The Typographic Hub

Time line


1707 Born in Wolverley, near Kidderminster in Worcestershire, England, the son of John Baskerville and his wife Sarah.

1707 Baptised on 28 January at Wolverley parish church.

1726 Moved to Birmingham and worked as a writing master. He also worked as a letter cutter of gravestones. A slate slab in Birmingham Central Library contains in various lettering the message: ‘Gravestones cut in any of the hands by John Baskerville, writing master’. There are as yet, no known surviving examples of gravestones which were cut by Baskerville.  His ‘school house’ was in Edgbaston Street.

1728 John Baskerville senior mortgaged the Wolverley estate.    

1738 Death of John Baskerville senior

c. 1738 Began to experiment with japanning, probably influenced by the success of the Birmingham industrialist, John Taylor, who introduced japanning to the town. 

1738 Moved to a larger house in Dale End, probably to provide space for his experiments.

1740 Leased a larger house at 22 Moor Street.

1742 Applied for and was granted the first patent for japanning (no. 582).

1747 Leased eight acres of land northeast of Birmingham where he built a house, ‘Easy Hill’ and workshops.

1749 Appointed Overseer of the Highways in Birmingham.

1750s He was joined by Sarah Eaves, a married woman with three children who had been deserted by her husband.

1754 First description of Baskerville’s workshops and products by the Swedish visitor, R.R. Angerstein. See Berg, Torsten and Peter (trans.), R.R. Angerstein’s Travel Diary (Science Museum, 2001).  

c. 1750 Began working as a printer and typefounder.

1752 Corresponded with the London publisher and bookseller, Robert Dodsley, to whom he was probably introduced by his friend, the Halesowen poet and landscape designer, William Shenstone.

1754 Issued a prospectus for his first printed work, an edition of Virgil’s works.

1757 Baskerville’s edition of Virgil printed. This introduced Baskerville’s type, used a distinctive black ink and was printed on high quality paper. It was a significant leap forward in typographic design and printing.

1758 Appointed printer to the University of Cambridge.

1758 First meeting between Benjamin Franklin and Baskerville. They were the same age, worked as printers and radical thinkers.  

1761 Became High Bailiff of Birmingham.

1763 Baskerville’s folio Bible printed.

1764 Unable to make his printing a financial success, he withdrew from this aspect of his work. 

1764 Sarah and John married following the death of Sarah’s husband.  

1768 Began printing again.

1775 Died on 8 or possibly 16 January. Following his wishes (he was an atheist), his body was buried in un-consecrated ground in the garden at ‘Easy Hill’.

1779 Sarah Baskerville sold her husband’s punches and type to Pierre Augustin Caron de Beaumarchais to print the complete works of Voltaire on the continent.   

1791 ‘Easy Hill’ was burnt during the Priestley Riots.  

1820 His body was disinterred during the building of a canal and stored in a plumber’s shop for several years. 

1829 He was reburied in a vault in Christ Church, Birmingham.

1898 Christ Church was demolished and Baskerville was reburied in Warstone Lane Cemetery, Birmingham.  

1953 Cambridge University Press acquired the surviving Baskerville punches from Paris.


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