2014–UPDATE: They did it! After 3 years of painstaking research and development! Visit the Typespec page and check out the Doves Typeface Revival.
The story of the Doves typeface is somewhat sad and gives the type a sense mystery and intrigue. The type’s creator, T.J. Cobden-Sanderson, had a feud with his business partner who was to inherit the type. Rather than allow his type to be defaced by his former partner, Cobden-Sanderson dumped all the type, along with all the punches and matrices (used to create new letters), into the Thames river. As he was advanced in age at the time, he could only carry pocketfuls of the type at a time, but he persisted every day until he had exhausted the entire supply. As Wikipedia sadly states, “The Doves Typeface is now lost forever.” But there is good news. The 7th Seal Type Foundry has posted an interesting four part series about a project to revive the typeface. Even so, in reading these articles, sadnesses mounts as the author describes the now defunct skill:
No modern type designer—trained to sit at a Mac all day fiddling with Beziér handles in Illustrator or Fontographer—can truly conceive, let alone acquire, such a fleet alignment of mind and physicality.
Edward Prince, the punchcutter that executed Cobden-Sanderson’s designs, was a prime example of this long lost craft. Another quote from the 7th Seal blog post:
It can be safely said that there is no-one alive today who has anything approaching an ounce of the skill he possessed. His near cosmic gift (and that of a multitude of many other forgotten, anonymous punchcutters) is now lost. Forever.
Ouch. Nonetheless, the foundry is still trying to bring back some of the long lost beauty. Type designer Torbjörn Olsson also created a revival of Doves in 1995 (I have emailed him requesting a copy of it), but it can potentially be improved by utilizing higher resolution scans as the 7th Seal Foundry appears to be doing. As of time of this blog writing, the Typespec page where the font is planned to be launched, has had a “coming soon”sign for over a year. Until then, we wait…
I hope it doesn’t disappoint.
There’s more to come in the New Year. I’m working on another weight, DOVES TYPE ‘PUNCHCUT’, based on the metal, which for me is an exercise in approaching it to get to another ‘truth’, that of the outline of the punches. From what I’ve done so far it hopefully works well as a display/headline type. The line is much harder and there’s slightly more contrast between strokes.
This release, DOVES TYPE ‘IMPRINT’, is more of a ‘book’ weight, being based on the softer ink impression. It’s really meant for sizes no larger than 16 pt (i.e the original type size) to 18 at most, to give an authentic colour to the text.
Then perhaps a few more bits next year, we’ll see. Three years is a long time so I might need a rest.
Hi Robert! That is very exciting (apologies to the delayed response). Yes you deserve a rest! And also a drink which I will buy you if you ever visit Seattle. Please let me know if you do, we have a Seattle Typographer Group (Laura Worthington and Mamoun Sikaal and more!) that meets every week.
Looking forward to the Punchcut weight.