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John Baskerville

John Baskerville (January 28, 1706 - January 8, 1775) was a printer in Birmingham, and an associate of some of the members of the Lunar Society. He directed his punchcutter John Handy in the design of many typefaces of broadly similar appearance.

His businesses included japanning and paper mache, but he is best remembered as a printer. He printed works for Cambridge University in 1758 and although an atheist, printed a splendid folio Bible in 1763.

His work was criticised by jealous competitors and soon fell out of favour, but since the 1920s many new fonts have been released by Linotype, Monotype, and other typefoundries - revivals of his work and mostly called 'Baskerville'.

It is thought that Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, who once lived in Birmingham, may have borrowed his name for one of his Sherlock Holmes stories, The Hound of the Baskervilles.

As an atheist, Baskerville was buried, at his own request, in unconsecrated ground in his own garden. When a canal was built through the land he was placed in storage in a warehouse for several years before being secretly deposited in the crypt of Christ Church, Birmingham. Later he was moved, with other bodies from the crypt, to consecrated catacombs at Warstone Lane Cemetery.


A Portland Stone sculpture, Industry and Genius, in his honour stands in Centenary Square, Birmingham. It is by local artist David Patten [1].

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