Image link to David Jones by Mark Gerson, 1965
© Gerson & National Portrait Gallery, London
One of three online NPG photos of Jones

    David Jones


a sampling of internet resources

Below are six samples of David Jones's inscriptions that are currently available on the internet. Most of the places listed below have additional works by Jones, including paintings, drawings and engravings. Visits to those sites will yield further glimpses into Jones's prolific talent as both a visual & literary artist.

See Nicolette Gray's The Painted Inscriptions of David Jones (1980 Gordon Fraser) for further information about the inscriptions. Colin Wilcockson's Mythological References in Two Painted Inscriptions of David Jones provides an in-depth discussion of Jones's approach to his inscriptions while focusing on two particular works. Jonathan Miles and Derek Shiel have a chapter devoted to the inscriptions, "Resonant Abstractions", in their book David Jones: The Maker Unmade, which also places the inscriptions within the context of 20th century abstraction. You'll find such descriptive gems there as:

He was a bard, a 'carpenter of song' and a celebrant. He was a maker of shapes and forms and the inscriptions were often useful artefacts as well as pure art, devotional aids used like 'Mass cards on the altar ... to help him through his daily office'. Jones had bridged the gap between the Ditchling ethos and the more abstract art of his contemporaries and he did it without losing sight of his civilizational predicament, for the letters which make up the inscriptions often appear embattled, a purely formal expression of struggle and loss. [p. 274]


Exiit Edictum 1949

Drawing & gouache on paper

support: 406 x 330 mm
on paper, unique
The Tate, London

From the display caption September 2004:

Large painted inscriptions were an important part of Jones's later work, beginning around 1943. The Latin texts that Jones has chosen here refer to Christmas. 'Exiit Edictum' comes from the account of Christ's birth in St Luke's Gospel, and the separate line of 'Iam Redit Apollo' comes from Virgil's Fourth Eclogue, which Christian writers believed prophesied Christ's birth. Nicolete Gray stated that this inscription is innovatory in two ways; firstly that Jones's preferred coloured

background and wax crayon technique have been replaced by letters in different colours on white paper; and secondly Jones introduces here his practice of combining fragments from different texts, so as to give visual form to a complex of inter-related meaning.


Quia Per Incarnati

1953 Watercolour on paper

500 x 380 mm.
Kettle's Yard, University of Cambridge

text from Kettle's Yard:

The inscription reads: "QUIA PER INCARNATI VERBI MYSTERIVM (For by the mystery of the Word made flesh) NOVA MENTIS NOSTRAE OCVLIS LVX TVAE CLARITATIS INFULSIT (the light of thy brightness has shone anew into the eyes of our mind) MINERVA JOVIS CAPITE ORTA (Minerva has sprung from the head of Jove).

As an explanation Jones wrote on the reverse of the work: "From the Preface of the Mass of the Nativity used from the Midnight Mass of Xmas until the Feast of the Epiphany and was used also, and very appropriately, on the Feats of Corpus Xti

until a decree of the Sacred Congregation of Rites for some inexplicable reason, disallowed its use on Corpus Christi some years back, I think in the late nineteen-fifties. This seems very regrettable, because its use on Corpus Xti provided a liturgical link between the Word made Flesh in the stable and what is made present at the Mass. The words round the margin Minerva Jovis capite orta were proposed (I think by one of the Pontiffs in perhaps the sixteenth century, not sure) as expressing the Eternal Generation of the Son from the Father, but the proposition was not found acceptable."

     Extensis Manibus Prosequitor

1964 Opaque watercolour on an
under-painting of Chinese White
22 1/2 x 16 1/4 inches
(57.1 x 41.3 cm)
from: Hazlitt Holland-Hibbert

Jone's work echoes the history of writing on stone and of illuminated texts, such as this sample of Patristic Writing from the British Library:


Hic Iacet Arturus

(Here Lies Arthur)


Sale 5391 - 20th Century British Art
including Works from the Collection
of Bannon & Barnabas McHenry
17 December 2008
London, South Kensington

from the lot notes:

This work belongs to a group of experimental inscriptions made in the late forties when Jones started seriously

working on inscriptions for the first time as an art form. The text is from Malory's Morte Darthur 'here lies Arthur, the once and future King'. Jones is seen here experimenting both technically with the use of pencil on wax crayon and also with the letter forms which show an influence of early medieval inscriptions. Hills comments 'He was not, however, I am sure, trying to recreate an historic style, his reaction to the Romano-Celtic connotations of the Arthurian myth was much more personal and complex.' (Exhibition catalogue, David Jones, London, 1981, p. 129).


Pelican in Her Piety



The Rime of the Ancient Mariner 1929
Published: Douglas Cleverdon, Bristol 1929

Jones's beautiful modern line echoes an ancient carving from Augurina, 3rd Century *

Samples of various inscriptions, from Roman funerary inscriptions to the
contemporary art of Ian Hamilton Finlay and Cardozo Kindersley via
The Letter Exchange and Rupert Otten.

* The lovely augurina image was posted by the calligraphy studio of