Letter-carver David Kindersley’s centenary

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We have recently digitised a set of slides documenting the creation of the carved and gilded lettering on the front of the John Rylands Library. You may be surprised to learn that the panels are not in fact original to the building: they were designed by one of the twentieth-century’s greatest letter-carvers and letter-artists, David Kindersley (1915-95), whose anniversary is being celebrated this month.

David Kindersley served his apprenticeship under Eric Gill (1885-1940), the brilliant but controversial sculptor, carver, type-designer and engraver. Gill’s influences are unmistakable in the clarity of line and integrity of Kindersley’s lettering. After the War Kindersley established his own workshop in Cambridge, where generations of letter-carvers learnt their trade. One was a young Dutch carver, Lida Lopes Cardozo, who became Kindersley’s wife and workshop partner.

In the early 1990s the Cardozo Kindersley workshop was invited to design two panels, to be carved directly into the stonework on the front of the Library. By then David Kindersley was in his seventies, and the actual carving was undertaken by Lida and other workshop staff in April 1992. Direct carving, in the Gill tradition, leaves no margin for error, and it is especially challenging to carve into old weathered stone. Fortunately there were no mishaps, and the panels were hailed as a triumph.

The Cardozo Kindersley Workshop continues to thrive in Cambridge, producing inscriptions and memorials, both public and private, from vast monumental panels to small, domestic pieces. For more information on the Kindersley Centenary see the Kindersley Workshop Centenary Events.

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