About this Collection
Eric Gill was born in 1882 in Brighton. He attended art school before the age of 18, when he went to London to work in an architect's office. The Arts & Crafts movement offered an exciting alternative to the "wage slavery" of the office and instead of studying architecture in the evenings, Gill learned the art of carving inscriptions in stone, attending masonry & lettering courses. By 1904 Gill was self-employed, carving lettering on public buildings as well as tombstones & memorial tablets for private clients. Gill dabbled in socialism, attended meetings of the Fabian Society, and spoke vociferously against the factory system. But he soon wearied of the discipline and obligations of political action, left London, & joined a community of craftsmen in Ditchling, Sussex. While at Ditchling, he and his wife converted to Catholicism and founded a reconstituted religious community linked with the Dominican order, the Guild of SS. Joseph and Dominic. Sculpture continued to occupy Gill during the Ditchling period (1907-1924) but he also mastered other skills and developed other sources of income. His lettering was in great demand not just for stone inscriptions but also for painted signs and printing. He also learned wood engraving and began to experiment with printmaking and book illustration, trying his hand at the hand-press and learning the first principles of typography and composition. In the 1920s, he found a new market for his wood engravings in the Golden Cockerel Press. Increasingly intrigued by typography, Gill not only catered to book collectors and bibliophiles but also to trade printers through the Monotype Corporation. In 1928, Gill brought his family closer to London, settling at Pigotts, near High Wycombe, Buckinghamshire. He designed & built a church, carved massive sculptures for the BBC headquarters, the London Underground & The League of Nations building in Geneva. He died on November 17, 1940 at the age of 58, leaving behind more than a thousand engravings; at least one hundred and fifty books with his illustrations; designs for eleven different typefaces; and countless sculptures and inscriptions on city buildings, Catholic churches, and public squares throughout England.