The Doves Type: resurrected from the River Thames

Have you heard of the Doves Type? the doves type 25-8-15Designed by Thomas James Cobden Sanderson and engraver Emery Walker, in London, at the turn of the 20th century. To cut a long story short, the two men disagreed about its use. As a result, Cobden-Sanderson threw 2,600lb of metal into the River Thames from Hammersmith Bridge. Now, after three years of research, making drawings based on the original source material, designer Robert Green has released a digital version of the lost metal Doves Press Font. This was made possible by the discovery in the River Thames 2013 of a portion of the original metal type.

I know as a journalist I am probably more aware of typeface than your average reader. I’ve been involved in many magazine re-designs during my career, and the thing that gets people most excited during the process is the choice of font. It not only is the ‘handwriting’ of the design, it makes the design most easily recognisable, but it also has a dramatic effect on how easy it is to read a newspaper or magazine article. Get it wrong, and changes are made very rapidly before the reader complaints start to roll in.

What newspaper do you read?

[photo: Wikipedia]

[photo: Wikipedia]

The TimesThe Times newspaper commissioned its own font, Times New Roman [above], in 1931, after it was criticised for being badly printed and typographically antiquated. Ouch.

[photo: Wikipedia]

[photo: Wikipedia]

The Guardian – uses a family of fonts called Guardian Egyptian, again, especially designed for the newspaper. This is the newspaper title.



The New York Times – the logo is Old English Regular [above]

The typeface I used most often is Times New Roman, sometimes Arial [below] if I want a something simple. Times New Roman is universally preferred for submitting manuscripts.

[photo: Wikipedia]

[photo: Wikipedia]

For more about the Doves Type, read this article from Creative Review magazine.
For Doves Type specifications from Typespec, click here.


  1. Hi Sandra.

    Many thanks for your interest, it’s very much appreciated.

    A minor correction:

    I began making drawings, as you have said based on the original source material, in 2010. The first version of the digital type was commercially released in 2013. Unsatisfied with my initial version I decided to update it. I arranged a small salvage operation to recover the original type, some of which we duly managed to find, in November 2014. I released an updated version of the digital type shortly afterwards.

    A new version of the font with an extended character set now including small caps & lining figures (contemporary additions to the original fount used by the Doves Press, along with currency symbols & other glyphs such as diacritics) is available from next week.

    Best wishes

    Robert Green

  2. What an interesting post. As an artist and art teacher for many years, I’m always aware of the font chosen for articles, titles, etc., though I can’t usually name them. One of the newer trends in magazines is to use colored fonts. Irritates me when the colors chosen are very pale – gray, pink, yellow – and the font is small and thin. Way too design trendy and nearly impossible to read. Shows arrogant disdain for readers. What do you think of this, Sandra?

    • sandradan1

      I hate design at the expense of the reader! One of my most regular bugbears with magazines now is coloured fonts on coloured grounds, difficult to read. It shows lack of control by the Editor. Wouldn’t have happened in my day 🙂 SD