Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Book Review: Eric Gill's "Notes on Postage Stamps"

Last December I had the pleasure of hearing Michael Russem give a talk to the Ticknor Society on "Postage Stamps by Type Designers." Now Russem and Kat Ran Press have released Eric Gill's Notes on Postage Stamps, which includes Gill's short commentary on the subject (from the Eric Gill Archive, housed at UCLA's Clark Memorial Library), along with an essay by Russem on Gill's philatelic designs and fifty-six full-color illustrations of Gill's stamp designs and sketches (which are reproduced beautifully here).

Gill's no-holds-barred comments on stamp design and Russem's excellent synopsis of his work in the field are well worth a read; Gill felt that governments gave far too much weight to the "entirely sentimental views of philatelists and the general public," arguing that "Good lettering and figures and the simplest possible heraldic sign are sufficient for both beauty and nationality." As Russem notes, many of Gill's efforts at stamp design were not approved, and even those that were he often disliked in some way (of the George VI coronation stamp he wrote "Really the responsibility for the design is more the Post Office's than mine. I only drew the stuff as instructed").

A nicely-produced book on a fascinating aspect of typographical and philatelic history.

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