The Tale of the Typeface Mystery


No one seemed to notice the dark figure that came to stand at the edge of London’s Hammersmith Bridge on nights in 1916. No one seemed to notice that while visiting the water he was dropping something into the River Thames. Something dense.

Over the course of more than a hundred nightly trips, this man was committing a crime—against his partner, a man who owned half of what was being thrown into the Thames. A man named T.J Codben Sanderson was the founder of the legendary Doves Press and the mastermind of its typeface. And he was taking the metal type that he had painstakingly created and dumping thousands of pounds of it into the river.


T.J Codben Sanderson was brilliant and creative, and ultimately concerned that the typeface he had designed would be sold to a mechanized printing press after his death by his business partner who he was feuding with.


Almost exactly a century later, a group of ex-military divers who work for the Port of London Authority were taking on the challenge to explore the Thames River to look for the small metal bits of missing type that Cobden Sanderson had thrown overboard so many years ago.

They were doing this at the personal expense of Robert Green. Robert Green was a designer who has spent years researching the lost typeface. In an interview Green said “They [the divers] were actually concerned that I was some crazy bloke looking for a needle in a haystack and throwing a couple grand away,” he laughs.



What they ended up uncovering over their two day dive was several hundred pieces of type. However not every piece was found.

Green has spent years researching the Doves Press type. He even redrew it, after thousands of hours of meticulous work, and published his reestablished Doves typeface in 2013 as a digital typeface called the Doves Type. This can be purchased by anyone.

The Doves Press was unique, and valued one thing above all others: Doing things by hand, and doing them with complete devotion. Its mind blowing to think that a designer who was born more than a century after Cobden Sanderson was so committed to rebuild his decrepit typeface.

Today, anyone can download and buy Green’s revival of Cobden Sanderson’s type online. “He probably would’ve been horrified,” Green laughs. However his Doves Type has a life of its own.


the author

My name is Jen and I am 21 years old, living in Long Island. Im currently going to school for Graphic Design because art is my main passion. I spend much of my time searching the web for intriguing artwork. If you are an artist and want me to write an article about your work, visit the contact page and send me an email. I would love to hear from you!

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