Reynolds Stone was born at Eton in 1909, where both his father and grandfather were house masters. He read history at Magdalene College Cambridge. After taking his degree, in 1930, he became an unofficial apprentice at the Cambridge University Press under Walter Lewis. Encouraged there by Mr Nobbs the press overseer, he began experimenting with engraving on metal and wood. He met Eric Gill on a train, who invited him to stay at Pigotts. He left after two weeks, having engraved an alphabet under Gill's supervision, who felt that at this point he had nothing further to teach him. He moved to Taunton to work at the printing firm of Barnicott and Pearce. During this time he engraved his first bookplate; other commissions followed, which allowed him to leave Barnicott and Pearce and became an engraver full time. Among many commissions he engraved his first Royal bookplate for Elizabeth of York (the Queen Mother), and engraved headings for the Nonesuch Shakespeare. In 1937 he engraved a Royal Coat of Arms for the coronation of King George VI, which was commissioned by Stanley Morison who became an important mentor and adviser. He married Janet Woods in 1938, and moved to Bucklebury, Berkshire. At this time he illustrated Rousseau’s 'Confessions' for the Nonesuch Press and 'The Praise and Happinesse of the Countrie-Life' for the Gregynog Press. He began to cut letters in stone.
During the Second World War he worked as an aerial photographic interpreter for the RAF, and continued to engrave. Reynolds engraved the clock device, the court circular, and Royal Arms headings for The Times newspaper. In 1953 they moved to The Old Rectory at Litton Cheney in Dorset, which was to be his home for the rest of his life. The garden and surrounding landscape proved to be a fertile source of inspiration for his painting and engraving. He engraved the Royal Arms for the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II, and the official Coat of Arms for HMSO still seen on all official documents, including the British Passport. He engraved hundreds of bookplates (including Benjamin Britten and Peter Pears's and the Prince of Wales's), often with characteristic and elegant Italianate swirls and flourishes. He designed the £5 (1962) and £10 notes (1964) which were in use until decimalisation. He had several exhibitions, both through the Arts Council, notably in Aldeburgh in 1958, and at private galleries. He cut many important memorials in stone and slate, including those for Winston Churchill, Ralph Vaughan Williams and T S Eliot.
Among the many books he illustrated were 'Apostate' (Forrest Reid), 'The Open Air' (Adrian Bell), 'Omoo' (Herman Melville); and uniquely, Sylvia Townsend Warner illustrated his engravings with poetry in 'Boxwood'. His magnum opus is perhaps the set of engravings, 'The Old Rectory', which was published in 1976 by Warren Editions. Among his last works were engraved illustrations for 'A Year of Birds', with poems by Iris Murdoch, published by the Compton Press. He died in 1979. He was awarded the CBE in 1953, and was made an RDI (Royal Designer for Industry) in 1956.
‘Good art shows us reality, which we too rarely see because it is veiled by our selfish cares, anxiety, vanity, pretension. Reynolds as artist, and as man, was a totally unpretentious being. His work, seemingly simple, gives to us that shock of beauty which shows how close, how in a sense ordinary, are the marvels of the world’.
Iris Murdoch from her memorial address 1979