Gill Sans. The controversial personal (sex) life of the iconic typographer, Eric Gill.

in sex •  3 years ago 

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.

Authors get paid when people like you upvote their post.
If you enjoyed what you read here, create your account today and start earning FREE STEEM!
Sort Order:  

Can't imagine the teacher's face when you gave your answer ... Did you get a good grade for this report ?


Yes, to be fair it was well-written and hit all the criteria. I pretty much aced everything in that class. Teacher loved me. I am pretty sure everyone found this report entertaining as well. :) Broke up the monotony but yeah, he was definitely caught off-guard with the dog-fucking.

Good story. I really liked it! :)



Sometimes it's difficult to separate the art from the artist but in this case I can honestly say I wouldn't have missed the Gill font. The man had a narcissistic sexuality and I'm sure his sister and daughters didn't escape unscathed. Your post aroused my curiosity and I came across this, thought you'd enjoy reading it if you haven't already @lauralemons.


Yeah, while I do love the Gill font and will use it since it does exist I am sure I could have made it without a different Sans Serif. :) Thanks, I will definitely read that.

Now you got into reading about Eric Gill


Hm? Are you saying I got you into it? :D


i mean, you got me! hehe.. he sure had an interesting life


Yeah, it's pretty intriguing. I was horrified, yet fascinated. I also really did dig his font waaay before knowing this shit. So, that was a surprise.

Sounds like a sick bastard


For sure. No argument there.

Intriguing story - and it raises the question if it is ethical to like and enjoy an artists's output regardless of the person.

In fact, the same question can be asked about any profession (or calling). What if Pol Pot / Hitler / (insert villain of choice here) had also been a gifted composer? Would it be acceptable to like their music?

Quite Interesting !


What the... actual...fuck...!?

You just blew my mind here. Good info.


haha thanks. :)

Eric Gill for the kill... 😂 I didn't know this about him. Interesting piece.