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Born in 1882, Eric Gill was an artist, letter carver, polemicist, and social reformer. In 1925, he had started drawing alphabets and printing books, and in 1931, this plainspoken little book was a fustian and forceful argument for common sense in design, composed for anyone remotely interested in the subtle and evolving challenge of the typographic arts. Set rag right, wit Born in 1882, Eric Gill was an artist, letter carver, polemicist, and social reformer. In 1925, he had started drawing alphabets and printing books, and in 1931, this plainspoken little book was a fustian and forceful argument for common sense in design, composed for anyone remotely interested in the subtle and evolving challenge of the typographic arts. Set rag right, with tight word spacing, it is a model of composition. The text, like most of Gill's, is exasperating, exorbitant, and exciting. But Gill was, above all, a craftsman, whose work always reflected his philosophy and whose hand always followed his moral convictions.


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Born in 1882, Eric Gill was an artist, letter carver, polemicist, and social reformer. In 1925, he had started drawing alphabets and printing books, and in 1931, this plainspoken little book was a fustian and forceful argument for common sense in design, composed for anyone remotely interested in the subtle and evolving challenge of the typographic arts. Set rag right, wit Born in 1882, Eric Gill was an artist, letter carver, polemicist, and social reformer. In 1925, he had started drawing alphabets and printing books, and in 1931, this plainspoken little book was a fustian and forceful argument for common sense in design, composed for anyone remotely interested in the subtle and evolving challenge of the typographic arts. Set rag right, with tight word spacing, it is a model of composition. The text, like most of Gill's, is exasperating, exorbitant, and exciting. But Gill was, above all, a craftsman, whose work always reflected his philosophy and whose hand always followed his moral convictions.

30 review for Essay on Typography

  1. 4 out of 5

    Leonard Houx

    If you, like me, expected this little book to provide an extended meditation on typography, you'd be disappointed. Rather, 3/4ths of Eric Gill's On Typography comprises an empty, monotonous homily on the relationship between industry and craft. I patiently waited for Gill to say something interesting, at least, about the relationship between industry and craft or, perhaps, meaningfully connect the topic into his discussion about typography, but no. In the smaller part where Gill does discuss typog If you, like me, expected this little book to provide an extended meditation on typography, you'd be disappointed. Rather, 3/4ths of Eric Gill's On Typography comprises an empty, monotonous homily on the relationship between industry and craft. I patiently waited for Gill to say something interesting, at least, about the relationship between industry and craft or, perhaps, meaningfully connect the topic into his discussion about typography, but no. In the smaller part where Gill does discuss typography, there were some interesting tidbits, like when Gill describes the relationship between majuscule and minuscule letters (many Roman miniscules are stolen from majuscules) and I enjoyed his pitch for a shorthand type in the end. But this short book's tiny glimmers of non-tiresomeness are not enough to recommend it.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Mind the Book

    Någonsin satt något i Gill Sans? Eric Gill. Från Brighton. Först oväntat politisk ton, som en nutida Maker Movement-Chomsky! I kommande kapitel tänker jag på Rilkes ord "I am learning to see." Till slut talar Herr Gill om det jag trodde att hela manifestet handlade om, typsnitt: "There are now about as many different varieties of letters as there are different kind of fools. I myself am responsible for designing five different sorts of sans-serif letters - each one thicker and fatter than the las Någonsin satt något i Gill Sans? Eric Gill. Från Brighton. Först oväntat politisk ton, som en nutida Maker Movement-Chomsky! I kommande kapitel tänker jag på Rilkes ord "I am learning to see." Till slut talar Herr Gill om det jag trodde att hela manifestet handlade om, typsnitt: "There are now about as many different varieties of letters as there are different kind of fools. I myself am responsible for designing five different sorts of sans-serif letters - each one thicker and fatter than the last because every advertisement has to try and shout down its neighbours."

  3. 5 out of 5

    M. Azhaari Shah Sulaiman

    a brief history of typography from ancient times to current days. The author did mention about the lost of art in typography and strokes because of mass production which I beg to differ.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Andrew

