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04 Feb 2016 - 28 Feb 2016

'In the beginning was the word'

An Exhibition of Letters; cut, written and printed

Ely Cathedral provides the ideal setting for an exhibition which celebrates contemporary calligraphy, letter carving and fine printing. The reasons why are not hard to explain.

One of the Cathedral's greatest treasures is the Liber Eliensis (Book of Ely). Hand-written in the twelfth century, it chronicles the history of Ely Abbey from its foundation by AEthelthryth (St Etheldreda) in 673, through the establishment of the bishopric in 1109, to the early stages of the re-building of the cathedral before the end of the century. It also attests to the fact that monastic Ely was a vibrant intellectual centre more than a hundred years before the first of the Cambridge Colleges came into existence.

From its beginning, carving words into stone has marked and measured the fabric of the cathedral. Medieval mason's marks, elegant funerary inscriptions spanning nine centuries, and graffiti among which some of the most moving are those of allied servicemen stationed nearby during the second world war. The history of Ely is quite literally inscribed in its cathedral.

By the end of the fifteenth century Cambridge was better placed than Ely to take advantage of the invention of printing. It is hard to exaggerate the revolution in spreading the word which this represented, as multiple copies replaced the painstaking process of hand-written transcription. The best analogy is perhaps the creation of the internet five centuries later and the ways in which social media have changed communications in our own times. Granted letters patent by Henry VIII in 1534, Cambridge University Press is the world's oldest publishing house. In 1591 it published the first Cambridge Bible and for the past four centuries has shared only with Oxford the privilege of printing both the Book of Common Prayer and the Authorised Version of the Bible. But of equal if not greater importance is the part the Press has played over the centuries in promoting fine printing. John Baskerville, who became the University Printer in 1758, was a talented calligrapher as well as a carver of inscriptions who gave his name to one of the most enduring of English type faces. In many ways he exemplifies the unity of the lettering arts as practised in the twentieth century by Eric Gill, Reynolds Stone, Will Carter and David Kindersley, all of whom had ties to Cambridge.

Our exhibition therefore links the past inscribed in the fabric of the cathedral with a vibrant present in which letters cut, written and printed flourish around us. By way of introduction, it features the work of William Morris who established his Kelmscott Press to reform the art of fine printing. After his death, thanks to his literary executor, Sydney Cockerell, much of the type Morris had designed and the remaining hand-made paper he had commissioned were consigned to the Cambridge Press. Meanwhile others followed his lead; under Robert Gibbings the Golden Cockerel Press became the leading private press specialising in illustrated books. Among them Eric Gill's Four Gospels of 1931 is outstanding as a worthy successor to the Kelmscott Chaucer. Three years later David Kindersley joined Gill's workshop as an apprentice stone cutter to begin a career which led him eventually to establish his world-famous studio in Cambridge.

Preview Evening | 3 February | 6.30pm
Tickets: £5 available ONLINE at or from ELY CATHEDRAL BOX OFFICE 01353 660349 (Mon-Sat 9.30am-4pm)

Exhibition | 4-28 February
Monday - Saturday | 9am - 4pm
Sunday | Midday - 4pm
Tickets: Adult £8 | Student £2.50 (includes Cathedral entry) available ONLINE at or from ELY CATHEDRAL BOX OFFICE 01353 660349 (Mon-Sat 9.30am-4pm). Children under16 free when accompanied by an adult.




Lecture Series

All at 6.30pm - South Transept

Thursday 4 February Duncan Robinson - 'William Morris and his 'little typographical adventure'
Monday 8 February Frances Spalding - 'Sacred or Superstitious: John Piper and the Church'
Wednesday 17 February Lida Kindersley - 'APPRENTICES of LETTERS - The continuing story of the Cardozo Kindersley Workshop'
Wednesday 24 February Tom Perkins - '20th century letter carving in stone: some of the key practitioners'
Tickets: £5 available ONLINE at or from ELY CATHEDRAL BOX OFFICE 01353 660349 (Mon-Sat 9.30am-4pm)

Calligraphy Workshops

Saturday 6 and 13 February

Cost: £40 to include basic materials available ONLINE at or from ELY CATHEDRAL BOX OFFICE 01353 660349 (Mon-Sat 9.30am-4pm)

Location: Ely Cathedral Education and Conference Centre (opposite main entrance to Cathedral)

'Calligraphy' the art of beautiful writing' : though a historically-based craft, it can also be a very contemporary art form.

Gaynor Goffe
Gaynor has worked with calligraphy since 1974. The traditional skills of fine penmanship can introduce a distinctive atmosphere for a wide range of contemporary applications. Commissioned calligraphic work has included:- letter-head, invitation, greetings card, book jacket, logo and packaging design, illuminated presentation and memorial panels, design and inscribing of certificates and diplomas. Gaynor is particularly interested in the more personal, creative aspect of calligraphy, working with painted backgrounds, gold leaf and collage, and experimenting with capitals and cursive scripts. She produces work for exhibition and sale and teaches traditional and experimental calligraphic styles, lay-out and design and calligraphic techniques in workshops and her own correspondence courses.

These workshops are suitable for all levels from beginner upwards, as much of the tuition is on an individual basis, the day consists of a practical introduction to the craft, learning a historical script and its use in a short text for beginners/ or learning/furthering/experimenting with a script for more experienced calligraphers.

Children's Lettering Workshops

Half Term Classes suitable for children from age 10 upwards
Thursday 11 February 10am - Midday
Monday 15 February 10am - Midday or 2pm - 4pm.

Price: £15 to include all materials available ONLINE at or from ELY CATHEDRAL BOX OFFICE 01353 660349 (Mon-Sat 9.30am-4pm)

Course Information
Please note: Tools and materials can be borrowed for the workshop, but if you have any of the following please bring them:
Drawing board, HB pencil, ruler, eraser, Pritt stick, Winsor & Newton smooth surface A3 pad of cartridge paper 70 or 100lbs weight, Mitchell/'Rexel square cut roundhand nib size 2, penholder, slippon reservoir, bottle of Pelikan 4001 black ink, (Most of the items are available in Tindall's Ely or Cambridge, also online from

Carving Demonstration by Tom Perkins in the Lady Chapel

Saturday 13 February

Printing demonstrations

Printing demonstrations will take place in the Lady Chapel on 18, 22, 25, 27 and 28 February, 2pm - 4pm.