Typography & Graphic Design
— Renaissance to Rococo Era


Typography of the Italian Renaissance


  • The typographic book came to Italy from Germany as a manuscript-style book printed with movable types.

  • Italian printers and scholars rethought type design, page layout, ornaments, illustration, and even the total design of the book.


Design innovations:

  • the title page
  • roman & italic type
  • printed page numbers
  • woodblock and cast metal ornaments
  • innovative approaches to the layout of illustrations with type


See link for description of letterform terms



Among the leaders in typographic book design in Italy during this period were:

  • Johannes de Spira
  • Nicolas Jenson
  • Erhard Ratdolt
  • Francesco da Bolgna -(Griffo)
  • Aldus Manutius
  • Lodovico Arrighi (writing master)




Stylistic features:

    Designers loved floral decoration

    wildflowers and vines

Nicolaus Jenson

7-2 Typography from Eusebius’s De Praeparatione Evangelica, (1470)
Nicolas Jenson







Today-2006 the typeface that are based on Jenson's 15th century Roman styles are:

  • Berkley
  • Weiss

website on Jensen style fonts


With this roman style, used in the Evangelical Preparation (De Praeparatione Evangelica), Jenson created a new standard of excellence by establishing:

  • wider letterforms
  • lighter tone
  • more even texture of black strokes

The characters in Jenson's fonts aligned more perfectly than those of any other printer of his time.



Attributed to Jenson's, mark for Society of Ventian Printers, 1481.  

  • One of man's oldest symbols

  • orb-and cross motif

  • It symbolized, "God shall reign over earth."





Mark for the Society of Venetian Printers, (1481)
Nicolas Jenson



Erhard Ratdolt


Title page for Euclid’s Geometriae elementa, (1482)
Erhard Ratdolt, Peter Loeslein, and Bernhard Maier


From Euclid’s Geometriae elementa, (1482)
Erhard Ratdolt, Peter Loeslein, and Bernhard Maier


A dazzling white-on-black design brackets the text, and incredibly fine line diagrams in the wide margin visually define Euclid’s terms.

The wide outer margin is maintained throughout the book for explanatory diagrams. Two sizes of initial letters denote sections and subsections.

Aldus Manutius

7-15 Typographic page from Hypnerotomachia Poliphili, (1499)
Aldus Manutius
  • The texture of the headings (set in all capitals), the text typography, and the outline initial have a subtle yet beautiful contrast.

  • The one-line intervals of space separating the information into three areas introduces light and order into the page.

More links on Aldus Manutius

01 | 02



  7-18 A page from Juvenal and Persius, Opera, (1501)
Aldus Manutius
  • this was one of the first books using Griffo's new italic type.

  • Note all capital roman letter at the beginning of each line.


Francesco Griffo da Bologna


  • created a roman type that was even more authentic than jensons's designs.

  • The type face is called, Bembo


(Surnamed Griffo)


  • Names after Cardinal Pietro Bembo

  • First used to print the Cardinal's writings called, De Aetna, 1495/96

More links


Typography moves to Other European Countries:


  • Italian Renaissance began to fade
  • The cultural vitality of the Italian Renaissance was imported to France.
  • The French Renaissance flowered.

  • In spite of war and censorship, the humanist spirit took hold in France and produced both excellent scholarship and a notable school of book design.





The leading French printers produced books of:

      • fine proportions
      • outstanding legibility
      • beautiful typography
      • elegant ornamentation

They eliminating the prevailing dense, claustrophobic page layout and heavy Gothic typography and leading to a new open, lighter style.

Geoffroy Tory [zhôfrwä' tôrï']


  • Parisian printer, typographer, and author
  • He took up drawing and engraving and returned to Italy to study (1516–18).



  • As designer and engraver he produced beautiful initials, borders, and illustrations, as well as his famous printer's mark

  • His Book of Hours, first appeared in
    1525, This book introduced type design free from dependence on handwriting
    and established book designing as an
    art in France.


7-25 Capital from a series of criblé initials (1526)
Geoffroy Tory


This alphabet of roman capitals brought elegance and “color” to the pages of books printed at Estienne’s press

From Champ Fleury(1529)
Geoffroy Tory

Champ Fleury


7-29 Fantastic alphabet from Champ Fleury(1529)
Geoffroy Tory

The thirteen alphabets concluding this book (Hebrew, Greek, Persian, and so on) included this whimsical sequence of pictorial letterforms composed of tools.

