Full set of Doves type goes on show at Emery Walker’s House, Hammersmith, in mudlarking exhibition

Images above: Emery Walker; Doves Bible; T.J Cobden-Sanderson

Iconic typeface recovered from the river, where it was dumped

A full set of Doves Type, the historic typeface created by Emery Walker and T.J. Cobden-Sanderson, is to go on show at Emery Walker’s House in Hammersmith as part of a display of mudlarked treasures. It is the first time the full alphabet will have been shown since the pieces were retrieved from the mud by Hammersmith Bridge.

The two men created the Doves Press at the turn of the 20th century, and over its 17 years of operation their landmark typeface was considered to have made a considerable contribution to the Arts and Craft movement in books such as their iconic edition of the King James bible.

Famed for the beauty of its typeface and its impact on the development of typography, the Doves Press became infamous because of the bitter feud which developed between the two men, resulting in the entire press being dumped in the river.

When their partnership was dissolved in 1909, Cobden-Sanderson and Walker became involved in a protracted and bitter dispute over ownership of the rights to the Doves Type. As part of the partnership dissolution agreement, all rights to the Doves Type were to pass to Walker on Cobden-Sanderson’s death.

Cobden-Sanderson decided he could not let this happen, and destroyed the matrices and punches on Good Friday, 21 March 1913, when he threw them into the Thames river off Hammersmith Bridge. He recorded in his journal how he then systematically got rid of the 12lb of metal type itself in clandestine trips to the river at dead of night.

Beginning on 31 August 1916 at midnight, when “it seemed a suitable night, and time”, he is said to have completed the task in January 1917, after 170 trips to the river.

Image above: Emery Walker’s House; photograph Anna Kunst

Mudlarking exhibition to include all sorts of other treasures – Prehistoric, Roman, Mediaeval, Tudar, Georgian and Victorian

A century later the designer Robert Green managed to recover 150 pieces of the original type, with the help of the Port of London Authority. He and Lukasz Orlinski have loaned hundreds of pieces of the alphabet for the first exhbition of the entire Doves Type alphabet at Emery House, which opens on Saturday 2 March.

Mudlarker Jason Sandy has put together the exhibition, which will also include fossils, prehistoric flint tools, Roman coins and pottery, Mediaeval pilgrim badges, Tudor fashion accessories, 17th century children’s toys, Georgian personal adornments and Victorian curiosities, each revealing their own intriguing story of London’s past.

Image above: Jason Sandy donating Doves Type to Emery Walker’s House in 2020; photograph Lucinda MacPherson

Talks, walks and candle-lit tours

A programme of events to support the exhibition kicks off with a talk in February, followed by walking tours, guided mudlarking experiences, a scavenger hunt and sopen days and candle-lit tours at Emery Walker’s House throughout March and April.

Jason, who is also an architect, author and  member of the exclusive Society of Thames Mudlarks, is the author of Mudlarks: Treasures from the Thames and co-author of Thames Mudlarking: Searching for London’s Lost Treasures.

While mudlarking under Hammersmith Bridge, he discovered 12 pieces of Doves Type which he generously donated to Emery Walker’s House in 2020.

READ ALSO: Chiswick architect returns missing Doves type to Emery Walker’s House

Jason, who lives in Chiswick, will give an introductory online talk called  Mudlarking: A Journey Through Time on Wednesday 21 February, telling the extraordinary story of the Doves Press and sharing some of his extraordinary mudlarking finds.

The exhibition takes place from Saturday 2 March to Saturday 27 April 2024 at Emery Walker’s house at 7 Hammersmith Terrace, W6. The house, which has been preserved as an Arts & Crafts museum, is closed over the winter and reopens on Saturday 2 March.

Book tickets for events and tours of the house at emerywalker.org.uk.

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