Lost Type Recovered from the Thames

The tale of loss—and eventual recovery, a century later—of the Doves Type typeface is like something out of an Agatha Christie novel. In 1909 Thomas Cobden-Sanderson and Emery Walker, partners in Doves Press in London, had a falling out which resulted in the dissolution of the company. Mr. Cobden-Sanderson apparently had an issue with his ex-partner using the company’s flagship typeface after the break-up. In 1916, he made several covert trips to Hammersmith Bridge on the Thames to send the lead letterforms to their watery grave.

Fast-forward to 2013, when designer Robert Green was putting the finishing touches on his digitally re-created Doves Typeface. He was deeply familiar with the story of Cobden-Sanderson’s actions and decided to see if he could find any traces of the long-lost type. From reading his journals and other research on the matter, Green pinpointed the type’s probable resting place along the river. After less than a half an hour of searching he had already found several pieces. A full-scale retrieval mission was launched and, in the end, he ended up recovering over 150 pieces of the lost type!

With the missing pieces, Green was able to refine the progress he had made on his digital re-creation. He has declared the project finished, and a new version of Doves Type is now available for purchase. Many of the original forms that he salvaged were donated to the Emery Walker Trust—which already owned a small sample of the type—and Green himself is keeping some as a reminder of his great type treasure hunt. Coincidentally, the February 11th page of the 2015 Typodarium type calendar features the Doves Type typeface.

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Posted on: February 20, 2015

Erica Gamet

Erica Gamet has been involved in the graphics industry for over 25 years. She is a speaker, writer, and trainer, focusing on Adobe InDesign and Illustrator, Apple Keynote and iBooks Author, and other print- and production-related topics. She is a regular contributor to InDesign Magazine, tech edited How To Do Everything with Adobe InDesign CS4, and served as leader of the Denver InDesign User Group. After living as a nomad for almost a year, she recently put down roots in El Paso, Texas, where she hikes and bikes every chance she gets. Check out ericagamet.com to see all of Erica's upcoming events, tips and tricks, and workbooks.

3 Comments on Lost Type Recovered from the Thames

  1. Great story! I would like to see more of these in the publication. Surely there are many entertaining tales on the road from hand to digital graphics.

    • Thanks Pearls Mom…glad you liked it. So, you’d like to see more stories of “interest to type/print/letter geeks” like us? I think it’s great fun finding out about these things. Seriously, this story was a BBC-esque drama with history, intrique, and double-crossing…but for the aforementioned print nerd in me. Thanks for the feedback!

  2. Great story!

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