Categories
lettering

More Gascoigne, for the weekend

A visit to the local regional art gallery and a new Gascoigne on show – new that is to me. (Those who missed my earlier post please take a moment to read it here.) The first is called Vintage 1990 (retro-reflective road signs on plywood).

 

She wrote: ‘I don’t want to put it in words or spell it out as a literal picture, but rather, capture it in feelings’.

Plus another sculptural work, iron sheeting, titled Inland Sea (?1986), which I think rather beautiful.

 

Categories
lettering, typography, alphabets, stonework

Bookplates: ‘An opportunity for Pen(sic)men’

With the rapid increase in ebooks, whither the bookplate? Twenty years ago, maybe less, it was still possible to stick in a favourite book a ‘plate’, or a remembrance, of purchase. This might be nothing more than one’s name written with a 2B pencil, or an actual ‘sticker’. This helped when books were borrowed or lent – a sort of simple tracking system Going back  in time owners of great (and sometimes not so great) libraries had a plate printed – much in the manner of that shown below. The bookplate was an enduring legacy of ownership. And what of the penman? Will Carter was one (as was Reynolds Stone). Will was, however, critical of the fine penmanship that was able to inscribe with a quill pen on vellum. ‘…we are in fact neglecting a wonderful opportunity of enlivening our printed matter with a letter form which is  the natural development of the incised roman capital…’ he wrote in an article published in the 1954 edition of The Penrose Annual. He concludes: ‘The penman of today has lagged behind the times, steeped in too much medieval clutter…Calligraphy must not be allowed to decline…let us get busy and sharpen it alright so that it can serve us well, for it is a good tool’. Going back to the bookplate, it makes me ask: ‘Why not have bookplates in ebooks?’

Illustration from Lettering of Today, 1937 and Rampant Lions Press.

Categories
lettering, typography, alphabets, stonework

Will Carter: typographer, designer and letter carver

He was all of the above, and letterpress printer and wood engraver as well. Will Carter (1921-2001) was part of that great flowering of artist-craftsmen in the UK post-WW2. He designed Monotype Klang and collaborated with another 20th century master of the chisel, David Kindersley, in Octavian.

These illustrations are from Carter’s Caps (1982). He writes: ‘The wood used is what is sold in DIY stores for shelving and consists of mahogany veneer on a chip board base.’  Of the R he writes: ‘A more obvious nod towards Trajan, with its strong tail coming out of the bowl. The placing of this, like the proportion of the bowl itself, can make or mar the letter, which, at its best, can be most satisfying of all…’ Of the B: ‘Gill used to liken the lower bowl of a young gill’s buttock – the way it hangs gently’. [Enough said.]

Categories
calligraphy lettering typography

A long overdue note on Michael Harvey

Prompted by the chance spot of a news item announcing the publication of his latest book – Adventures with Letters. For those who do not know Michael’s work please check this link. MH has been working in lettering/calligraphy for more than 60 years, being taught the art of letter cutting by Joseph Cribb, one of Gill’s assistants. He is a renowned and distinguished typographer as well. His earlier books, including Carving Letters in Stone and Wood (Bodley Head, 1987) and Creative Lettering Drawing and Design (Bodley Head, 1985), were among those volumes that influenced me when I was starting out. I’d recommend them to anyone wanting to know more about either discipline.

The link to his new book can be found here.

 

Categories
Typographic ephemera

Something anonymous for this August weekend

Taken from The Art of Lettering by Albert Kapr (1983), K.G.Saur, Munchen – English translation from the original first published 1971. The design is attributed to a US graphic artist. The date on the man’s helmet is June 23, 1967. Anyone have a clue what this poster is about?

Categories
Thoughts on lettering

Will Lethaby, the Central School of Arts and Crafts (London), Ed Johnston and Germany

 

‘No good form is ever made by consciously designing it.’ So said William Lethaby (1857-1931). By which he meant that things should be designed by the craftsman who made them. This man, who founded London’s Central School (1896) and was a mate of William Morris among many others, was also one of the first, what we would call, holistic environmentalists. ‘Right building is a part of nature. A proper house and church, before man turned round as the enemy of the rest of nature, were but bigger chambers in another kind of honeycomb…The care of the Earth is the greatest of all the arts…Is this to be a world of wrecked machines, crashed aeroplanes and stranded warships, rusty iron everywhere?’

Lethaby had a major influence on Johnston, who he met in April 1898. No wonder the latter (then 26) found such inspiration in a man who thought handwriting ‘the most universal of the arts’ and wrote: ‘We might reform the world if we began with our own handwriting…the form of a letter cannot be properly “drawn” or “designed”; it must be written’.

Significantly it wasn’t Britain that benefited from this philosophy. Rather it was Germany. By the end of the nineteenth century students from that country were coming to Central to learn calligraphy, as well as investigating architecture and design. The Germans took up Lethaby’s ideas and ran with it, leading to the creation of the Deutsche Werkbund in 1907. By contrast the British printing industry turned away.

