Typography of the Rococo Era

  • The eighteenth century brought significant changes to graphic design, particularly in the realm of type design, typography, and page layout.
  • In graphic designs so pure and simple, every adjustment of letterspace and line space becomes critical to the overall design harmony.

  • The first printing of the Romain du Roi at the beginning of the eighteenth century signified a shift to transitional roman type design with increased contrast between thick and thin strokes, sharp horizontal serifs, and a more even balance to each letterform.



Old Style


Specimens of Caslon roman and italic
William Caslon

Link to typeface

title page for
Vergil’s Bucolica, Georgica, et Aeneis

(Pastorials, Farming, and Aeneis)
John Baskerville
pages from Vergil’s Bucolica, Georgica, et Aeneis,
Pierre l’aîné Didot

title page from
Saggio tipografico (Typographic Essay)
Giambattista Bodoni

In England, William Caslon worked in the tradition of old style roman typographic design while increasing the contrast between thick and thin strokes by making the thick strokes slightly heavier.

The straightforward practicality of Caslon’s designs made them the dominant roman style throughout the British Empire far into the nineteenth century.

John Baskerville reduced the design to letterforms symmetrically arranged and letterspaced; he reduced content to author, title, publisher, date, and city of publication. Economy, simplicity, and elegance resulted.


Link to Typeface

Francoise Ambroise Didot
(And his 2 sons —Pierre and Firmin)

This double-page spread shows the splendid perfection, lavish margins, and cool understatement of neoclassical graphic design.

The tremendous influence of Fournier le Jeune upon Bodoni’s earlier work is evident in this page design.

Calson (Old Style)

Caslon Foundry Specimen Sheet

(this did not appear until some ten years after he established his foundry.) William Caslon's business was going so well he never had the chance to make a specimen sheet.

Click here to see a close up

Old Style Font (6.5 min.)



Baskerville (Transitional)


John Baskerville created type with such contrast between thick and thin elements that his contemporaries are said to have accused him of "blinding all the Readers of the Nation; for the strokes of [his] letters, being too thin and narrow, hurt the Eye."

Transitional Font (5.5 min.)



Didot (Modern)


The French printer Firmin Didot took Baskerville's initiatives to an extreme level by creating type with a wholly vertical axis and razor-thin serifs.


Bodoni (Modern)

These roman and italic
letters were printed by
Giambattista Bodoni.
They exhibit extreme
contrast between thick
and thin elements.


Modern Font (8 min.)