The muddy Doves type

The murky story of the Doves Press, a tale of bitterness and vengeance.

First page of the five volume Doves Press Bible

It’s exactly 100 years since an elderly man carried out a shady act of determined vengeance against his one-time business partner. Over the six months from August 1916, Thomas Cobden-Sanderson, at dusk and in the dark, threw more than a tonne of metal type pieces into the Thames, just to stop it ever getting into the hands of the man who designed it, Emery Walker.

Embittered by an acrimonious dispute over ownership of the Doves typeface, which had been created by Walker at Cobden-Sanderson’s behest, and even though after the partnership dissolved in 1909 Cobden-Sanderson gained usage rights to the typeface for the duration of his lifetime, upon his death in 1922 it was revealed that the typeface had been ‘bequeathed to the Thames’.

The Doves Press had been established in 1900 by Cobden-Sanderson, then aged 59, and Emery Walker, ten years his junior. After a first career as a barrister, Cobden-Sanderson became a bookbinder at the urging of his friends William and Jane Morris.  Emery Walker, an engraver and printer, and collector of medieval books, was also a friend of the Morrises.  William Morris, of course, is well known as the father of the Arts and Crafts Movement, a term in fact created by Emery Walker when, together with Morris, he set up the first Arts & Crafts Exhibition Society.  Morris also started his own private press, The Kelmscott Press in 1891 for which he also created his own typefaces, Golden, Troy and Kelmscott.

The private press movement began in the late nineteenth century in response to the increasingly mechanised methods of book production wrought by the industrial revolution.  Traditional skills and jobs were being lost: punch cutters, typecasters, typesetters, printers, papermakers, bookbinders. Private press owners set about reviving the craft of making books using high quality ingredients: hand made paper, high quality ink, vellum bindings with gold tooling, and often designing their own typefaces. The Doves Press was a major contributor to the private press movement of the twentieth century.

Cobden-Sanderson wanted to create the highly desirable ‘book beautiful’, an ideal based on the medieval and pre-printing press era illuminated manuscripts.  The thing that sets Doves Press books apart from other private press offerings of the Arts and Crafts Movement is that there are very few, if any, illustrations within its pages, relying instead on the beauty of the typography and clarity of the printed page.

In 2013, East London graphic designer, Robert Green, engaged the Port of London Authority’s divers to search the murky river bed around the Hammersmith Bridge for the tiny pieces of type that Cobden-Sanderson had flung there.  After years of research and attempts to recreate Doves type for use in this digital age, Green knew he needed to try and find at least a piece of the original.  He found over 150 pieces.

Robert Green’s digital Doves Press typeface. Photo:
The fight over the Doves“, The Economist, December 21, 2013
William Morris and the Private Press,
“The ‘Other Man’ Behind the Private Press Movement”, BookTryst Blog
Doves Type,
Further reading:
BBC Radio 4 audio documentary, “An Obsessive Type: the Tale of the Doves Typeface.”

Tobias Hall

Tobias Hall’s lettering seems so playful, and his murals which are in restaurants, hotels and offices are executed so confidently. They’re so bold and bright. Check him out here

Tobias Hall5 Tobias Hall mural1 Tobias Hall 4 Tobias Hall 3 Tobias Hall 2

Baby stationery

Latest assignment for Design Practice : “create a design suitable for a NEW BABY range covering a variety of products such as greeting cards, gift tags, gift wrap”.

I wanted to avoid the twee cliches like images of baby bottles, nappy pins, small animals etc and definitely wanted to introduce some lively colour. Not everyone wants traditional pastels for their newborns.

HELLO BABY! cards and gift wrap










William Morris

I don’t remember when I first became aware of William Morris, his art, craft, and socialist views but ever since I was a young child I have been aware of England and English style, long before I ever went there.

Acknowledged as the father of the Arts and Crafts movement, William Morris is arguably the single most influential designer of the nineteenth century, and is still one of the best known of all British designers. This is due to his extraordinary talent as a pattern designer, his colourful and inspiring life story and to his forceful intellect and personality. Morris was much more than a designer: he was a socialist, scholar, translator and publisher, an environmental campaigner, typeface designer, printer, bookbinder, writer and poet. He was fervently, energetically creative and strove to achieve mastery in a “complex vortex of crafts, art, literature and politics”.

Dismayed by the dehumanising effects of industrialisation, he championed the value of human endeavour and passionately decried the corrupting nature of of manufacturing for profit. He believed that “true artists were people who expressed themselves completely through the material they worked with, benefitting from the full value of their labours”.

I have posted some of his floral fabric and wallpaper designs (categorised under Pattern).

I also love his books and typefaces. Morris set up The Kelmscott Press in order to have total control over the finished product of his reproductions of medieval books – from designing typefaces such as Golden, Troy and Chaucer, to paper production, ink manufacture, setting and binding.


More more information

Wells, N. M., 1996, William Morris, The Life, Times and Work of the World’s Greatest Artists, Brockhampton Press, London UK