Gill, Eric

(1882 – 1940)

The Prioress's Tale, 1929

SKU: 10558

Signed with initials and numbered 300 on the reverse, unsigned in the block

The original engraved wood block inlaid with gesso

Height: 21cm
Width: 13cm


Sophie Schneideman Rare Books & Prints, London, Felix Dennis, London Sale, Sotheby’s London, 9th December 2014, lot 184; Offer Waterman

Literature: Geoffrey Chaucer, The Canterbury Tales, The Golden Cockerel Press, London, 1929, vol. II, illustrated p.60 (the printed version);Eric Gill, Engravings 1928-1933, Faber & Faber, London, 1934, illustrated pl.36 (the printed version);J.F. Physick, The Engraved Work of Eric Gill, HMSO, London, 1963, p.158; Christopher Skelton, Eric Gill: The Engravings, The Herbert Press, London, 1983, illustrated p.282, pl. no.P588 (the printed version).

Eric Gill paid Robert Gibbings ¬£200 for the blocks that the Golden Cockerel Press had commissioned up to 1933. He cut some of these to sculptured shapes, filled the engraving with a gesso-like substance, and sold them or gave them away as ornaments; thus ensuring that no further prints could be taken’, Christopher Skelton, (introduction to Eric Gill, The Engravings, p 13).

This block was originally conceived  as the half-page illustration introducing ‘The Prioress’s Tale’ in the 1929, Golden Cockrel edition of the Canterbury Tales (P588) and published on page 60 of the second volume.

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Gill, Eric

1882 – 1940

Sculptor, engraver, letter-carver and typographer, born in Brighton, Sussex, the son of a Congregationalist minister and always referred to as Eric Gill. He became articled to W.H. Carse, architect to the Ecclesiastical Commissioners in London in 1900. Gill attended evening classes at Central School of Arts & Crafts who studied letter design under Edward Johnston, he also began to carve in stone. By 1904, he was making a living from letter engraving and in 1910 began making figure sculpture and held his first solo exhibition at the Chenil Gallery, London, 1911 and about this time made several visits to the little-known Leeds Art Club. He set up an artistic community or artists colony in Ditchling, Sussex and was converted to Roman Catholicism in 1913.

In 1924, he moved to Capel-y-ffin in Wales and over the next four years produced much of his greatest engraved work, mainly for Gibbing’s Golden Cockerel Press. He moved again to High Wycombe, Buckinghamshire in 1928 and though a controversial figure in that his sexual improprieties remained in conflict with his Catholic faith, Gill is nowadays regarded as one of the greatest craftsmen of the 20th century, a typographer and letter cutter of skill and a masterly wood engraver. Gill was appointed RDI in 1936 one of the Royal Society of Arts earliest recipients and was also a Fellow of the Royal Society of British Sculptors.

Gill was a member of the Art Workers’ Guild, Society of Wood Engravers and contributed articles to various publications including Industrial Arts in 1936. Retrospective exhibition venues include Kettle’s Yard, 1979 and the Barbican Art Gallery, London, 1992-93 which also toured the UK. His prints are regularly exhibited at KHG, Marlborough, Wiltshire and previously at the Piccadilly Gallery. Examples of his work particularly his prints are in the collections of the V&A, BM, Brighton Art Gallery, Doncaster Art Gallery, Museums Sheffield, Stoke-on-Trent Art Gallery and Hull University.

With thanks to


Eric Gill
Standing Female Nude (from Twenty-five Nudes), c 1938