Words Made Stone: The Craft and Philosophy of Letter Cutting by Lida Lopes Cardozo Kindersley & Marcus Waithe - review by Frances Spalding

Frances Spalding

Chiselled Features

Words Made Stone: The Craft and Philosophy of Letter Cutting


The Cardozo Kindersley Editions 192pp £25

When trying to purchase something online, an irritating authenticity test sometimes arrests progress. Peering into a small opening on the screen, we find a cluster of letters, different in size, bizarrely shaped and half-obscured by free-floating, random marks. If you can identify the letters correctly, you are deemed a valid person and are allowed to proceed with your task.

This, surely, must be the nadir of the many uses of lettering. Historically, excellence in lettering was thought to owe much to the careful formation of each letter and the handling of the space around it. When Edward Johnston delivered his famous series of lectures on the lettering used on Trajan’s Column, he found he needed more than one lecture just to deal with the complexities attendant on the letter A. Not only did Johnston reawaken interest in Roman lettering; he also experimented with modern lettering. When he was asked to create a simple typeface to use on the London Underground, he employed sans-serif lettering to great effect, its clarity improving crowd management in public spaces.

Johnston’s legacy lives on in the Cardozo Kindersley Workshop, which makes letters in stone and other materials, all by hand. Its founder, David Kindersley, was apprenticed to Eric Gill, who had been taught by Johnston. Kindersley set up his own workshop in 1946 and in 1976 a young Dutch

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