Thames New Roman: how the famed Doves Type was rescued from the bottom of a river

Early in the 20th century, London printer T.J. Cobden-Sanderson dumped the beautiful Doves Type into the river during a business dispute. As the only lead they had, that meant the end of the distinctive old-timey typeface. But they were found and restored in the 21st century, and now enjoy a revival thanks to the work of Robert Green.

Using historical accounts and Cobden-Sanderson's diaries, he pinpointed the exact spot where the printer had offloaded his wares, from a shadowy spot on Hammersmith bridge. "I'd only been down there 20 minutes and I found three pieces," he said. "So, I got in touch with the Port of London Authority and they came down to search in a meticulous spiral." The team of scuba divers used the rather low-tech tools of a bucket and a sieve to sift through the riverbed.

Green managed to recover a total of 151 sorts (the name for individual pieces of type) out of a possible 500,000. "It's a tiny fraction, but when I was down by the river on my own, for one second it all felt very cosmic," he said. "It was like Cobden-Sanderson had dropped the type from the bridge and straight into my hands. Time just collapsed."

You can get Doves Type from Typespec.

Mebinac is a recreation of it from scratch with contemporary technology, giving the letterforms a more modern and mechanical look. It's available free of charge.

Previously: A typography historian shares his favorite typefaces