Gill Sans is a font and it is one of my favorites. I’m one of those people who look at the back of books and read the short blurb about the type. So many of them were designed by Italians (or Germans) in the earliest days of book printing — 16th century. Or are variations on those types.
I first discovered the type Gill Sans in a book I own, Unmitigated England: A Country Lost and Found. The book is by Peter Ashley and is a collection of articles and photos about quirky things about England — mostly England in the 1950’s. Some of that England was still there when I spent my year in Birmingham in the 1960’s: the match box covers, Hovis bread, the amazing black and white signposts in the countryside, fish and chips served in real newspapers.
Unmitigated is set in two types. The body is in Baskerville (John Baskerville worked in the 18th century) and the headings are in Gill Sans, designed by Eric Gill who was a 20th century renaissance man — stonecutter, sculptor, typeset designer, and printmaker.
It is very clean — “sans” means without in French and it refers to the fact that there are no “serifs”, those curls and lines that you find in this type, for instance.
Eric Gill worked in a period of the 20th Century that has always fascinated me — basically what is called “between the wars”, the 1920’s and 1930’s. What a tumultuous time! In every sphere — art, architecture, design, politics, technology.
Gill also did many wood cuts and engravings. Most of them were either erotic or religious. Interesting . . .
Here’s one that is not.