Eric Gill, Catholic pacifist, socialist and critic, punchcutter, sculptor, and wood engraver led a life of contradictions. His type designs for Monotype cut across his opposition to industrial manufacture; his religious views contradicted his life of sensual adventure. A student of Edward Johnston, he admitted to being “struck, as by lightning” as Johnston led his new friend into the world of scribes and illustrators within the Arts and Crafts Movement. He became a letterer and stonecutter.
Married in 1904, he moved in 1905 to Hammersmith, where he fell in with William Morris, Emery Walker, Edward Johnston, Cobden Sanderson and the Arts and Crafts Movement. In 1913 the couple were converted to Catholicism, and Gill began work on the Stations of the Cross in Westminster Cathedral, sculptures with magnificent lettering.
In 1925 Stanley Morison at the Monotype Corporation commissioned the drawings for Gill’s first typeface, Perpetua. He believed that Gill’s work with stone inscriptions prepared him for steel punches. These were hand cut by Charles Malin from Deberny & Peignot. During this period Edward Johnston and Eric Gill worked on sans serifs from a common source. Gill distinguished the results by pointing out that Gill Sans was designed purely for text, while Johnston’s face was display.
In 1930 Gill designed Joanna for Hague & Gill, a remarkable face returning to Renaissance principles. The roman and italic share a set of upright capitals, following the sixteenth century model of Aldus, the first printer to use italic. In 1958 Monotype released a less radical model. Gill went on to design ten series.