Between 1916 and 1917, a disgruntled and increasingly frail, elderly man made his way by foot an estimated 170 times, and under cover of darkness from his home in Hammersmith Terrace along the river to Hammersmith Bridge with the express purpose of tipping the entire Doves type and matrixes, weighing over a ton, into the Thames to meet a watery grave.
Thomas Cobden-Sanderson left and Emery Walker right
The reason? To make sure that his younger, former publishing partner, who he had promised the type to on his death, did not receive his inheritance.
Little did Thomas James Cobden-Sanderson imagine that over 100 years later, architect Jason Sandy, a Member of the Society of Mudlarks living just upstream in Chiswick, would discover some precious pieces of Doves Type on the foreshore near Hammersmith Bridge.
The Doves type found on the Thames foreshore
And one can only imagine how many spins Cobden-Sanderson is now turning in his grave at the thought of Jason’s generous donation of the type to the trust that now runs the former home of Emery Walker, the man who TJ had gone to such great lengths to deny inheriting the Doves Press.
“Although I had been searching for the famous type for many years, I only discovered in 2019 that I had been looking on the wrong side of the river,” explains Jason.
“After future research, I was able to pinpoint an area where the type miraculously washes up on the exposed foreshore at low tide. I’m absolutely thrilled to have found pieces of the historic Doves type, knowing that the last person to touch them was Cobden-Sanderson himself.”
Jason Sandy presenting Mallory Horrill – House Manager of The Emery Walker Trust the Doves Type.
The Doves Press was set up by Cobden-Sanderson and Walker in 1900 at No.1 Hammersmith Terrace, and was revolutionary in its use of clean typography and spacious setting. The aesthetic vision was largely Cobden–Sanderson’s, who believed in ‘The Book Beautiful’.
Emery Walker’s House at 7 Hammersmith Terrace
Exteriors were stark white vellum with gold spine lettering and inside there were no illustrations. Although the typeface was influenced by Renaissance Italian books, the Doves Press letters appeared much lighter on the page than their sources.
The Doves type, named after the popular pub by the river in Hammersmith, was in just one size, occasionally broken up by Edward Johnston’s introductory, large ornamental letters, which were sometimes drawn by hand on every copy.
The Doves Press was deemed a great success aesthetically, and are now prize collectors’ items, two high points being its 1902 edition of Milton’s Paradise Lost – described by one commentator as the best there had ever been or was ever likely to be – and The English Bible, published in five volumes between 1902 and 1905.
Up until this donation, The Emery Walker Trust had never owned any of this infamously missing type, despite the house’s historic link to the press.
“We are hugely grateful to Jason and very thrilled to now have some pieces of Doves.” says Hugh Belsey MBE, Chair of The Emery Walker Trust.
”The Doves Press is, arguably, one of Emery Walker’s most important legacies and therefore a crucial part of the story of Emery Walker’s House.”
Emery Walkers House reopens on May 29th for small, guided tours of just four people, due to social distancing, so pre-booking is essential. Emerywalker.org.uk.
Jason Sandy is an American architect and developer who has lectured and written many articles about mudlarking. He co-authored Thames Mudlarking: Searching for London’s Lost Treasures published in 2021 by Shire Publications and available at Blackwells, WH Smith, Waterstones, Foyles and most online bookstores.
Read more stories on The Chiswick Calendar
See also: Emery Walker’s Arts & Crafts House Video
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