There’s something pleasing about learning something new about the area you live in, and by chance I stumbled on a whole local history of typography just before Christmas. The William Morris house at Hammersmith was holding an open day – there were craft stalls, mulled wine and mince pies indoors – and one of the stalls was about the Doves Press, named for a printer/publisher that was housed next to the Dove Inn a few doors away.
The type had been designed by Emery Walker, and used for his famous edition of the Bible, as in the image above. But Emery left the Press in 1909, and sometime between 1913 and during 1917 [see Update], in the days when type was heavy, his business partner, T.J. Cobden-Sanderson, dumped the whole lot in the river from Hammersmith Bridge.
The typeface is simple – there is little in the way of variation of size or weight – but it is a pleasure to read. Robert Smail’s Printing House has rebuilt it, as shown in the slightly dingy photograph below of a card I bought from them on the day.
[Update, 1st May 2010: I visited Emery Walker’s house at 7 Hammersmith Terrace today and got a bit more information on the sad end of the Doves type. Part of the business agreement between Walker and Cobden-Sanderson said that ownership of the type would revert to Walker if Cobden-Sanderson died first (Walker was younger). By 1917 Cobden-Sanderson was well into his seventies, his health deteriorating, and he decided he didn’t want this to happen. It took repeated night-time trips to Hammersmith Bridge to dump the whole lot. It is about half a mile from the Doves Press premises to the bridge, and the full set of type weighed two tons.
If you’re interested in Walker, or William Morris, or the Arts and Crafts Movement, the house is well worth a visit – but you have to book.]