References:

Rubens, G. 1976. WR Lethaby and the revival of printing in The Penrose Annual. London, Northwood Publications.

Johnston, P. n.d. Edward Johnston and WR Lethaby in Lessons in Formal Writing (1986). London. Lund Humphries.

Newdigate, B.H. 1922. Scribes and Illuminators in Book Production Notes (1986). Oxshott. Tabard Private Press.

 

Categories
eric gill History of Lettering Thoughts on lettering

On the other side of fame: a life more ordinary: MacDonald Gill, younger brother of Eric

This blog would not have been written (at least not yet) had I not had cause to pull a Ward Lock & Co guide to London from my bookshelf. It is the 42nd edition and while undated must be around the early 1920s. 

While looking for a reference (to Rodin’s The Burghers of Calais sculpture in Victoria Gardens), I came across a London Underground map tipped in. In the bottom left corner is the name MacDonald Gill (look closely at the image lower down – the lettering is all by hand). What, I thought, who is this, having forgotten all I once knew on the Gill clan.

MacDonald (also Max) was himself a letterer, craftsman and rather ‘ordinary’. This from Fiona MacCarthy’s biography (Faber and Faber, 1989, but quoting from the paperback edition of 1990, p255): ‘He too had a reputation as a letterer, had been a member of the War Graves Commission Committee and designed a standard headstone for the British Army dead of the First World War. He had specialised in decorative graphics…Compared with Eric he operated on the artistic middle ground. He was the sort of artist his father understood. Moreover, he was married (though not happily) to the daughter of a canon, whom he left eventually for the daughter of Edward Johnston. Eric’s father made it clear, from early days, that he would like it if Eric could be more ordinary, more like Max’.

And so a man’s life is written.

This picture of him is taken from that same book, dated 1930. (The extract is also the only decent mention of the man, and I have found nothing else in my collection of Gill, so far – I’d be pleased to hear from readers if they know more about Max.)

Separately, it is clear how revolutionary Pick’s map was when it was published in 1931.

PS – thanks to Michael Barker for alerting me to the fact Max was a younger brother of Eric – born 6 Oct 1884, to EG’s 22 Feb 1882. The index in McCarthy’s 1990 pbk edition is in error, but I should have taken more care.

Categories
alphabet

Alphabet de la Brodeuse: or embroidery

The illustrations shown here are taken from a small volume (14cm x 10cm)  entitled Alphabet de la Brodeuse, lettres, chaffers, mono grammes et ornaments a points competes which was published by Editions Th. de. Dillmont  of Mulhouse (France), not dated. In essence, it is an example of alphabets that can be used in needlework.

Categories
alphabet Elements of Lettering History of Lettering

Edward Johnston, London, handwriting and a bit more

Over the last year or so since this blog has been up and running I can find no mention of Edward Johnston. I don’t know how this can be, given how important he was to the growth of lettering in the early twentieth century and his continuing influence on designers. Let this post be a belated apology for the gap. It starts with this brochure for a book printed in 1994 by the London Transport Museum, called London’s Handwriting. I regret that I did not subscribe but expect the price of 295 pounds was a put off to a struggling hack with a young family and a huge mortgage back then. Google turns up a few references to the volume but I can’t find any for sale through the normal sources (ABE etc). If you hear of one please let me know, or snap it up as it appears to be a fine example of fine printing. 

For those who don’t know Edward Johnston visit the Foundation

http://www.ejf.org.uk/ejf.html

and there’s a fascinating overview here.

http://arts.brighton.ac.uk/__data/assets/pdf_file/0003/9975/Lettering—Final-Report–Appendix.pdf

As with many archives, a lot of his stuff is now in the US, at the University of Notre Dame, Indiana. As with Gill I’d urge any American readers who live nearby to go visit. For those in the UK a visit to Ditching is a must – just 9 miles north of Brighton. With spring in the air now’s the time…

Categories
calligraphy eric gill lettering Thoughts on lettering

Masterful and beautiful: David Jones

The lettering of David Jones has featured once before in this blog (see here), but is of such individuality and beauty it is a shame not to show more. Those who follow Gill (or like his stuff) will know that Jones was part of that ‘set’, being once engaged to one of Gill’s daughters. (He died a bachelor.)

The illustration shown here is from about 1948 (the text reads Glory to God in the highest and on earth peace to men of good will: Jones was Catholic), so dating from what Nicolete Gray in The Painted Inscriptions of David Jones [Gordon Fraser, London: 1981], describes as a period when his work started to take on a painterly style.

This piece (40.5cm by 33cm) is done in pencil, DEO in red, other letters in yellow crayon under the pencil. The background is black and yellow wax crayon on a green-gray watercolour wash. Gray notes that the open R in the first line is the first example of its use in Jones’s work.

On a personal note, David Jones is buried in Brockley cemetery, London SE4, very near where I lived, since Jones spent the last years of his life (he died in 1974) living nearby. I visited the site a few times and once assisted John Skelton when he was asked to ‘renovate’ the grave.