Edward Johnston (1872-1944)

“…And because he and Johnston were such opposites in temperament – Gill being so fast-moving and direct, Johnston so diffident and so laborious, taking a whole term-time to describe the inscription on Trajan’s column before he even reached letter C – they got on well together, arguing and arguing, starting the succession of late-night discussions on very abstract topics such as Truth, Right, Faith and Dogma which was to continue for another twenty years or so. Intellectual conversations with chosen male companions (for Gill considered women were no good at abstract argument) were to go on till the small hours of the morning all Gill’s life.

Another enduring habit which began in those days in Lincoln’s Inn was the cult of dropping in, the easy workshop welcome. Again this was a part of the freemasonry of craftsmen. Edward Johnston was of course the key figure in his craft, the ipse scripsit of the calligraphic revival. Almost everyone of note in the world of Arts and Crafts scribes and illuminators had been, or was being, taught by Johnston. His chambers became a kind of social centre as well as a scriptorium, a lettering laboratory. His closest disciple Graily Hewitt, by profession a solicitor, lived in Lincoln’s Inn as well, and provided Johnston with the services of his own admirable laundress, Mrs Phelps.”

Fiona MacCarthy: Eric Gill (1989) Chapter Four: Lincoln’s Inn 1902-4

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