A font with depth
30 March 2015
The typeface used for the Art & Soul exhibition and catalogue is called ‘Doves’. RAMM’s Designer Ian Wills chose it because of its connections with William Morris and the Kelmscott Press – but it is a typeface with a murky history.
Doves Press was founded by Thomas Cobden- Sanderson and Emery Walker in about 1900 and was named after the local pub. The eponymous typeface they created wasn’t used extensively, but one of its most well-known applications was Doves Bible which was seen at the time by many as a masterpiece of typographic work.
However, things eventually turned sour between the Doves Press founders and there was a legal dispute over ownership of the Doves typeface. The situation got so bad between the two that one of them, Cobden-Sanderson, resorted to dumping the whole lot (casts and all the metal letters) into the Thames to spite his partner. This wasn’t an easy task for a 76 year old. Metal blocks are heavy and it took him over 3 years to dispose of everything. This act of defiance wasn’t uncovered until Cobden-Sanderson died and his last will and testament was read. Walker, the surviving partner, tried to get the font remade, but could not find anyone capable and so, it seemed, the typeface was lost forever.
That was the case, until 2013 when Robert Green – a type designer, released a new digital facsimile of Doves. It was created after three years of painstaking research and development. But that is not the end of the story. Since the Art & Soul exhibition started, there has been a further development. In November 2014 it was announced that some of the metal type has been recovered from the Thames by a salvage team. These bits will be donated to the Emery Walker Trust and used to create an updated version of the current digital font.