Eric Gill, born Arthur Eric Rowton Gill, on February 22nd, 1882 in Brighton, England grew up to be a sculptor, engraver, stone-carver and type-designer. Gill’s first formal training in the art of letterforms was in 1902, at the Central School of Arts and Crafts in London by type-designer and calligrapher Edward Johnston (designer of Johnston Sans for the London Underground).
Gill is very well known for his work as a type-designer, and throughout his career he produced a number of different types such as Perpetua, Gill Sans, and Joanna. After completion of a number of his types he wrote “An Essay on Typography” (which touches on an even wider spectrum of topics than just typography), which is still being reprinted today. In 1940, Gill died in Uxbridge, and his gravestone lists him as a “stone-carver”. Today many of Gill’s typefaces are available in digital form from a number of different foundries.
The first typeface he designed for the Monotype Corporation. The typeface was developed based on some of the classic proportions and characteristics of the Trajan column. The miniscule letters of the face were designed to be in complete unison with the majuscule Trajan influenced forms. During the design process, Gill worked closely with Stanley Morison (Designer of Times New Roman) of Monotype Corporation. In 1929 a Greek version of Perpetua was designed.
Gill Sans (1928 – 1930)
Probably Gill’s most well known typeface, and one of the most successful sans-serifs. The typeface was inspired by Edward Johnston’s sans serif for the London Underground. Today Gill Sans in digital form is packaged with the Macintosh operating system.
Solus was designed again for the Monotype Corporation and was another typeface somewhat similar to Perpetua. Many traits of this type are very much Egyptian inspired, particularly in the slab-like serifs, although they are far more subtle.
Another serif that Gill designed; it has been noted that it is one of Gill’s lesser known faces despite its beauty. Joanna is said to be named after his daughter. The forms of the type are similar to Perpetua; however its stroke weight is much more monotone, the serifs are slab-like, and the ascenders scale up noticeably past the cap height.
Golden Cockerel (1930)
This typeface was designed for Robert Gibbings, who ran a print-house called Golden Cockerel Press. This was not a publicly released typeface; it was Gill’s only production of a type exclusive for private press use. The typeface made its first appearance in A.E. Coppard’s The Hundredth Story.
Gill designed this type specifically for the Stourton Press; however a year later the type was cut by the Caslon Letter Foundry. The typeface has many resemblances to Times New Roman. There is a likely possibility that Stanley Morison was influenced and studies the forms of Aries when designing Times New Roman which also appeared in 1932.
This type was produced by Gill at the same time as he worked on Bunyan. The typeface is quite different than his others and is very calligraphic. Originally the typeface was called Cunard and in its first specimens it said that it was based on the calligraphy of Italian scribes in the 15th Century.
The type was very much similar to Gill’s other type designs and made its first appearance in a new edition of Laurence Sterne’s A Sentimental Journey. The typeface was released by Monotype, and later Linotype produced a version based of Bunyan which also included an italic (not designed by Gill) after his death.
Brewer, Roy. Eric Gill: The Man Who Loved Letters. London, England: Cox & Wyman Ltd., 1973.
“Eric Gill.” Wikipedia. 6 May 2005 - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eric_Gill.
Gill, Eric. An Essay on Typography. Jaffery, New Hampshire: David R. Godine Publisher Inc., 1988. Reprint of the 1931 original.