Giambattista Bodoni was born in Saluzzo (Piemont) on February 16, 1740. He came from a printing family. At 18, Bodoni went to Rome and became a pupil of Abbate Ruffierei in the Vatican polyglot press of the Propaganda Fide. In 1768, Giambattista Bodoni took over leadership of the ducal printers in Parma – the "Stamperia Reale". His employer, Duke Ferdinand, had nothing less in mind than to accumulate the greatest wealth of Italy’s writings in his print shop.
During his work at the "Stamperia Reale", Bodoni first oriented himself towards the fonts of Pierre Fournier of Paris; soon however he developed many of his own original type faces. Three years after beginning to work in Parma, Giambattista Bodoni produced his first font pattern book with the title "Saggio tipografivo di fregi e maiuscole". In 1775, Bodoni printed the homage book "Epithalamia exoticis linguis reddita", which was written in 25 languages.
In order to keep Giambattista Bodoni at his court, Duke Ferdinand allowed him to establish his own printing works in 1791 in his palace, in which for example an edition de luxe of Virgil and Torquato Tasso’s "La Gerusalemme liberata" were produced. In 1806, Bodoni printed the Lord’s Prayer in 155 languages, in 1808 the "Iliad" by Homer.
Around 1800, Giambattista Bodoni developed a completely new kind of type which refrained from decorative padding and was conceived solely on the criteria of symmetry and proportionality. In this way, the classical font "Bodoni" emerged, a masterpiece of typography, which would be used untold times by other typesetters.
Giambattista Bodoni, also known as the "prince of typographers" and "printer of kings", died in 1813 in Parma. What was probably his most important work, the "Manuale tipografico", was published posthumously by his widow Margherita Dall'Aglio in 1818. Besides 142 fonts, it also included a collection of flowering ornamentals and geometric patterns.