The Eric Gill Collection
Eric Gill (1882-1940) was an English engraver, sculptor, typographer, and writer who lived and worked in and near London. The University of Notre Dame collection includes over 2,000 items of Eric Gill's work: books, pamphlets, broadsides, prints, greeting cards, calendars, sketches, wood blocks, photographs, and other formats.
The Gill Collection also includes many examples of the work by men who worked with or apprenticed with Gill (Hilary Pepler, Philip Hagreen, Joseph Cribb, David Jones, and Desmund Chute), most of the imprints of the Golden Cockerel Press (which produced The Four Gospels engraved by Gill), and an extensive selection of the output from Gill's own St. Dominic's Press. There are hundreds of fine art prints and over 100 photographs of Gill's sculptures. For more information, consult the Guide to the Eric Gill Collection.
The collection was acquired in 1965 from John Bennett Shaw (Notre Dame '37), who purchased it from Evan Gill, Eric's brother. Since 1965, the collection has been added to selectively.
The Golden Cockerel was among the most prominent of the private presses in England during the boom in fine printing in the inter-war period. After an uneven beginning during which it was much more successfully artistically than commercially, the press was purchased by Robert Gibbings afounder of the Society of Wood Engravers who wished to make Golden Cockerel a showpiece for the revival of wood engraving as an art form in the 1920s and 1930s. The press published an offbeat selection of literary classics, which were the mainstay of most fine printing during this period, but supplemented this with contemporary fiction, poetry, and essays. The book designers frequently embraced a modern style, in contrast to the medieval and Renaissance tastes of the Kelmscott Press and its followers.
Some of the finest books from the Golden Cockerel Press are those designed and illustrated by Eric Gill (1882-1940), whose close association with the press began in 1926. As an integral part of its collection of Gill, Special Collections owns 207 of the 213 works of the press produced between 1920 and 1962, including all of the books connected to Gill.
Hilary Pepler lived in the Hammersmith neighborhood of London in the vicinity of the Kelmscott Press and early in life was an enthusiastic follower of the Arts and Crafts Movement. When he founded the St. Dominic's Press in 1916, however, he rejected the vision of the Book Beautiful embraced by William Morris over two decades earlier. Pepler printed the books he believed needed to be printed without undue concern setting especially high aesthetic standards. With his frequent collaborators the calligrapher and type designed Edward Johnston and the type designer and illustrator Eric Gill, he created books that were attractive while retaining their simplicity. Pepler printed books and the periodical The Game, but also a great range of ephemera, including posters, broadsides, calendars, and even labels for beer bottles. The commercial focus of the press allowed it to be successful well into the 1930s when many other private presses were failing. By 1940 it had gradually become less active while Pepler directed his energy elsewhere, and it was purchased and renamed the Ditchling Press.
Notre Dame's Special Collections owns a substantial collections of products from the St. Dominic's Press including a complete run of The Game, 357 books and pamphlets, 38 posters and other ephemera totalling 675 pieces.