Giambattista Bodoni

Giambattista Bodoni was born in Saluzzo, Italy on February 16, 1740. He born into a family of printers and, at eighteen years of age, went to Rome where he became a student of Abbate Ruffierei in the Vatican polyglot press of the Propaganda Fide. In 1768, Bodoni became the head of the Royal Printing House in Parma, known as the “Stamperia Reale”. Bodoni worked in many closely related areas, as he was a graphic designer, typographer, type-designer, compositor, publisher and printer. In his time at the “Stamperia Reale”, it is said that Bodoni “first oriented himself towards the fonts of Pierre [Simon] Fournier of Paris”. However, he would soon develop his own typefaces. In effect, Bodoni abandoned the use of old-style letters and “introduced a new clear simple type – the Modern typeface”; having been inspired by the typography of John Baskerville. Three years after he started working in Parma, he produced the first of his font pattern books, entitled “Saggio tipografivo di fregi e maiuscole” (or, in English, “Wise typographic friezes and capitals”). This was followed by the printing of a homage book, in 1775, which was printed in twenty five languages.

typeparis-bnf_11 Bodoni, Q. Horatii Flacci, Specimen, date unknown

Bodoni was allowed to form his own printing works in 1791, by his employer, Duke Ferdinand, in order to have his service and talent retained. Around 1800, Giambattista Bodoni established an entirely new form of type which “refrained from decorative padding and was conceived solely on the criteria of symmetry and proportionality”. This ushered in the well-recognised and classical font, “Bodoni”, which continues to be used frequently by typesetters and is considered to be a “masterpiece of typography”. Also among his most well-known works is the Lord’s Prayer, which Bodoni printed, in 1806, in one hundred and fifty five languages; and the printing of Homer’s “Iliad” in 1808.

Houghton_TypTS_825.18.225_-_Bodoni,_non-Roman_characters Bodoni, Non-roman character samples, Manuscript, ca. 1800

Giambattista Bodoni, who was described as the “prince of typographers” and “printer of kings”, died in 1813. Arguably his most important work, the “Manuale tipografico”, was published posthumously by his widow, Margherita Dall’Aglio, in 1818. Besides the one hundred and forty two fonts, it also included a collection of flowering ornamentals and geometric patterns. The book also declared, according to Bodoni, the four principles of type design “from which all beauty would seem to proceed… which were regularity, cleanness, good taste, and charm.” Bodoni’s typefaces echoed his sense of appearance and beauty, which were built on simplicity and purity of form.

Works influenced/inspired by Bodoni

BODONI Bodoni, Bodoni Poster, Poster, 2013

70th-Birthday-Party-Invitations-McMillian-and-Furlow2-550x412 Mauro’s Fly Fishing Inspired 70th Birthday Invitations, 2012


Famous Graphic Designers – Giambattista Bodoni. Retrieved October 17, 2015, from

Giambattista Bodoni. Retrieved October 17, 2015, from

Giambattista Bodoni. Retrieved October 17, 2015, from


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