TYPE DESIGN INFORMATION PAGE last updated on Fri May 20 20:14:41 EDT 2022






Eric Gill signs and lettering model for WH Smith, 1903-1907

One of the first examples of a corporate type was Eric Gill's typeface designed for the signs of W.H. Smith in 1903-1907. Stephen Coles reports about this typeface and quotes excerpts from Eric Gill: A Lover's Quest for Art and God (Fiona MacCarthy, 1989 US edition, E. P. Dutton): At the end of I903 Gill, the inveterate hater of garlic, was in Paris. He was there to paint the letters W. H. SMITH & SON on the fascia of Smith's Paris bookshop. He was also commissioned to paint lettering in the English tea-room which formed part of the Smith's complex, an outpost of old England in the rue de Rivoli. This was the first of a number of fascias hand-lettered by Gill for W. H. Smith at the instigation of St John Hornby, a director of Smith's, a great Arts and Crafts patron and connoisseur of lettering. His own private press, the Ashendene, is one of the most famous of its period. His choice of Eric Gill to paint Smith's signs was an inspired one; whilst other letterers might have treated them elaborately Gill's approach was absolutely clear and workmanlike. Although Gill himself only continued the hand-lettering till 1905 when, on grounds of cost, it was delegated to Smith's own sign-writers, Gill had established a style which was adhered to by W. H. Smith for many years to come. It was, as the design historians would later comment, one of the very first examples of corporate identity.

Revivals or derived typefaces include Gill Facia (1996, Monotype) and Dear Sir Madam (2011, Radim Pesko).

Eric Gill signs and lettering model for WH Smith, 1903-1907
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Eric Gill and his typefaces ⦿

file name: Eric Gill Alphabet For W H Smith Sons 1925

file name: Radim Pesko Dear Sir Madam

file name: Colin Banks Gill Facia Monotype after Eric Gill

file name: Colin Banks Gill Facia Regular Display Monotype after Eric Gill

Luc Devroye ⦿ School of Computer Science ⦿ McGill University Montreal, Canada H3A 2K6 ⦿ lucdevroye@gmail.com ⦿ http://luc.devroye.org ⦿ http://luc.devroye.org/fonts.html