An Essay on Typography was first published in 1931, instantly recognized as a classic, and has long since been unavailable. It represents Gill at his best: opinionated, fustian, and consistently humane. It is his only major work on typography and remains indispensable for anyone interested in the art of letter forms and the presentation of graphic information.
This manifesto, however, is not only about letters — their form, fit, and function — but also about man’s role in an industrial society. As Gill wrote later, it was his chief object “to describe two worlds — that of industrialism and that of the human workman — and to define their limits.”
His thinking about type is still provocative. Here are the seeds of modern advertising: unjustified lines, tight word and letter spacing, ample leading. Here is vintage Gill, as polemical as he is practical, as much concerned about the soul of man as the work of man; as much obsessed by the ends as by the means.
Written with clarity, humility and a touch of humor…timeless and absorbing.
—Paul Rand, The New York Times
[A] classic work…[Gill] is authoritative. —The Independent
It is the form of this copy, its extreme simplicity, its unique ordinariness, that makes it an inspiration. —Mark Thomson, Eye Magazine
[A] memorable and engagingly dogmatic work on unchecked commercialism, moral living – oh, and on typographic design too. —Mantex
A brilliant book, this still influences modern design with interesting relevance to the web. —Shapeshed