Home> News> Long lost typeface brought back to life

Long lost typeface brought back to life

June 25th, 2015

London, England, turn of the 20th Century. Thomas James Cobden-Sanderson, a bookbinder, and engraver Emery Walker went into business together, establishing the Doves Press printing company.




1899. The business partners commission a punchcutter by the name of Edward Prince to create a letterset to be used in all of the press’s publications. ‘Doves Type’ would go on to make a significant contribution to the famed Arts and Crafts movement of the time.



1909. Cobden-Sanderson and Walker fell out, their bitter dispute ending in the dissolution of the Doves Press. Cobden-Sanderson continued the business alone, though an agreement was signed giving Walker the right to own Doves Type after Cobden-Sanderson’s death.


1913–1916. Despite the agreement, a now elderly Cobden-Sanderson was so determined that Walker should never profit from Doves Type, that he systematically tossed all the matrices and type sets into the dark and murky waters of the River Thames, never to be seen again.

Until 2014.

Having studied and fallen in love with the Doves Type at art school, designer Richard Green set out on a mission to recreate a digital facsimile of it. He painstakingly scanned thousands and thousands of samples of Doves Type in an effort to reproduce it as faithfully as possible.



But, having read Cobden-Sanderson’s journals, Green needed to “square the circle” and find the lost artefacts in the river. Amazingly, with the help of divers from the Port of London Authority, Green managed to find 150 pieces of original Doves Type letterset – the rest are feared to be entombed in concrete following modern bridge repairs.

What an amazing story! You can learn more by watching this video: https://youtu.be/h_bGsT_5SFA.


About the Author:

Although her primary niche is in scientific writing and editing, freelance writer Lisa Martin is also a creative type with an eye for design. She regularly works alongside graphic designers and as such has a keen interest in the development of logos and branding.

Leave Your Comment

I tip my hat to these pioneers of graphic design. No computers , and no 3D printing, it was insane doing all the work by hand.

by PavelJuly 02, 2015