Noveau Calendar Art

I have been discovering the joys of Theo Van Hoytema recently. In particular I came across a bundle of his calendar sheets (which of course, I promptly purchased).

1732-3Van Hoytema (1863-1917) was Dutch illustrator and book designer. He was particularly known for his nature images (more specifically birds). He grew up in The Hague, and afterwards in Voorschoten. He took drawing lessons at the Academy of Art in The Hague, and through his Uncle’s contacts he studied at the Zoological Museum in Leiden.

Van Hoytema did not belong to a particular artistic group or movement. His work reveals a number of typical characteristics of the period 1890-1900: the influence of English illustrators such as Walter Crane – especially in the first two picture books, and the influence of Japanese prints. Art Nouveau styling elements, decorative and whimsical undulations, and distinct contours were employed, without losing sight of naturalism. He made many watercolours and drawings of plants and animals, which clearly reveal his appreciation for Japanese prints: he often outlined the separate areas of flat colour with ink, in imitation of such prints, and he could describe the characteristic attitudes of animals with a masterly economy of line.

1732-6His first illustrations were published in 1891, “How the Birds Came to a King.”  He followed this up with “The Ugly Ducking” in 1893 and “The Happy Owls” in 1895.

He married in 1891, but it was not a happy marriage, and did not last. He entered a restless period after the breakdown of his marriage, moving around, and staying for a while with his brother in London. Between 1904 and 1906 he spent time in a hospital, and a sanatorium for neurotics. On release, he lived with his sister in The Hague for the rest of his life. It was during this later period that he made the calendars which made him famous. Theo van Hoytema made 17 calendars. The final one, for the year 1732-81918, was somewhat sketchy, as it was in preparation in the year of his death, and was not completed as a full colour lithograph. There are collections of his work in the Museum Bijmans Van Beuningen, Rotterdam, and the Rijksmuseum & Stedelijk Museums in Amsterdam. There is a road and square / park named after him in The Hague, with a memorial there.

Should the urge take you, please feel free to peruse our first offering of his calendar Lithographs by clicking here

A Joy Forever?

I have discovered a new font. In common (I suspect) with many booksellers, designers and arty types, I do like a nice font. and at the moment I have a new favourite. It is called Doves Type, and has recently been released in an electronic format, which is allowing me to hone my catalogues, brush up my emails and perfect my letters. If only it could do something about the content!


Keats wrote that “A thing of beauty is a joy forever.” Thomas James Cobden Sanderson, and his engraver, Emery Walker certainly didn’t find this to be the case, and it is their story that I find particularly intriguing. The pair of them set up the Doves Press together, and in 1899 engaged punch cutter Edward Prince to create a beautiful type to be used in their books. This he did – and it is lovely.

recovered doves
pic by Sam Armstrong.

By 1909 the Doves Press was in financial difficulties, Sanderson and Walker had fallen out and the partnership was dissolved. Sanderson feared that Walker wanted to use the type to mass produce books (obviously a bad thing!) but under the partnership, he was obligated to allow him access to the type. So instead of this, he threw it off Hammersmith Bridge.  Starting on Good Friday 1913, slowly, (over 4years) he managed (under cover of darkness) to drop 2,800lbs of metal type into the mud in 12lb parcels. That’s commitment to your art! In his diary he described this act as bequeathing the type to the river.

A hundred years later, and the story continues. Robert Green began to re-create the font in a digital format. Having undertaken lots of research, he even managed to locate some of the pieces of type in the mud under Hammersmith bridge. He managed to enlist the assistance of the Port of London’s Diving Team, and eventually 148 of the packages were recovered. This has enabled him to faithfully reproduce the type for the modern age. And a beautiful thing it is too. I have naturally got myself a copy of this, and begun using it everywhere I can (sadly I can’t do so here!) Much as I would like to be the only one out there using it, I feel honour bound to tell you that you can purchase a download of the font from TypeSpec. The pic of the type was by Sam Armstrong of

doves advertThe final twist in the story, and redressing the balance a little, is that Robert Green has permanently loaned half the recovered type to the Emery Walker Trust, who are renovating Walker’s house at 8 Hammersmith Terrace. So finally he gets at least some of the type he was entitled to.

There is a nice little BBC report on the salvaging of the type that you may wish to view below.