The Lost Font

The Lost Font

In 1900 the Dove printing press was set up by two men, T. J. Cobden-Sanderson and Emery Walker. They were known to make high quality products, of which many were Bibles in the early days, but they moved on to making their own periodical: the Dove. The had a few variations on a font which Cobden-Sanderson had created for their press named Doves Roman, Doves Press Fount Type and so on, but collectively these are known as Doves Type. It was made to be in a Venetian Style and you can see an example of it below: 

 Notice the lower case e's with their odd slant. This was common to all of the Dove fonts.

Notice the lower case e's with their odd slant. This was common to all of the Dove fonts.

Eventually the printing press hit a financial wall as one by one their periodical subscribers faded away. The book printing part of the business had also faltered and by 1909 most of the value of the operation was in their printing press machinery itself and with it, the use of the font. Cobden-Sanderson and Walker fell out over the direction that the business should go and Walker left the company.

When the company filled for bankruptcy it was legally required that the two creators should share ownership of the remaining assets 50/50; but it was Cobden-Sanderson who had created the type-face and so he wanted to keep control of that. A legal ruling was made that Cobden-Sanderson would keep control of the font until he died (he was in his 70s), but then the rights would transfer to Walker.

 Cobden-Sanderson

Cobden-Sanderson

Cobden-Sanderson was unhappy that his work could be used without his control after his death and so took a drastic step. Starting in 1913 and ending in 1917 he would parcel up parts of the iron machinery from the press and throw them off Hammersmith Bridge. Over the course of a few years he threw over a tonne of metal into the river Thames, including the punches and matrices which held the Dove Type. As he wrote in his journal at the time, he had bequeathed it to the river. On his death his former business partner discovered that he would not be receiving the press.

And so it remained until an effort by a team of divers in 2014 went on a dive to restore the font. Amazingly they had found their first piece only 20 minutes in and over the course of a few days they had managed to get over 150 pieces back.

 Letter Punches (along with a coin and a bullet)

Letter Punches (along with a coin and a bullet)

 Salvaged Letter Punches

Salvaged Letter Punches

Through the efforts of the team and the work of a digital artist, Robert Green, the Dove Type is available to the world once again. I have a feeling the Cobden-Sanderson would not be happy.

Benford’s Law

Benford’s Law

A Minimalist Guide to Chess Openings

A Minimalist Guide to Chess Openings