The Doves Type was commissioned by Thomas Cobden-Sanderson as a bespoke typeface for the Doves Press, the London printing company he co-founded with Emery Walker in 1900. A modern take on a Venetian serif, it took two years to create and was used in all of the Press’s publications, including books of verse by Shakespeare and Milton and the Doves Bible, which featured drop caps by Edward Johnston.
After falling out with Walker, however – their partnership was legally dissolved in 1909, after the business encountered financial troubles – Cobden-Sanderson spent nine months tipping 2,600lb of it into the Thames in secret, ensuring that if he couldn’t use it, nor could anyone else. Disguised by darkness, he made around 170 trips to the Hammersmith Bridge to tip small parcels into the water at night, the splashes concealed by passing traffic, before announcing that it had been “bequeathed’ to the Thames.
And you thought your office had drama.
I love lead type. I have a bunch of old letters and one half of an old lead plate for a newspaper; the thing could crush walnuts and it’s the coolest thing I own. We once loved words so much, and believed they had such power, that even though we had to cast them in hot metal to use them, we did it because the alternative — silence — was that unbearable.
The river is giving the letters back now:
Surprised as he was to find the type so easily, Green says he was probably the first person to really look for it. “I had always read that it had never been found, so assumed loads of people had gone to look for it but actually, I don’t think anyone had ever bothered,” he adds. Upon his discovery, he called the Port Authority again, which carried out a two-day dive and eventually recovered 150 pieces.