Edward Johnston

1872 – 1944

Edward Johnston was born in Uruguay, the son of Scottish settlers. In his late twenties he gave up medical studies in Edinburgh ‘to go in for a craft’. Living in London in 1898, he was encouraged by W R Lethaby, architect and educator, to begin to study manuscripts held at the British Museum.

Lethaby offered Johnston a teaching post at Central School of Arts & Crafts, which he took up in 1899. In 1901 Eric Gill attended his calligraphy class where a strong friendship developed. Both families eventually moved to Hammersmith, an area popular with the Arts & Crafts Movement, where they met the Pepler family. Johnston’s ‘Writing & Illuminating, & Lettering’, was published in 1906, and was to have a major impact on the field of lettering, establishing the modern calligraphy movement which still has an impact on contemporary letter artists.

The Johnston family moved to Ditchling in 1912. After a short period living on the Common and running a small holding with the Peplers, they moved back to the village. Johnston was to work and live in Ditchling for the rest of his life.