I was reading an issue of Colophon magazine a couple of years ago and saw an article about “Doves Type” being revived by Robert Green. The design for this originally metal typeface was commissioned in the late 19th century in London by T. J. Cobden-Sanderson and the creation was overseen by both Cobden-Sanderson and his partner Emery Walker for the Doves Press (see a detailed history of Doves Type at Typespec).
Doves Type was based on late 15th century letterforms designed by Venetian printers Nicolas Jenson and Jacobus Rubeus. William Morris had used these same letterforms as the basis for his Golden Type. Unlike the blocky Golden Type, Doves Type was intended to be lean, elegant, and subdued (it was really a precursor to modernist typography). Using it, the Doves Press went on to print some of the finest books ever produced in England.
Doves Type Drowned in the Thames
Needless to say, Doves Type was thought to be lost. At the end of a somewhat rocky partnership, Cobden-Sanderson, angry with Walker and worried that the typeface might someday be commercially recast and used on a different press, drowned more than a ton of the lead type in the River Thames.
In 2010, Robert Green became obsessed with the face and began researching and recreating it from examples in the 40 books and 96 other pieces that were printed during the lifetime of the Doves Press. He eventually located the spot where Cobden-Sanderson disposed of the type and unearthed 151 of the metal sorts in November of 2014. Green continued to refine the face, created a Doves desktop font, and recently even released a web version of Doves Type.
I bought Doves Type shortly after reading about it and have been waiting for an appropriate use since. Choosing a resurrected, previously drowned typeface created with a minimalist philosophy seemed to me to be a great idea for Great Big Lake Design.
I have paired Doves Type with “Mr. Eaves XL Modern” (created by Zuzana Licko of Emigre Fonts) and I can say that my eyes have been bathing in both faces, soothed by the entire process of seeing my text through the filter of Doves Type and Mr. Eaves. I’ve also used Doves Type in our icon for Great Big Lake Design.
Thank you for all of your hard work, Robert Green!