    An interesting little time capsule revealing the tension between industrialisation and the 'humane' (as Gill calls it) of the 1930s. Gill, being of the arts and crafts movement, lands on the side of the humane, but still allows for mechanical forms (he was the designer of Gill Sans, afterall). Some of these thoughts are still relevant to us of course, and his philosophical asides and general comments are fascinating. The typesetting of the book (set in Gill's own Joanna type) is a design artifac An interesting little time capsule revealing the tension between industrialisation and the 'humane' (as Gill calls it) of the 1930s. Gill, being of the arts and crafts movement, lands on the side of the humane, but still allows for mechanical forms (he was the designer of Gill Sans, afterall). Some of these thoughts are still relevant to us of course, and his philosophical asides and general comments are fascinating. The typesetting of the book (set in Gill's own Joanna type) is a design artifact in itself. The 'essay' goes here there and everywhere, loosely tied together by the subject of type and lettering. Then, at the end, Gill - one of the most famous names in typography - goes on a rant against Roman type, out of the blue, and out of left field, strongly suggesting that we should abandon our current alphabet and writing system in favour of shorthand... It's almost as if in this last movement of the book, the modernist in him bursts out in this arch-modernist gesture. But if the biography of the man is anything to go by, he always was a ball of conflicts and tensions erupting in various directions. A sudden outburst in favour of modernism is the least of it.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Emily

    not quite the typographical romp i was guessing at when i decided to read it. this book was a real object of desire from the moment i saw a poster of a quote from it: IF YOU LOOK AFTER GOODNESS AND TRUTH BEAUTY WILL TAKE CARE OF ITSELF. but gill is petty, odd, a little paranoid (or maybe just realistic) about the advent of machine-generated printing, and above all exacting. most fascinating in the perspective it gives (from the 1930s forward) on the changing ways we spend our time, our changing not quite the typographical romp i was guessing at when i decided to read it. this book was a real object of desire from the moment i saw a poster of a quote from it: IF YOU LOOK AFTER GOODNESS AND TRUTH BEAUTY WILL TAKE CARE OF ITSELF. but gill is petty, odd, a little paranoid (or maybe just realistic) about the advent of machine-generated printing, and above all exacting. most fascinating in the perspective it gives (from the 1930s forward) on the changing ways we spend our time, our changing relationship with the act of creation, and what technology gives us and costs us. totally random chapter at the end about dispensing with letter-type completely in favour of an official shorthand. manifestos are always a little funny and heartbreaking after eighty+ years.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Bram van der Heijde

    For a book on typography, I found this essay surprisingly badly typeset... interesting read, but I thought it was not really to the point.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Chris Powers

    Gill Sans is the official font at my workplace, and I am the person responsible for enforcing its use by all the staff. It’s a beautiful modernist font which I love seeing, second only in my heart to Futura, the story of which is fascinating! It is with that then that after months of passing by this essay in Waterstones I finally succumbed and bought it. I’ve still yet to read about the controversies of Eric Gill’s life, but one thing is clear from this essay and that is how catty and disdainful Gill Sans is the official font at my workplace, and I am the person responsible for enforcing its use by all the staff. It’s a beautiful modernist font which I love seeing, second only in my heart to Futura, the story of which is fascinating! It is with that then that after months of passing by this essay in Waterstones I finally succumbed and bought it. I’ve still yet to read about the controversies of Eric Gill’s life, but one thing is clear from this essay and that is how catty and disdainful he can be - to the point that you can laugh out loud reading it. His essay has already made me look at the world in a different way, seeing and perceiving writing with more understanding than before. In the church in Saffron Walden, I marvelled at a recently carved C and its rendering in Times New Roman, while criticising the medieval writer font used on a stained glass window which was barely legible. Gill has given me the insight and some of the vocabulary to be able to judge writing on its style and form, not just its content. There are some beautiful quotes on beauty, and on story telling which will stick with me. And the essay ends with a provocative suggestion regarding the future of lettering and the use of shorthand, which I seem to find myself broadly in agreement with! I recommend the read. It doesn’t take long, there’s a laugh to be had here and there, and guaranteed you’ll look at the world around you a little differently afterwards.

  8. 5 out of 5

    JoAnna

    Three-line review: Written in 1931, this extended essay explains and defends the nuances of typography in the face of industrialization. I most enjoyed the sections discussing what constitutes a letter and how letters come to be symbols that eventually become words with meaning. Unfortunately, despite my interest in the topic, I found most of the piece to be fairly boring.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Ray LaManna

    If you are ever interested in how letters and laid out on a page and the history of printmaking, this classic essay is the book for you. It is very easy to read with many good illustrations from a master printer. A bit dated in spots since it was written in 1931... but still enlightening.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Fred Collman

    The more the human race is degraded by industrialism, the larger is the market for inferior articles; in order to reach a larger and still larger number of buyers you produce a lower and still lower quality of goods.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Danièle

    It was ok. Here was me thinking I'd get a lot of fun stuff about fonts (hey, it's how I roll), but there wasn't enough. The sections on lettering and typography were great, but outside of that it was all just a little dry. It was ok. Here was me thinking I'd get a lot of fun stuff about fonts (hey, it's how I roll), but there wasn't enough. The sections on lettering and typography were great, but outside of that it was all just a little dry.

