corona, Cushing, Erhardt, Fournier, Gamma ITC, Gazette, Goudy Modern, Impressum, Jason Text, Joanna, Life, Maximus, Meridien, Mrs Eaves, Octavian, Old Style No. 7, Olympian, Perpetua, Photina, Poppl-Pontifex, Rotation, Rotis Semi-serif and Serif, Slimbach ITC, Times, Times Europa, Times New Roman, Times Ten, Utopia, Veljovic, Versailles, Wilke, Zapf International ITC

2. Antiqua Classic:

a. History:

Classic Antiqua was born in the Neoclassical period – a cultural and artistic movement that appeared in Europe from the 1750s until about the early 18th century as an antithesis of the Rococo movement was a movement of inheritance Baroque spirit. Neoclassicalism mimics the principles of ancient Greco-Roman times, with strict lines making a big difference to the variety of forms of Baroque and Rococo. This style emphasizes logic, clarity, linearity, rigor and morality.

Since about 1770, Principe dei tipografi (Prince of the French Characters) Italian Giambattista Bodoni develops the first Classic Antiqua font from Fournier’s font with a strictly symmetrical structure that will decisively influence Western writing culture. during the 19th century. this font was first published in ‘Epithalamia exoticis linguis reddita, Parmae, ex Regio typografeo MDCCLXXV‘(‘Wedding hymn in foreign languages, Parma, print edition 1775 ‘) and refined over the years to come.

One Epithalamia exoticis linguis reddita 1775 hour edition cost about 7000-13,000 $

A name comparable to Bodoni is the French characterist Firmin Didot. In 1804, he created the typeface Romain de L’Empereur (Roman letters of the Emperor) exclusively used for official writings concerning Napoleon Bonaparte’s coronation. Later, he was appointed by Napoleon himself as head of the Royal Printing Workshop (Imprimerie Impériale). Concept stereotypes (stereotype) was also born thanks to him. In printing, this involves the technique of making a metal print out of a clay or cardboard mold and some other material and then printing it on paper, instead of printing directly from a chart of loose characters. .

Images of people molded metal prints

In English speaking countries, Classic Antiqua is also called Didone – a word created from a combination of Didot and Bodoni.

In Germany, until that time, Fraktur still held the dominant position. During the last decade of the 18th century, Johann Georg Unger tried to create a “reformed Fraktur” by combining Fraktur and Antiqua, however he was not very successful. French characterist and publisher Georg Joachim Göschen from Leipzig was the first to print the book, the entire work of Christoph Martin Wieland, in 1794 in the Classic Antiqua font cut by Johann Carl Ludwig Prillwitz in 1790. He inherited Didot’s exemplary style of French letters and the rules of the book’s presentation ‘Manuale tipografico‘(French Character Handbook) by Bodoni. His splendid classical publications in Antiqua typeface are highly regarded and sought by bibliographic lovers as “Luxurious French Character Culture” and sought after by collectors. With the larger crowd, he still printed in the familiar Fraktur font.

A classic German literature edition – Don Carlos by Schiller – printed with Fraktur by Georg Joachim Göschen, currently priced at 1000 – 1300 $

During this period in the history of the French characters there were many developments in typography and printing techniques, such as Didot’s stereotype or the replacement of many wooden parts in metal printers, both at the same time. to enhance performance while matching the precision and symmetry of Antiqua Classic. In addition, engravers also prefer to use this typeface as they are easier to engrave on bronze than Renaissance or pre-Classical Antiqua.

b. General features

  • Roof or letterhead: straight, horizontal
  • The lower-case letter x-height: ends on H, but more often than not, the roof or the letterhead will stick out above the x-height.
  • Axis of the letter e: vertical, the eye of the letter is horizontal
  • Optical axis of circular shapes: vertical
  • Transition to serif: square or round
  • Side serif: straight
  • The lower edge of the serif: is located directly on the baseline of the line
  • High contrast: very high. Serif is usually as thin as a hairline (which is the thinnest line of letters).
  • Some typical fonts: Bauer Bodoni, Bodoni Old Face, Caledonia, Centennial, Century, Didot Linotype, Elektra, Fenice, Filosofia, Prillwitz, Walbaum

Article: Le Huong Mi


About the author

Le Huong Mi (Huong Mi Le) | mi-mimi

Born in Hanoi in 1991, Mi is currently a Lecturer in Graphic Design History and Typography at Monster Lab’s Art & Design Academy, translator, book editor and freelance art project manager. . Mi works with units such as Thai Ha Books, Noirfoto Darkroom-Studio-Gallery, Sino-Nom Research Institute, VCCA … Besides, Mi is also a poet and a visual artist, working under the name. mi-mimi.

Mi studied Media Design at the Academy of Visual Arts, Frankfurt, Germany and Anthropology at the University of Social Sciences & Humanities, Hanoi, Vietnam.

Some art events that Mi has participated in as an artist: Animal Theater 2019 – Á Space (Hanoi), Poetry Plus – Performance Plus 2019 – Mot +++ (HCMC), When the Birds Return / When the Birds Fly Home – Photography Exhibition and Storytelling, co-creator – Women’s Museum (2016, Hanoi).


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