Eric Gill, stone carver, wood engraver, essayist and typographer,
was born in Brighton, England, on February 22, 1882. His father
was a curate and his mother a singer. Early in life, he displayed
a talent for drawing and a keen eye for proportion, inspiring his
family to enroll him in an art school in Chichester.
In 1900, his father apprenticed him to the architect of the Ecclesiastical
Commissioners. Shortly thereafter, he began to study lettering in
evening classes with Edward Johnston. After three years, he abandoned
architecture to start his own business in letter cutting and stone
carving. In 1907, he joined an artists community in Ditchling,
Sussex, where he had his first experiences with printing and typography.
He entered the Roman Catholic church in 1913, for which he retained
a great, if somewhat unorthodox, zeal throughout his life.
In 1925, Stanley Morison approached Gill with the idea of creating
a new typeface for the Monotype Corporation as the expression of
a contemporary artist. He began work on what would become known
as Perpetua, and not long after that a sans-serif, to be called
Gill Sans. Their release three years later caused some controversy,
but they became an immediate success with the public. Gill Sans
has in fact become the leading British sans-serif, sometimes being
described as the national typeface of England.
Although he never considered himself to be primarily a typographer,
over the course of his life he designed eleven typefaces of exceptional
beauty and subtlety, and wrote a lengthy and influential Essay
on Typography. He died of lung cancer on November 17, 1940.