  12. 5 out of 5

    JASON LEMPIERI

    There’s a lot of ranting and not much on the state of actual typography. Although, it does cover the art form from all angles-historically, the letters, the paper, the printers, Etc. Gill was an odd character-see Just my Type for more on that.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Jono

    Some super thought provoking and entertaining stuff and some dry repetition. But definitely worth it for half of the chapters and the final one. I learned some things.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Akshat

    Monotonous! Probably you can skip.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Ryan

    Fascinating, humorous, curmudgeonly, and surprisingly insightful and wide-ranging. An intriguing little meditation on art, human creativity, and industrialism.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Joseph Pearce

    Interesting, short but thought provoking read. Probably important to keep in mind the time it was written.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Alana

    What can I say I have never read something more boring hahaha

  18. 4 out of 5

    Krollo

    First section is interesting, but the actual technicalities are unsurprisingly a little more dull. (Read off a phone-screen by a lake in Southern France, at the height of the dog days.)

  19. 5 out of 5

    Saprila

    I’t just wow. I was so captivated with every chapter, with every first sentences starts, it’s already blew my mind.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Kate McGhee

    Baffling and pedantic ravings.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Andrey Tovchigrechko

    Outstanding book discussing the changes in human psychology with the rise of industrialism.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Chloe Snyder

    Exceptional.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Morgan

    This is a must-read for anyone who likes to nerd out about fonts/typography. While the author has some kooky ideas, he clearly is a master of his craft and provides food for thought. He won me over with his thoughts on justified type.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Eman Sultan

    This essay book is so insightful and interesting. In my opinion, it's a Must read for graphic design students and who are interested in typography. Check out my book notes here: https://emansultan.com/deareman/2021/... This essay book is so insightful and interesting. In my opinion, it's a Must read for graphic design students and who are interested in typography. Check out my book notes here: https://emansultan.com/deareman/2021/...

  25. 4 out of 5

    Pinar Emirdag

    This book is about much more than typography - first published in 1931.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Pete

    Gill comes off as a scold and sort of an uptight dick who doesn't understand how "industry" is a necessity for people to have the things they need, but he also is extremely thoughtful on why lettering is a vital art form. His thinking is way outdated British aristocrat hogwash but the dude knew from fonts. He has an intermittently great prose style. First line of first chapter: "Time & place must be taken into consideration in the discussion of any human affair, and this is particularly true in Gill comes off as a scold and sort of an uptight dick who doesn't understand how "industry" is a necessity for people to have the things they need, but he also is extremely thoughtful on why lettering is a vital art form. His thinking is way outdated British aristocrat hogwash but the dude knew from fonts. He has an intermittently great prose style. First line of first chapter: "Time & place must be taken into consideration in the discussion of any human affair, and this is particularly true in an abnormal time like the 20th century." I'm totally swiping that for a lede someday.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Andrea Engle

    A beautifully crafted book by the immensely talented Eric Gill ... explores the creation of the book, both machine-made and hand-made ... gives insights into the art of lettering, shaped by Gill's socialism and Catholicism ... including this marvelous observation: "The common problem, yours, mine, everyone's Is -- not to fancy what were fair in life Provided it could be -- but, finding first What may be, then find out how to make it fair. & the word fair can be taken in both senses -- it means A beautifully crafted book by the immensely talented Eric Gill ... explores the creation of the book, both machine-made and hand-made ... gives insights into the art of lettering, shaped by Gill's socialism and Catholicism ... including this marvelous observation: "The common problem, yours, mine, everyone's Is -- not to fancy what were fair in life Provided it could be -- but, finding first What may be, then find out how to make it fair. & the word fair can be taken in both senses -- it means both beautiful and just."

  28. 5 out of 5

    Matěj Málek

    Not to be taken too seriously or blindly accepted as undisputable truth. Eric Gill (as I see it) tries to provoke reader into critical thinking by raising some rather radical and almost absurd points. The whole thing reminds me of Ornament and Crime by Adolf Loos – same thoughts, same radical views. And many of those thoughts are somehow still relevant.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Bryant Hodson

    Much of this book was more about morality than typography. This is Eric Gill's view of the printing and design industries as he saw them in his time. It was interesting how relevant his thoughts on proper use of type and minding the reader experience are today. Much of this book was more about morality than typography. This is Eric Gill's view of the printing and design industries as he saw them in his time. It was interesting how relevant his thoughts on proper use of type and minding the reader experience are today.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Zane Riley

    Half the book is about the merits and downfalls of industrialism. The other half is some interesting history on letterforms and how they've come to be. The book is dated language-wise, but a short read nonetheless. Half the book is about the merits and downfalls of industrialism. The other half is some interesting history on letterforms and how they've come to be. The book is dated language-wise, but a short read nonetheless.

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