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st james park press

Eric Gill On the Birmingham School of Art 1940

On the Birmingham School

of Art, 1940

The Birmingham School of Art was the country’s first municipal college of art, started in 1885, which became the leading centre for the Arts and Crafts Movement. This edition contains a previously unpublished report on the School, written in 1940 by the preeminent typographer and craftsman of his time, Eric Gill, which was also the year of his passing.


Especially for this edition, a modern exponent of that same movement, John Randle of the Whittington Press, has written an Introduction briefly assessing the report.


Printed in January and February 2018 on an Albion Press.

Set in 12pt Joanna, cast at the Effra Press, and 18pt Golden Cockerel foundry type cast by Caslon, being faces that were both designed by Gill.

Printed on 175gsm Somerset Book paper from Somerset Mill via John Purcell Paper.


Bound by the Fine Book Bindery in bamboo boards and leather-back, recessed to ensure the leather backs sit flush with the boards. The boards are laser engraved on front and rear by Thomas Mayo, and the edition is accompanied by a printed NOTE regarding the binding.

Eric Gill and the Birmingham School of Art
Eric Gill and the Birmingham School of Art
Eric Gill and the Birmingham School of Art
Eric Gill and the Birmingham School of Art


The report by Gill was commissioned by the Chairman and members of the School of Art Committee, based on visits made to the School by Gill in January and June of 1940. Gill goes from assessing in detail the meaning and purpose of art and art as a trade, and the teaching of it within a college of Arts and Crafts, to analysing each of the Schools individually, providing his review of the standards and competencies generally encountered. This starts with the School of Printing and Book Illustration, to the Schools of Sculpture, Letter Cutting, Painting, Drawing and Etching, Engraving, Interior Decoration, Design, Metalwork, Weaving and more. It is a comprehensive review and critical analysis, amounting therefore to a contemporary historical account of the utmost importance.  

The text is set in Joanna, cast on a Monotype Caster. Joanna, named after Gill's youngest daughter, was designed by Eric Gill in 1930 and was engraved and cast for him by H. W. Caslon & Co. Ltd. from 1931 to 1936. It was used exclusively by Hague & Gill, the publishing house which Gill set up with his son-in-law, Rene Hague. The original casting was in 12pt, as used in this edition, as well as 8pt. In 1939, the Monotype Corporation produced composition matrices for J. M. Dent & Sons Ltd, which Hague & Gill had joined with in 1936. They modified the designs slightly, and in 1958 produced a full range of sizes.

Eric Gill and the Birmingham School of Art
Eric Gill and the Birmingham School of Art
Eric Gill and the Birmingham School of Art


All of the illustrative features of this edition have purpose, either related to Gill, or his work for the Birmingham School of Art and the Golden Cockerel Press.


The first is the laser-engraved front cover board, of an engraving by Eric Gill still unrecorded, much like the unpublished nature of the text. The engraving was taken from a unique pencil rubbing done by Gill on thin tissue paper, on which he also wrote and signed, ‘Incised & coloured on cover of “Red Wise” which Miss Bill had bound with wooden boards & leather back. EG’. As the separately printed NOTE which accompanies the edition states, Miss Elizabeth Bill was Gill’s secretary and mistress and the copy of Red Wise, published by the Golden Cockerel Press in 1926, on which Gill incised the illustration does not appear to have survived. Miss Bill died in 1935, so it would have been completed between those two dates. This edition is therefore the only opportunity to both read this text and also to possess this illustration.


A further laser-engraved rear board features Gill’s signature as depicted on the Birmingham School of Printing’s Sculpture on Machine-Made Buildings (1927), written by Gill.


Within the edition, a floriated initial designed by Gill is printed in green ink, from a wood-engraving prepared for the Golden Cockerel Press’s Four Gospels. This engraving is listed in The Engravings of Eric Gill (Christopher Skelton, 1983) as P807 Initial Letter B, Flourished, with Leaves, 1931.


A further illustrative flourish within the edition is the use of a metal ornament designed by Gill for the Golden Cockerel Type, being a flower, which is used in place of various blank pages within.

Eric Gill and the Birmingham School of Art
Eric Gill and the Birmingham School of Art
Eric Gill and the Birmingham School of Art
Eric Gill and the Birmingham School of Art


210 x 145mm

41 pp.

The edition is limited to 100 numbered copies only 




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