Page:Dictionary of National Biography volume 03.djvu/370

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Baskerville
Baskerville
364

the place should be sold. Mr. John Ryland, the purchaser, called it Baskerville House, and improved and enlarged it. The house suffered during the great riots of 1791, and was attacked by the mob on Friday, 15 July. Although the rioters were repulsed several times, the house was ultimately set on fire and gutted. In a series of views of those occurrences, published in 1793, the house is represented as a large mansion of three stories, with an avenue of trees and a pond; some of the old façade, now in ruins, may still be seen at the lower end of Broad Street; it forms part of a manufactory. Samuel Ryland, the next owner, leased the estate to a Mr. Gibson, who cut a canal through, and formed wharves. In 1820 some workmen came upon Baskerville's coffin, but it was covered up again. In May 1826, the land being wanted for building purposes, his remains, enclosed in a lead and a wooden coffin, were removed to the shop of Mr. Marston, a lead merchant, in Monmouth Street. The body was well preserved; on the breast lay a wreath of laurel, faded yet entire. There is a tradition that the body was placed in the vaults of Christ Church; but the ‘Worcester Herald’ for 12 Sept. 1829, quoting from a Birmingham journal, assures us that the remains were re-interred in a piece of ground adjoining Cradley Chapel, the property of a branch of Baskerville's family. We are also told that ‘a surgical gentleman took a cast of the head.’

‘His wife,’ says Noble, ‘was all that affectation can describe. She lived in adultery with him many years. She was formerly a servant. Such a pair are rarely met with’ (op. cit. p. 362). Her maiden name was Ruston, and she was the wife of a Mr. Eaves, who had fled the country on account of some fraudulent practice. She had two children by him, a son and a daughter. Baskerville assisted the children and settled 2,000l. upon the mother, who married him upon the death of her first husband. She was handsomely provided for by the will, and carried on the printing business some time; two books bear the imprint of ‘Sarah Baskerville.’ In April 1775 she discontinued the printing business, but continued that of type-founding until February 1777. In 1776 Chapman used the Baskerville type for an edition of Sherlock's ‘Practical Discourse on Death,’ 8vo. Mrs. Baskerville died on 21 March 1788, and lies buried near the east end of St. Philip's Church, Birmingham.

Many efforts were made after Baskerville's death to dispose of his types. They were declined by the universities and by the London trade, who preferred the letters of Caslon and Jackson. Among the many ambitious schemes of Beaumarchais was one for a complete edition of Voltaire. For this purpose he founded a ‘Société philosophique, littéraire et typographique,’ consisting of himself alone. Great efforts were made to insure success; one agent was sent to Holland to study paper-making, and another to purchase (1779) for 150,000 livres [3,700l.] all the printing plant of Baskerville, as being the best in Europe. Two editions appeared at Kehl, one in ninety-two volumes, 12mo, 1785, and another in seventy volumes, 8vo, 1785–89. What became afterwards of the type is not known. Mr. Smart, a Worcester bookseller, and well known as a collector of Baskervilles (he called his house Baskerville House), told Dibdin that on the death of the printer he went at once to Birmingham and made large purchases from the widow—stated, in a ‘Guide to Worcester’ he published, to have extended to 1,100l. worth. Some of Baskerville's types were in use at Messrs. Harris's office at Liverpool in 1820.

The fame of Baskerville rapidly spread throughout Europe; but it cannot be denied that the opinion of contemporary experts was somewhat unfavourable to his type. Dr. John Bedford, writing to Richard Richardson on 29 Oct. 1758, says: ‘By Baskerville's Specimen of his types you will perceive how much of the elegance of them is owing to his paper, which he makes himself, as well as the types and the ink also; and I was informed, whenever they come to be used by common pressmen, and with common materials, they will lose of their beauty considerably. Hence, perhaps, this Specimen may become very curious’ (Nichols, Illustrations, i. 813). Benjamin Franklin told him in 1760 that a gentleman ‘said you would be a means of blinding all the readers in the nation; for the strokes of your letters being too thin and narrow hurt the eye, and he could never read a line of them without pain.’ Others complained of the gloss of the paper, but the letters themselves ‘have not that height and thickness of the stroke which make the common printing so much the more comfortable to the eye.’ E. R. Mores said: ‘Mr. Baskerville of Birmingham, that enterprising place, made some attempts at letter-cutting, but desisted, and with good reason. The Greek cut by him or his for the university of Oxford is execrable. Indeed, he can hardly claim a place amongst letter-cutters; his typographical excellence lay more in trim glossy paper to dim the sight’ (English Typographical Founders, 1778, 86). In a note upon this passage J. Nichols gave it as his view that ‘the idea entertained by Mr. Mores of the ingenious Mr. Baskerville is certainly a just one. His glossy paper and too-sharp