Born in London, UK in 1910, Robert Harling was brought up by his aunt after the early deaths of his parents. He attended school in Brighton and London, then studied at the Central School of Arts and Crafts, London. His first job was as a designer for the Daily Mail. In the 1920s, he co-founded and edited Typography, a journal of contemporary lettering and print. Among the contributors was Eric Gill, who Harling later wrote about in his book, The Letter Forms and Type Designs of Eric Gill. Before the Second World War, he taught at Remiann School of Design, London.
During the Second World War he took part in the evacuation of Dunkirk, an experience that he wrote about in the book, Amateur Sailor, under the pen name Nicholas Drew. He then joined the Royal Navy, but his friend Ian Fleming soon enabled his transfer to Unit 17Z. Often described as 'Fleming's Secret Navy', Unit 17Z liaised between the British Intelligence Service and propaganda teams. Harling's role was immortalised in Fleming's book "The Spy Who Loved me". After the war, he set up Art and Technics, a specialist publishing house, producing the journal Alphabet and Image. He was also editor of House & Garden and The Sunday Telegraph; worked for the Sunday Times, Times Literary Supplement and Financial Times, and designed the periodical, Art and Industry.
A very private man, he was married and had three children. He died, aged 98, in Godstone, Surrey.
[LC, November 2009]