He’s Probably in Your House, Lurking on Your Bookshelf

It appears on book covers by everyone from Jane Austen to William Faulkner to Martin Amis, but naming specific examples is a silly exercise. Walk into any bookshop and you’ll find that a good number of book covers feature Bodoni, a typeface created by Giambattista Bodoni in the late 18th century.

Few other type families have proved so relentlessly useful over the centuries. If you read books, a piece of Bodoni is probably lurking on your shelf in gorgeous silence right now. Brand logos that either are Bodoni or owe a serious debt to it include Valentino, La Mer, Calvin Klein and Brookstone. The typeface appears on album covers from Bruce Springsteen’s “Born in the U.S.A.” to Lady Gaga’s “The Fame.”

With its straight hairline serifs and high degree of contrast between thick and thin strokes, Bodoni has an elegant literary appearance. It has inspired countless riffs and copies. A graphic designer seeking shorthand for “sophisticated” might reach for Bodoni or one of its relatives.

The typeface was also one of six preferred by the legendary graphic designer Massimo Vignelli, most famous for designing the visual system of the New York City subway in the 1970s.

Bodoni was known to have “a maniacal attention to detail.”Credit…Molly Young

The Museo Bodoniano in Parma, Italy, offers a glimpse inside the mind of the immortal typographer. At its entrance stands a bust of Bodoni. It is a bust in two senses of the word. One, it is a sculpted likeness of a renowned figure. Two, it depicts its formidable subject topless and flashing a nipple.

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