Edward Johnston

(1872—1944) calligrapher and designer of lettering

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Johnston, George Lawson (1873 - 1943), JP; Lord Lieutenant of Bedfordshire since 1936; High Sheriff of Bedfordshire, 1924; Member of the Post Office Advisory Council since 1922; Member of Council London Chamber of Commerce; an Hon. Secretary King Edward’s Hospital Fund for London; Chairman Revenue Committee King Edward’s Hospital Fund for London and Member of Committee since 1901; Hon. Secretary, Thankoffering for the King’s Recovery, 1929; Hon. Treasurer Royal Northern Hospital, 1909–23; Chairman, Ministry of Information’s Advisory Committee on the Appointment of Advertising Agents; Chairman, Executive Committee Hospitals of London Combined Appeal, 1922; Chairman, British Charities Association; Treasurer County of London Red Cross; Chairman of British National Committee of the International Chamber of Commerce; Chairman, Committee on Nutrition, Ministry of Health; Chairman of Oakley Hunt Committee; Director of Daily Express from its foundation till 1917; Chairman Bovril, Ltd; Director Australian Mercantile, Land and Finance, Ltd; Lloyds Bank; Vice-Chairman Ashanti Goldfields Corporation; Vice-President British and Foreign Bible Society; moved the Hospital Payment Amendment to Third Party Risks section of Traffic Act, House of Lords, Dec. 1929 and 1933; introduced Voluntary Hospitals (Paying Patients) Bill, 1935; also reintroduced when it became law, 1936


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Johnston was an important British calligrapher, typeface designer, and educator. After ill‐health had cut short his study of medicine at Edinburgh University he decided to pursue his long‐standing interests in lettering and illumination. He was introduced to the designer and educator William Lethaby, who suggested that he study manuscripts in the British Museum. Johnston went on to teach writing and calligraphy at the Central School of Arts and Crafts, London (1899–1912), and the Royal College of Art. He also designed typography and his emphatically modern letterforms for London Underground signage commissioned by Frank Pick in 1916 won widespread recognition. Johnston was also responsible for the modernization of the London Underground logo, resulting in the famous circle and bar motif. He undertook a range of design work for private presses such as the Doves Press (co‐founded by one of his pupils, T. J. Cobden‐Sanderson), including a number of initials for the Doves Bible (1905). His influence was felt strongly in Germany partly on account of his work for Count Kessler's Cranach Press, founded in Weimar in 1913. Johnston wrote a number of influential texts, including Writing and Illuminating, and Lettering (1906), Manuscript and Inscription Letters (1909), and A Book of Sample Scripts (1914). He was also one of the editors of the typographic and printing journal The Imprint (1913–15).

Subjects: Industrial and Commercial Art — Bibliography.

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