Doves Press (named after a nearby pub!) was a private press based in Hammersmith, London. Founded by ex-disciple of William Morris, T.J. Cobden Sanderson, along with engraver Emery Walker. Cobden-Sanderson commissioned the press's type, which was drawn under Walker's supervision, and set up the Doves Bindery to bind the books he and Walker printed. The Press produced all its books using a single size of this type, between 1900 and 1916, and is considered to have been a significant contributor to the Arts and Crafts movement.
The type, known as 'The Doves Type', was based on Oldstyle typefaces used by Nicolas Jenson from the 1470s. The relationship between the partners began to deteriorate and on Good Friday in 1913, Cobden-Sanderson began to systematically destroy the fount to prevent Walker, who was suing to liquidate the Press, from repossessing and selling it.
By 1916, the infamous Doves Type was consigned to a watery grave, Cobden-Sanderson, having spent countless evenings ‘dedicating the type’ to the River Thames, had thrown more than 1200kg of metal bundled into 5kg paper parcels over Hammersmith Bridge.
The typeface resurfaced in a digital form in 2013 after designer Robert Green, spent three years researching, sourcing and analyzing Doves printed ephemera, subsequently released a digital version, available through Typespec.
“Someone was bound to attempt a digital interpretation sooner or later,” he says. “It was a beautiful typeface – full of incredibly accurate, fluid strokes. It was created by someone working with their hands, files, gravers and an eyeglass, yet the intricacy and detail is stunning,” he adds. “It’s eccentric,” he says. “The more you look at it the stranger you realise it is.”
I follow Robert (Doves Type) on twitter and was excited to see recent twitter chatter about divers under the Hammersmith bridge hopeful that a salvage attempt for the original font was underway. Over the last week eager twitter typoholics have been teased with glimpses of treasure once swallowed by the Thames.
Today Typespec announced Robert Green (in collaboration with the London Port Authority) is indeed salvaging the handset type and intends to refine and re-release the digital version of the font - Incredibly exciting news for type lovers, fine presses and historians!