The Edward Johnston Foundation’s Tenth International Ditchling Seminar 2010

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News | Yves Peters | March 29, 2010

For people who can’t make it to this year’s TYPO Berlin in May there is another, much smaller conference running almost simultaneously in Great Britain. The annual Pen to Printer seminars – organised by the Edward Johnston Foundation – bring together distinguished speakers and delegates from many lettering and associated disciplines to discuss in a convivial atmosphere issues of importance in today’s rapidly-changing world of communications. The Tenth Annual International Ditchling Seminar will run from Friday May 21, to Sunday May 23, 2010, in Ditchling Village Hall. Ditchling lies in glorious Sussex countryside under the escarpment of the South Downs. The village was the home of Edward Johnston, Eric Gill, and the community which was to make its name world-famous among those who value the tradition of fine letterforms. The EJF’s annual international seminars are gaining a reputation as a relaxed and informal gathering for the widest spectrum of lettering interests.


Ditchling Village Hall by Dan Rhatigan
I asked MATD alumnus and type designer Dan Rhatigan – who has attended the Ditchling seminars for the past three years – what his experiences had been:

I really enjoy them. The seminars are very casual, cozy and friendly, with a diverse attendance consisting of students, practitioners, and hobbyists. They don’t try to pack things in like regular conferences – I like the way they leave time to wander and explore and talk. Usually the talks are very good, and although they range from type design to history to inscriptions to bookbinding and printing, most often they tie back into the practice or the influence of calligraphy and lettering. Furthermore the event is peppered with tours of Ditchling (where Edward Johnston and Eric Gill both worked for a time), visits to the Foundation’s workshop, and lengthy tea breaks – complete with homemade cakes – that make it easier to get to know the speakers and attendees, and browse the old books that are usually available for sale. There’s also a small dinner at a local pub on the first night, and a bigger one with some music on the final night. It’s all very English, but in a good, rather old-timey way.

Ditchling Seminar 2008
Ditchling Seminar 2008 © The Edward Johnston Foundation
This year’s programme features presentations by

  • Harriet Frazer · Memorials by Artists
  • Ann Pillar and Peter Cartwright · From Chisel to Pen: Early Christian Inscriptions (Exhibition and talk)
  • Phil Abel · Letterpress in the Digital Age
  • Colin Dunn · Digitising Medieval Manuscripts
  • Tim Donaldson · There were times when I danced in a room my own height: learning from Eddy, Henry and Alf.
  • Andy Benedek and Michael Harvey · Developing Fine Fonts

The seminar inludes a fish and chip supper at The Greyhound, Keymer on Friday night; a local visit on Saturday evening followed by a dinner provided by Huong with music from Rebecca Baulch and Ben Coultard, classical guitar duo; and demonstrations of brush lettering by John R. Nash throughout the seminar.

The delegate fee is £135 / £145, including the cost of Friday evening supper and Saturday evening dinner.

Ditchling Seminar 2008
Ditchling Seminar 2008 © The Edward Johnston Foundation

Edward Johnston Foundation

The Edward Johnston Foundation is a registered arts charity dedicated to the promotion of a public awareness of calligraphy, not only as an art form in its own right but also as the seed and reference point for many other lettering applications including modern typeface design. These aims are backed with four objectives:

  • to establish an archive and library which will support teaching and research and provide accessible data for use by all
  • to build a collection of contemporary work which is international in scope
  • to develop a full educational programme in calligraphy and allied subjects
  • to initiate research into the use of new electronic media.
  • The Foundation is based in Ditchling, Sussex, the birthplace of the twentieth-century calligraphic renaissance in Britain. It is currently seeking funding for its own premises. The collection of contemporary work comprises some 10,000 individual items with an acquisitions policy for rapid expansion to represent many related disciplines. The library currently stands at over 1000 volumes. In 1999, the Foundation, in association with Ditchling Museum, was awarded Arts Council funding worth £102,000 for a three-year series of exhibitions and events under the title Lettering Today and Tomorrow.

    Colleagues of the Foundation, by their subscriptions and donations, provide invaluable assistance in the realisation of the EJF’s charitable objectives with the highly-regarded EJF Journal and Newsletters keeping them informed of current progress.

    Ditchling Seminar 2008
    Ditchling Seminar 2008 © The Edward Johnston Foundation

    Edward Johnston (1872-1944)

    Edward Johnston by his teaching and practice almost single-handedly revived the art of formal penmanship which had lain moribund for four centuries. His major work Writing and Illuminating, and Lettering, first published in 1906 and in print continuously ever since, created a new interest in calligraphy and a new school of excellent scribes. The life he breathed into this ancient craft and its continuing tradition even in today’s hi-tech world can be ascribed to his re-discovery of the influence of tools, materials and methods. His researches were carried out with the understanding of the artist-craftsman, the scientist and the philosopher and this three-fold approach resulted in a profound insight – he fully grasped the root of formal writing and saw how all the branches grew from that root.

    The epoch-making sans serif alphabet he designed for the London Underground Railways changed the face of typography in the twentieth century, whilst two of the most popular types of our day Perpetua and Gill Sans were by his great pupil Eric Gill (1882–1940).


    Edward Johnston’s Alphabet for the Underground by Dan Rhatigan
    Johnston’s influence has been world-wide. As early as 1910 his pupil Anna Simons translated Writing and Illuminating, and Lettering into German, and a tremendous interest was sparked off in that country. So much so that Sir William Rothenstein remarked on a visit to art schools on the continent,

    in Germany in particular the name of Edward Johnston was known and honoured above that of any artist.

    The other great revival has been in the United States particularly since the 1970s where there has been a veritable explosion of interest both on a professional and amateur level. The annual lettering conferences held in important centres throughout the country are testimony to this rebirth. But, lest we forget Johnston’s pioneering work, we ought perhaps to remind ourselves of what Hermann Zapf has said recently of him,

    Nobody had such a lasting effect on the revival of contemporary writing as Edward Johnston. He paved the way for all lettering artists of the twentieth century and ultimately they owe their success to him.

    Header image: Ditchling Seminar 2008 © The Edward Johnston Foundation

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    2 Comments:

    1. Hey, I think your site might be having browser compatibility issues. When I look at your blog site in Chrome, it looks fine but when opening in Internet Explorer, it has some overlapping. I just wanted to give you a quick heads up!
      Other then that, awesome blog!

      Posted by Lidia on Sep. 14, 2012
    2. What version of IE?

      Posted by Yves Peters on Sep. 15, 2012

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