The Mystery of the Drowned Type

by fontspace

It's quite a story. A legendary typeface, a nasty business feud, and a modern Indiana Jones determined to discover a typographical treasure.

When Hammersmith's Doves Press was established in 1899, it quickly gained a reputation for its beautiful Venetian-style typeface designed by Edward Prince. The type perfectly fit with Doves Press' elegantly-bound volumes, each a work of art with a touch of medieval grace.

But by 1908, Doves Press was in financial trouble, with the two partners in bitter opposition. One of them, T. J. Cobden-Sanderson, couldn't stand the idea of the typeface being used by anyone else. So he began to destroy it. Every night from 1913 to 1916, the old man dumped more of the metal type off the Hammersmith Bridge.

It was never seen again.

Or so we thought.

In 2010, Robert Green decided to restore the typeface in digital form, working from printed pieces. Eventually, he took on the challenge of salvaging the actual metal type from the Thames, recovering enough of the type to more accurately redesign the Doves Press typeface. He released the result in January, 2015.

The recovery of the Doves Press type has sparked a new interest in the beauty of many Old Style typefaces. Based on 15th and 16th century typefaces, they evoke the drama of the era just before the First World War, when art and craftsmanship blended. They combine formal typefaces with unexpected touches, decorative, but easily readable.

Some of the old-style typefaces are being rediscovered: Goudy, Centaur, Galliard, Belwe, Souvenir, and Palatino.

And there are modern re-imaginings of the old faces: Sudbury, Kelmscott Roman NF, Aurelis ADF No2 Std, Centabel, Cock, and Colwell, among many others.

Contact us to share your thoughts on old typefaces, especially if you'd like to share your own designs.