Doves Press: the case of the drowned font

During the week of 5-9th December 2011 Radio 4’s Book of the Week was “Just my type” a book about fonts by Simon Garfield (Profile Books, 2011).  During the second episode they related the case of the “Drowned font”. 

Doves Press was set up by T.  J. Cobden Sanderson in 1900 in partnership with Emery Walker.  The press had its own type face cut by Edward Prince who had worked previously for the Kelmscott Press  and cut type for William Morris, including the Golden Type.   Cobden Sanderson and Walker acromoniously split  in 1908, with a legal agreement that stated Cobden Sanderson would own the Doves type until his death, when it would then revert to Walker.

As time passed Cobden Sanderson came to fear that the type would be used for items he would not approve of, and that would bring shame to the previous good name of the press.  And so, between 1913 and 1916 he disposed of the type in the river Thames, throwing it off Hammersmith Bridge, in ‘pages’ (blocks of type), wrapped in brown paper and tied with string.  He did this at night so as not to be seen, and it was only at his death that his deeds were discovered by the reading of his will which bequeathed the Doves’ type to the river: “…to and from the great sea, forever and ever.” 

Emery Walker subsequently brought legal proceedings against Cobden-Sanderson’s wife Anne, and won an out of court settlement of £700.

Here at Cardiff University in the Rare Books Collection we have 44 items from the Doves Press, so you have plenty of chance to come and have a look at this special font for yourself.

[The  example below is from ‘The tragicall historie of Hamlet, Prince of Denmarke’ by William Shakespeare, Doves Press, 1909]


5 responses to “Doves Press: the case of the drowned font

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