By comparison, Plough’s most recent move – last year, to new offices in Walden, New York – was calm and orderly. All the same, a few documents did get infuriatingly lost, while others unexpectedly came to light. One discovery was a dog-eared folder dated 1940 containing sketches for a Plough logo and letterhead design by a British typeface designer. His name was Eric Gill.
Even typography agnostics will recognize Gill’s best-known typeface, Gill Sans – you have seen it in the BBC logo and on the jacket designs of Penguin Books. In my design-school years, I was so taken by its elegant precision that I made it the subject of a freelance research project. Although an intern at Plough at the time, I had no idea there was a connection.
Gill’s logo design for Plough shows the simple silhouette of a mold-board plow, the kind that is pulled by horses and guided by men. Its strong, clean lines are typical of Gill’s work, as is the accuracy of form. When Gill drafted it, two years had already passed since the Bruderhof’s suppression in Germany. In the meantime, the refugees had found a haven at the Ashton Keynes farm in the Cotswolds. Once they had established the utter basics – growing food, cooking, setting up child care – they set up a print shop and bindery and started publishing again.
Fiona McCarthy, Eric Gill (Faber & Faber, 2011), 182. At least one Ditchling resident – Mari Marsden – would eventually join the Bruderhof; she is the mother of contributing artist Hannah Marsden.
Eric Gill, The Letters of Eric Gill, ed. Walter Shewring (London: Jonathan Cape, 1947), 154.