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calligraphy Elements of Lettering

Civic and Memorial Lettering – c1946

Percy J Delf Smith is not a name I am familiar with. But the other day at my favourite second-hand bookshop (which has been resurrected in a new place, having had to vacate its last premises) I came across his Civic and Memorial Lettering, published in 1946. It’s a gem – pure gold.

Dear Percy ran a workshop called Dorno, though where it was I do not know. (At the end of his author’s note, he has Hampstead, 1945, as his address – but whether that’s where the studio was I’ve yet to research.)

The sub-title to the book’s cover is subtle – for this is a handbook that might be of interest to professionals and students…’and some others’. Who those ‘others’ might be I can’t hazard a guess.

The book is a sort of plea to those who are about to rebuild Britain after the six years of war – in the conclusion he writes: “There seems no reason why, in the future, all our country towns, large and small, should not support a lettering workshop, in touch with local authorities and with the nearest schools of design and art, supplying local needs in carving and painting, giving an interesting life to its workers and making a worthwhile contribution to local amenities.”

Pity that never happened. Below, some of his brush work.

By john pitt

2 replies on “Civic and Memorial Lettering – c1946”

London Transport’s iconic Johnston typeface had a serif variant-originally for use at LT’s headquarters in Broadway, but also adopted for signage in historic precincts. That variant was designed by Percy and known as Johnston Delf-Smith.

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