The Doves Press is a milestone of fine printing in Britain. The type it used was based on Nicholas Jenson’s 15th century roman. It was cut in a single size and one weight, and only used for sixteen years. It now rests on the bottom of the Thames.
I t isn’t easy to explain what attracts some people to letterforms with great joy and fury. Most people can’t tell typing from printing, and the latest figures on illiteracy suggest that we should be grateful, while we can, that they can read at all.
Small particulars of the alphabet can easily become an obsession. I often think of Thomas Cobden-Sanderson, a remarkable man and a bookbinder of distinction, as he stood on Hammersmith Bridge in the dark, throwing the printing type of the Doves Press into the Thames. This was a crime of passion and has a comical side that the decades often give to such things. But I can see him, heart pounding, full of earnest purpose, as he puts his beloved type to rest. He was not about to wonder, as the song wonders about the lady, who might be kissing her now.
Why and wherefore
I could name a few things that I’d like to throw into the Thames myself in the shadow of night. My reasons wouldn’t be as pure as his. My motive wouldn’t be love.