Doves Press

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Opening page of Genesis from the Doves Bible

The Doves Press was a private press based in Hammersmith, London. During nearly seventeen years of operation, the Doves Press produced notable examples of twentieth-century typography. A distinguishing feature of its books was a specially-devised typeface, known variously as the Doves Roman, the Doves Press Fount of Type, or simply the Doves Type.

The Doves Press business[edit]

The Doves Press was founded by T. J. Cobden-Sanderson sometime before 1900 (when he asked Emery Walker to join him). The business was financed by Anne Cobden-Sanderson. Their partnership was dissolved in 1908[1] but Cobden-Sanderson continued to print.

Cobden-Sanderson commissioned the press's own typeface – Doves Type – which was drawn under Walker's supervision; the Doves Bindery, which he had set up in 1893, bound the books he and Walker printed. The Press produced all its books using a single size of this type, between 1900 and 1916, and is considered to have been a significant contributor to the Arts and Crafts movement. The founders were associated with William Morris and the Kelmscott Press. The capital letters of the Doves type were based on types used by Nicolas Jenson from the 1470s, and the lowercase letters were based on types used by Jacobus Rubeus. The Doves Type was similar to Morris's earlier Golden Type and, like it, cut by punchcutter Edward Prince.[2][3][4][5][6]

The press, at No. 1, Hammersmith Terrace, was named after The Dove, an old riverside pub nearby. The Doves Press was responsible for the Doves Bible (5 vols, 1902–1904), which the Columbia Encyclopedia considered one of the best examples of its kind.[3]

The Doves Type dispute[edit]

By 1909, on the dissolution of their partnership, Cobden-Sanderson and Walker were in a protracted and bitter dispute involving the rights to the Doves Type. As part of the partnership dissolution agreement, all rights to the Doves Type were to pass to Walker upon the death of Cobden-Sanderson. Instead of letting this happen, Cobden-Sanderson destroyed the matrices and punches on Good Friday, 21 March 1913, when he threw them into the Thames river off Hammersmith Bridge in London, a short walk from the Press.[7]

As recorded in Cobden-Sanderson's journals, he began the destruction of the type itself three years later, beginning on 31 August 1916 at midnight, when "it seemed a suitable night, and time".[8] He is said to have completed the task in January 1917, after 170 trips to the river,[9] though his Journals do not mention the culmination.

Re-creating the Doves Type[edit]

The first digital revival of the Doves Type was made in 1994 by Swedish designer Torbjörn Olsson who added a new italic, and whose fonts reproduce the soft corners and imperfections of the printed characters.[10]

In 2013, the designer Robert Green began to create a more polished digital version of the Doves type.[11] In 2015, after searching the riverbed of the Thames near Hammersmith Bridge with help from the Port of London Authority, Green managed to recover 150 pieces of the original type, which helped him to refine the re-created typeface.[12][13] Two variants of Green's re-created Doves Type, Text and Headline, are now distributed by Typespec. The Headline variant is used by the Thames Tideway Scheme for architectural lettering.[14][15]

Other digital revival projects include "Mebinac" by Alan Hayward and "Thames-Capsule" by Raphaël Verona and Gaël Faure.[10]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "No. 28274". The London Gazette. 27 July 1909. p. 5759.
  2. ^ Naylor, Gillian (2003). "The things that might be: British design after Morris". In Waggoner, Diane (ed.). The beauty of life: William Morris & the art of design. New York: Thames and Hudson. p. 122-124. ISBN 0-500-28434-2.
  3. ^ a b "The Doves Press". The Columbia Encyclopedia (Sixth ed.). May 2001. Archived from the original on 17 April 2006.
  4. ^ Dreyfus, John (1974). "New Light on the Design of Types for the Kelmscott and Doves Presses". The Library. s5-XXIX (1): 36–41. doi:10.1093/library/s5-XXIX.1.36.
  5. ^ Tuohy, Stephen (1990). "A New Photograph of Edward Prince, Typefounders' Punchcutter". Matrix. 10: 135–142.
  6. ^ "Private Press Types". Elston Press. Archived from the original on 22 August 2021. Retrieved 8 February 2017.
  7. ^ Green, Robert. "History of the Doves Type". Typespec Ltd. Archived from the original on 13 September 2022. Retrieved 13 September 2022.
  8. ^ The Journals of Thomas James Cobden-Sanderson 1879–1922. Vol. II. 1926. p. 296.
  9. ^ "The fight over the Doves". The Economist. 21 December 2013. Archived from the original on 15 June 2017. Retrieved 7 February 2015.
  10. ^ a b Devroye, Luc. "Doves Type". On Snot and Fonts. Archived from the original on 22 August 2021. Retrieved 28 June 2017.
  11. ^ "The Doves Type". Typespec Ltd. Archived from the original on 22 August 2021. Retrieved 28 January 2014.
  12. ^ Steven, Rachael (3 February 2015). "Recovering the Doves Type". CreativeReview Blog. Archived from the original on 6 February 2015. Retrieved 7 February 2015.
  13. ^ Wilmshurst, Nick (7 February 2015). "Lost typeface printing blocks found in river Thames". BBC News. Archived from the original on 26 February 2017. Retrieved 7 February 2015.
  14. ^ TypeRoom (28 November 2022). "The Doves Type, Revisited: Robert Green upgrades an iconic typeface". Archived from the original on 29 December 2022. Retrieved 29 December 2022.
  15. ^ "Doves Type: Revisited". Typespec. Archived from the original on 29 December 2022. Retrieved 29 December 2022.


  • Tidcombe, Marianne (2002). The Doves Press. London, England; New Castle, Delaware: British Library; Oak Knoll Press. ISBN 9780712347082. OCLC 59380840.

Further reading[edit]

  • Cable, C. (1974). The printing types of the Doves press: Their history and destruction. Library Quarterly, 44(3), 219-230.

External links[edit]