About me

Short history of myself

Through this blog I share my enthusiasm and passion for anything to do with letters, alphabets, typography, calligraphy, graffiti and so on. Since January 2021, however, I have put type aside to type fictionally and to share drawings created on my iPad using Paper by WeTransfer.

I’ve lived in Australia since 2004, though am a Londoner by birth and upbringing; studied archaeology and anthropology at Cambridge; had careers as a journalist, stone mason and social worker (in which I am currently employed); and been obsessed with lettering and typography since I was about 11.

I started printing with a table-top Adana as a teenager, before moving to larger machinery, including a Monotype keyboard and caster and Western proofing press, with which I published several limited edition books. Information about these can be found on the blog by searching for the Beeches Press.

Discovering the type designs of Eric Gill led me to find out more about his life, which culminated in printing a special edition of one of his essays to commemorate the fiftieth anniversary of his death in 1990. (I now abhor Gill the man and direct you to the posts on this for the reason – search by his name.)

I studied informally with Richard Kindersley, son of David Kindersley who was a pupil of Gill, and John Skelton, Gill’s nephew. I also took calligraphy lessons but soon decided I was more comfortable with a chisel in my hand than a nib.

I turned to letter carving and design in the early 1990s, and also began to experiment with sculptural pieces that included a textual element. I ran incisiveart.com for many years in the UK and was commissioned by architects, local authorities and individuals.

Now in my seventh decade, I’m exploring digital art and, in particular, the use of Paper software on my iPad using Apple Pencil. Recently I added Paperlike to the screen of my device.

updated December 2021

20 replies on “About me”

I was surfing and found your site by accident. I teach adults with asd (autism) and year or two back I had a young man who wanted to ‘do’ lettering and sign board making. He had a natural talent and his freehand rendering in a sketch book of the famous inscription on Trajan’s column in the V&A was very encouraging. But do you know I could not for the life of me find a course for him? Art schools apparently no longer run them and all I could find were courses on calligraphy which are of course not the same thing. I eventually found a place where he could at least learn something but it wasn’t a great success for various reasons. I’ll post your site off to my old lettering teacher now retired and living in Suffolk, as soon as I hear she’s on line. Very interesting posts, I could sit up all night and read them, well done. *****

Just wanted to say Hi and say how much I liked what I have seen on your website and wished I had time to read more. Eric Gill was my grandmother’s brother (she was Angela, his youngest sister – and yes, he did have sex with her) and I have always had an interest in Gill. I am currently writing an assignment for a part-time MA I am doing in “Biography Writing” at UEA’s Creative Writing Department on Gill Sans and its development and uses. I read the piece on John Skelton, my uncle who was very close to my father (his elder brother Kenneth) and knew him well and of course am still in touch with his wife, Myrtle, and his children, Helen-Mary (who still does lettering in John’s old studio) and Jonathan. His youngest child, Rebecca, sadly died at only 32 (not 100% sure of that age, but it is about right).

Maybe when I have finished my assignment I will have more time to erad your site.

Hi Stephen – so pleased you have made contact. I knew John a little and did a course at his house. I’d be very interested in hearing more about your memories etc. Good luck with the course – be keen to read it when it’s finished. Kind regards John

Dear John,

I think I mentioned that I will be studying at the John Stevens Shop in Newport, Rhode Island, for six weeks this spring. Well, I’ve decided to blog about it. Here’s the link for your amusement:


Thanks for having a look and for all the good work on yours.



I am a letter cutter in Oxfordshire and I share your enthusiasm for typography and beautiful lettering in stone. I grew up on the floor of the Whittington Press where my mother works as a wood engraver. Please share an excellent article which has been recently featured on I Love Typography This is the link: http://ilovetypography.com/2012/03/09/letters-stone-interview-fergus-wessel/

You might also find my website interesting and I should be very pleased if you include a link to my website in your blogroll


Looking forward to seeing more of your interesting entries.

Best wishes

Fergus Wessel

Hi John,
Very interesting site, I came across it by accident, a happy accident. I am in the process of restoring a Monotype Composition Caster and would welcome contact with you about these machines and their operation. I am in South Australia, just south of Adelaide where I am setting up a letterpress studio and type foundry (I also have an Intertype and a couple of Elrods.
All the best.

Macdonald Gill was the YOUNGER brother of Eric Gill. Macdonald was responsible for the lettering on Sir Edwin Lutyens’s great Thiepval Memorial to the Missing of the Somme inaugurated in 1932. The V & A museum has a clock dated 1930 with engraving by Macdonald.

