Eric Gill, Four Gospels
There are two masterworks I have been studying. The first is Eric Gill's Four Gospels for the Golden Cockerel Press. Gibbings gave Gill the typeface as a framework and the engravings grew from this. As I looked through the pages I could sense the perfected unity which this process of working had produced. The letters are interwoven with the designs, so that story and illustration are an integrated and fluent whole.
I am very tempted to take this page and head my dissertation with it, at the moment I have a simple quotation 'In the beginning was the Word [...] The Word made flesh.' but perhaps this invokes so much more?
It is clear from these pages and excerpts the extent to which Gill was experimenting with typography, layout and the relationship between visual and linguistic arrangements of meaning. This is one of the side effects of my dissertation, that suddenly I have this overwhelming appreciation for typography. Typography which once seemed the most incidental of things has become this vessel of resonant meaning.
I read somewhere that copies of Gill's The Four Gospels now sell for around £5000. This moment in the University Library, touching vellum and hand-pressed paper, is the closest I will ever get to such essential perfection!
For David Jones' masterwork of Book Design I looked to the Chester Play of the Deluge which he produced woodcuts for in 1927 for the Golden Cockerel Press. The collaboration with Robert Gibbings on this project enabled him to take more of an interest in layout and to produce woodblocks of an even greater complexity. The engravings are dark, compact knots of energy. They capture the chaos and power of the biblical story of Noah. My attention was directed towards The Deluge mostly because of a scholar called Thomas Dilworth who writes that Jones's Anathemata takes its spatial structure from an artistic development that Jones made in these same woodcuts.
The Deluge, David Jones
Building the Ark, Jones
After the Deluge, Jones
While I agree with Dilworth's description of the spatial structuring in these woodcuts, the point I want to make about David Jones' and his involvement with book design is something very different. But I'm not going to give anything away in that regard...
This remains as a glimpse in to my afternoon of discovery, I hope you have a feel for something significant and exciting in this.