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Giambattista Bodoni’s punches for swash italic type, ©Alessandro Bianchi/Archive Franco Maria Ricci. All images courtesy of David R. Godine Publishers.

Caslon, Baskerville, Garamond, Bodoni — artists whose every work is a masterpiece. Yet though we know their work when we see it, we rarely pause to name it. The clarity of the page renders the craft opaque. The hand that set the type is effaced by the text, and the ink-blackened fingers leave no prints on the white field, only a crisp and curling two-dimensional architecture whose sequences draw the mind past words to things. There may be no finer tribute to the print and type designs of Giambattista Bodoni (1740-1813) than that Valerie Lester’s Bodoni: His Life and World (David R. Godine, £32.95) is the first biography in English.

“Saluzzo mia amata patria” from “Manuale tipografico”, ©Houghton Library, Harvard University, Typ ts 725.88.221

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