Sorry, Can’t seem to find your name anywhere and I can’t decipher the two words on the email bit. I have been interested in lettering since childhood and more recently have made an adaptation of a mediaeval manuscript . I ‘designed’a font using my lettering based on the foundational hand. I am fascinated by the TrajanColumn inscription and wondered where I could acquire a plaster cast of just one of the letters – S if possible. Any ideas ?
Karl Donnelly

Thanks for the mail Karl. Not sure where you can get a plaster cast from but you should have a look at this book:
The Origin of the Serif by Edward Catich, ISBN 0-9629740-2-1

Good luck.

John Pitt

Harry was a big influence in my life, both typographic (concrete poetry) and general. So nice to hear from you and trust you are well. Kind regards.

Hi John
You wanted to know more about Max Gill. I’m sure you’ve already found it, but if not, have a look at macdonaldgill.com – the website I run – you can sign up for newsletters if you want. I’ve also co-curated several Max Gill exhibitions – the first was at the Uni of Brighton – they have a digital resource on this (google will find it) plus a conservation blog mentioning the work on various of the exhibits. My link with Max and Eric is through my grandfather Evan Gill, who was their brother. Would be great to bring an exhibition to Australia!
Max was a very talented and skilled artist – quite the opposite of ‘ordinary’, as Fiona MacCarthy puts it. He simply followed a different artistic path to Eric, and had a rather more modest private life!
Enjoyed your blog. Lettering is endlessly fascinating.
All the best.
Caroline Walker

Hi John,

i am interested in learning stone letter carving. Ian Marr passed your name onto me. I live in central Queensland between Rockhampton and the coast and wondering if you run any workshops on lettering and stone letter carving. Through my research i have been admiring the work of Fergus Wessel, the Kindersleys and Teucer Wilson. Sandstone is quarried nearby here at Stanwell. My arts practice has included painting, drawing and lithography (with Fred Genis) and when i studied sculpture with Tom Bass i felt i found my love. Whilst with Tom I completed a number of religious figurative commissions as well as a crest ( these were modelled in clay and cast). I have an interest in carving, mainly working with hebel stone to this point, but want to venture into real stone.

Kind regards
Donna Littlejohn

Hi Donna – thanks for the message. While I don’t formally do workshops I am more than happy to offer advice and do one-on-one or even Skype to start with given the issue with distance etc. Why don’t you email me at johnpitt01@gmail.com and we can try and work something out.

Dear John,
we are working on an exhibition about German Design that opens in October in Doha, Quatar.
During our research we came across the beautiful picture displaying the “R” by Hermann Zapf on your page: Hermann Zapf and Antiqua (https://stoneletters.wordpress.com/2011/05/08/hermann-zapf-and-antiqua/) from 2011.
We would love to feature the picture in our exhibition but can’t seem to find any copyrights or sources for it.
Please let me know if you have any information that might help us.
Kind regards,

Like others, I came across your site by accident but just wanted to say what you write insightful and thoroughly readable articles.
After nearly 60 years in graphic design I still have that interest (if not passion) for typography. When I began my career, I worked just off Fleet Street in London and spent many a lunch hour at the Monotype ‘showroom’ off Fetter Lane. I remember being able to recognise most typefaces (all hot metal in those days) and purchasing the sample sheets for specifying typographic layouts. Nowadays of course there are tens of thousands of fonts.
I doubt whether we will see another transformation on the scale we witnessed during the switch from hot metal to photosetting and computers again.
The sad thing is that many students and designers have no idea of the derivation of point size, what an em, en, or leading is, the fifference between a didot and a point, or where the term ‘upper’ and ‘lower’ case came from.
So, “what does it matter?” I hear people say.
In my opinion, my grounding gave me a real understanding and appreciation of letter forms and what typography was (and still is) all about – to make a reader’s experience far better than if I had not touched the page.

Thank you for your kind comment Peter. I am thinking of compiling some of the ‘best’ pieces into a short, printed monograph. Would that interest you? And if so what pieces would you like to see reprinted? With thanks John

I live in Dorrigo, where the Gazette is currently in (possibly terminal) financial difficulties. I tried to follow the link on your website to a US letterpress newspaper, but it is no longer active. Do you know of any other letterpress newspapers still operating? Or is Dorrigoś the last in the developed world?

Thanks for the mail Bob. Try this link [I will update my page] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DNa9XRoNRUM
Sorry to hear about the Gazette – I used to be a subscriber for a few years but let it slip. Are the same couple running it? Perhaps we could do a fund-me campaign as it probably is one of the last, if not last, in the world. Please keep in touch and give them my very best and warmest wishes. John

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