You may be familiar with Gill Sans typeface but you probably weren't aware of the unorthodox personal life of it's creator.
When I was in college for graphic design I got a project from one of my favorite classes, typography class. I was asked to pick out one of my favorite typographers and to write a report on them. The class was told we would be reading these aloud. So, I went home and started looking up the reator's of all the fonts I especially liked. Most of them were boring. College. Designed Type-faces. Wife. Yada-Yada. Death. But then I got to Eric Gill....
Gill's personal diaries reveal perversity and incest.
Gill admittedly had incestuous relations with his sister and his daughters. He actually continued to have sexual relations with his sister almost until his death. There were also bits about bestiality and homosexuality. Homosexuality obviously being fine morally although controversial at the time. The other two of his sexual appetites however are obviously pretty twisted. This piqued my interest as it was simply fascinating. Sick but undeniably more interesting to write about than someone going to college and making a nice typeface. So I dug deeper.
“‘Bath and slept with Gladys,’ runs one entry in the diary. Such Gill family intimacies seem routine, a habit. A few weeks later there are more surprising entries; ‘Expt. [experiment] with dog in eve’ [the rest has been obliterated]. Then, five days later, ‘Bath. Continued experiment with dog after and discovered that a dog will join with a man’”
A quote from Fiona MacCarthy regarding the diaries of Eric Gill from November and December of 1929, from her biography. Gladys being Eric’s sister.
Some of Gill's artwork. He has a lot of more graphic sexual art but I wanted this to remain SFW
A quote from his diary regarding his penis studies:
“A man’s penis and balls are very beautiful things and the power to see this beauty is not confined to the opposite sex. The shape of the head of a man’s erect penis is very excellent in the mouth. There is no doubt about this. I have often wondered– now I know.”
18 August 1922
‘Began drawing of fucking for Fr. J.O’C
The above entry from his diary refers to a drawing for Father John O’Connor, a parish priest, and Gill's mentor.
You can find more about his sexual life with some research mostly in bits and pieces but it's pretty clear that he had a very controversial, and often times down-right twisted, sexual life. That being said, he is still regarded as one of the greatest artist's of his time and his font Gill Sans was an immediate hit, being used in the London railways, on all signs and posters and also being used on the simple Penguin books.
Gill Sans remains one of my favorite fonts
Fun fact about Serif vs Sans serif:
Serifs originated in the Latin alphabet with inscriptional lettering—words carved into stone in Roman antiquity. The explanation proposed by Father Edward Catich in his 1968 book The Origin of the Serif is now broadly but not universally accepted: the Roman letter outlines were first painted onto stone, and the stone carvers followed the brush marks, which flared at stroke ends and corners, creating serifs. Another theory is that serifs were devised to neaten the ends of lines as they were chiseled into stone
I learned that in college and was fascinated but used a quote from wikipedia as I was sure it'd do a better job of explaining the specifics. Though not universally accepted apparently I find it plausible and interesting. I am very much passionate about typography and was one of few people in my class that was legitimately excited as fuck to learn all about fonts. What were those people even doing in graphic design school anyways?
So yeah, in closing the dude made a kickass font and some pretty decent sculptures but he also regularly fucked his sister, two daughters, and his dog.
Oh yeah, also, why in the hell did I choose this as the person to write about when I have debilitating anxiety and a serious fear of public speaking, knowing I would have to read it in front of an entire class? Can't fucking say but somehow, as usual, I pulled it off and had everyone laughing by the end. The teacher's first question was "Why did you pick Eric Gill?" Good question. Solid question. Not at all unexpected considering the topic. My answer? "Well, I was reading about a lot of different typographers and all their lives kind of blended together but Eric Gill actually had sex with his sister, daughters, AND his dog." No kidding. Other people said things like "I was incredibly inspired by their persistence when his typeface was rejected time and time again." or something else not bat-shit crazy.