LETTERING: The work of Eric Gill, Edward Johnston and Douglas/Hilary Pepler

LETTERING: The work of Eric Gill, Edward Johnston and Douglas/Hilary Pepler.

I am a great admirer of the Stone Letter Carving work of Eric Gill, the acknowledged Master of that craft. Gill was also a Sculptor, Sign Printer, Stonecutter, Printmaker and Type Designer.

Perhaps, what is less well known is that Gill, in the early 1900s, set up a community of craftsmen with Edward Johnston and Douglas Pepler in the village of Ditchling, Sussex, England where they began to practice the Arts of Sculpture, Calligraphy, Lettering and Printing.

Eric Gill Fonts

Eric Gill, maybe the most celebrated of the three, became known for his famous typefaces such as Perpetua, Joanna and Gill Sans. His most widely used type, Gill Sans, was strongly influenced by his teacher of Lettering, Edward Johnston.


Gill sans and Joanna perpetua

Gill sans and Joanna perpetua


Edward Johnston, a Scot, who began life training to be a doctor at Edinburgh University was a major influence in Eric Gill’s work. Two years into the medical course, Johnston began to have doubts about his chosen path and decided that Art might be a more suitable career for him.

It was at this point, he met W R Lethaby, the Principal of the new Central School of Art and Crafts in London. Lethaby had been a friend of William Morris and was now training a new generation of craftsmen practising Morris’ ideals. This link would shape Johnston’s work as well as the whole course of the British tradition in Calligraphy, Lettering and Fine Print for much of the first half of the twentieth century.

Edward Johnston Fonts

Edward Johnston lived and worked for thirty-five years in Ditchling and designed for type, creating an italic and black letter face for Count Kessler and he would eventually become the world famous Designer for the London Underground typeface with its bullseye logo which became known as Johnston sans.


Johnston sans

Johnston sans


I have just returned from a visit to Sussex, England where I went to see The Eric Gill Museum at Ditchling. I have connections in Sussex as I was born in Eastbourne and my grandfather was the vicar in the nearby villages of Fletching and Battle. My mother-in-law was also a friend of Susan Falkner, the daughter of Douglas/Hilary Pepler, who set up the community of craftspeople in Ditchling known as The Guild which Eric Gill later joined.

Douglas who later became known as Hilary was leading a comfortable life as a civil servant in London when he met Edward Johnston and Eric Gill. Between them, they decided to start The Hampshire House Workshop in Hammersmith in 1914.  At the time, there were many Belgian refugees, and some were skilled craftsmen who were given tools and premises so they could continue to earn their livings. It was at this point, Pepler decided to start a publishing and printing business known as The St.Dominic’s Press which produced beautiful books printed on handmade paper. The Press later relocated to Ditchling where the now famous community of craftspeople was set up.

Today, I am also teaching the Art of Stone Letter Carving at The Edinburgh Sculpture Workshop. This ancient craft has continued throughout the centuries and is still popular today. If you are interested about learning more about this skill, why not join me on my next Introductory Course in Stone Letter Carving at The Edinburgh Sculpture Workshop on Saturday 3rd and 10th December 2016. The course price is £170 with Stone and Tools included. Courses are held throughout the year for the absolute beginner to the more advanced. For further details, please contact me at or visit me at my studio at The Edinburgh Sculpture Workshop, 21 Hawthornvale, Edinburgh EH6 4JT