Robert Gibbings was born in Cork, Ireland. He studied at University College, Dublin and at the Slade School of Fine Art, London, whilst attending evening classes in engraving. He was a founder member of the Society of Wood Engravers in 1919. For a time he worked as a commercial artist designing for Eno’s Fruit Salts, Findlater Port and Imperial Tobacco, until Jonathan Cape commissioned his first book Erewhon in 1922. This was followed by a commission from the Golden Cockerel Press, of which Gibbings later became the second and definitive owner. Between 1923 and 1933 he made it into a major vehicle for wood engraved book illustration and fine book production. Of the 72 books produced in those nine years, 48 were decorated with engravings, among them some which rank with the most perfectly designed and made books of any age. After giving up the Press he taught typography at the University of Reading. On retirement he struck a new vein of success with a sequence of relaxed, easy to read travel books. They became a way of life to him. He built his own boat, wide enough to accommodate his ample girth and wrote 15 books based on his experiences as a traveller and bon viveur, particularly along the inland waterways of Britain.

Out of the Wood: British Woodcuts and Wood Engravings 1890 - 1945, The British Council 1991