Wednesday, February 11, 2015

185. Type Found in the River Thames

In Blog No 44 (Printed on Vale Press Paper) I wrote:

'The Vale Press was the first private press to dispose of its type by throwing the punches into the River Thames, an example that was followed a decade later by T.J. Cobden-Sanderson, and ultimately by Esther Pissarro (crossing the Channel). The lead of the type itself was too valuable to throw away, the types were melted down.'

Ricketts himself wrote that he disposed of the punches and matrices in that way:

The punches and matrices are for the most part in the Thames, and on the completion of the last page of this pamphlet, the type becomes type metal again.
(A Bibliography of The Books Issued by Hacon & Ricketts, 1904, p. iv) 

A Bibliography of The Books Issued by Hacon & Ricketts (1904)
The phrase 'for the most part' is puzzling, however, in 1937, the British Museum Print Room Acquisitions Register recorded the deposit of the matrices for the Avon Fount, King's Fount and the Vale Founts, so it seems only the punches were thrown into the river (if at all).

Anyway, they disappeared, as the matrices in the British Museum were mislaid at one point, and have never surfaced again, while the punches in the River can not be found, as we do not know where to start the search.

Recently, some of the lead type that was given over to the Thames by Cobden-Sanderson has been discovered by a type designer who worked on a digital version of the Doves type. He carefully rethought Cobden-Sanderson's position on Hammersmith Bridge when he wanted to dispose of the type. Cobden-Sanderson could not have the type melted down - like Ricketts did - because he did not want to reveal his wish to dispose of it to Emery Walker, who was part owner of the type and with whom he had quarrelled about the ownership.

Robert Green searched for the type at the bottom of the river near the bridge, and instantly found some examples of lead type. See his extraordinary story on Creative Review, and some images of the recovered type. An amazing story that adds a new dimension to the history of the Doves Press!