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 http://www.samarmstrong.co.uk

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.