A is a compass

B is a fusy (steel used to strike a flint to start a fire)

C is a handle.

Construction of the letter Q from Champ Fleury (1529)
Geoffroy Tory

Construction of the letter Q:
(image found in your book page 98)

  • He used 5 compass centers in his efforts to construct a geometrically ideal roman O.
  • He used and addtional 2 compass centers to add a tail for the Q.

Geoffroy Tory 01

His works:

sample 01

sample 02

sample 03

sample 04


Claude Garmond, (16th century)

  • The first independent typefounder

  • Although not the inventor of movable
    type, Garamond was the first to make
    type available to printers at an
    affordable price.
  • Garamond based his type on the roman font of Griffo


Claude Garamond

website link 01

website link 02

sample 01

End of the French typography age

  • A conflict between French troops and a reformed church congregation ended in a massacre, which began four decades of religious wars that effectively ended the golden age of French typography.

  • Dutch, English, French, German, and Latin books were printed and exported throughout Europe.

  • Copperplate engraving grew in popularity and soon replaced the woodcut as the major technique for graphic images throughout Europe.


  • The Netherlands found its greatest printer in Christophe Plantin.
  • 17 th century:
    The seventeenth century was a relatively quiet time for graphic design innovation.
  • An abundant stock of ornaments, punches, matrixes, and woodblocks from the 1500s was widely available, so there was little incentive for printers to commission new graphic materials.
  • The first book to be designed and printed in the English American colonies was done by Stephan Daye.



In the title typography, a rich variety is achieved by combining three type sizes and using all capitals, all lowercase, and italics to express the importance and meaning of the words.0


Title page for The Whole Booke of Psalmes
Stephen and Matthew Daye


Typography of the Rococo era
(18th century)—(1700s)

(Chapter 8): Epoch of typographic Genius


  • The eighteenth century brought significant changes to graphic design, particularly in the realm of type design, typography, and page layout.
  • 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.


William Caslon

  • 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.

Link to typeface

Specimens of Caslon roman and italic
William Caslon


John Baskerville

  • 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.

title page for Vergil’s Bucolica, Georgica, et Aeneis (Pastorials, Farming, and Aeneis)
John Baskerville


Giambattista Bodoni



title page from Saggio tipografico (Typographic Essay)
Giambattista Bodoni

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

Section-heading page for Vergil’s Opera, Volume II,
Giambattista Bodoni

In graphic designs so pure and simple, every adjustment of letterspace and line space becomes critical to the overall design harmony.



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

pages from Vergil’s Bucolica, Georgica, et Aeneis,
Pierre l’aîné Didot

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




  1. Please read History of Design by Philip Meggs
    Read Chapter 7 & 8 -4th edition
    Read Chapter 7 & 8 -3rd edition

  2. Please read Genius Moves
    Make sure you read the Introduction and first 3 sections of the book. (this was last weeks reading)

Study Questions (chapter 7 & 8)

•  Discuss innovations in type design and typographic book design in Italy and France during the Renaissance. Include cultural and historical context in your discussion, as well as the names of printers and specific titles .

•  Just as innovation passed from Italy to France, it later passed from France to the Netherlands. Discuss the Dutch innovations to type design and typographic book design, including the individuals who contributed to innovation and their contributions.

•  Compare and contrast the type design of Nicolas Jenson and Francesco da Bologna. Include biographical information and examples of their work in your discussion.

•  Explain why Geoffroy Tory was called a Renaissance man. Include examples of his type design and typographic book design in your discussion.

•  Describe the process of engraving. Explain the advantages of engraving over woodcut and discuss the influence engraving had on type design and illustration.

•  Discuss innovations in type design and typographic book design in France, Italy, and England during the eighteenth century. Include cultural and historical influences in your discussion, as well as the names of designers and/or printers, and examples of their work.

•  Compare and contrast the transitional roman and the modern roman type styles. Include the names of printers and/or designers, characteristics of each style, influences on the design of the type, and eighteenth-century examples.

•  Rococo, neoclassicism, and hints of romanticism appeared in graphic design during the eighteenth century layouts, illustrations, and ornaments. Discuss the characteristics of each style. Include designers discussed in Chapter 8 and examples of their work to support your discussion.

•  Discuss innovations in printing technology, materials, and methods by Pierre Simon Fournier le Jeune, the Didot family, and John Baskerville. Name specific examples of printed texts.

•  Discuss information graphics, its origins, and the advances in the field that occurred during the eighteenth century.